Why Do Shih Tzus Lick So Much?

I am sure you have seen it before. Your Shih Tzu is licking your hands, arms, and face like crazy! What’s with all the excessive licking? Is there something wrong with my Shih Tzu? Are they sick or why are they doing this to me?

No need to worry; there are many reasons why Shih Tzus lick their owners that have nothing to do with illness.

If your Shih Tzu has a habit of licking you a lot you’re probably wondering why and what you can do about it. This article will attempt to assist you in determining why your dog licks you and how to stop it.

why do shih tzus lick so much
Why do Shih Tzus lick so much? Is your Shih Tzu licking you 24/7?

So, why do Shih Tzus lick so much? [Am I Tasty?]

There are many different reasons why your Shih Tzu might lick you. Possible reasons include showing affection, grooming you, excitement, stress or anxiety, or even attention-seeking behavior.

  • Many dog owners view Shih Tzu dogs licking as a sign of affection and just accept it
  • Obsessive Shih Tzu licking may be a sign of underlying issues, including anxiety, boredom, or fear.

The different reasons why your Shih Tzu licks you will likely come with some clues in the way that it does it. Which cause from the list below seems most likely to you?

The possible causes of Shih Tzu licking and what would make them more likely to be the one.

a shih tzu licking its owners face
A Shih Tzu licks its owners face. Lick frenzy!

Reason One: Your Shih Tzu Might Be Grooming You

Many Shih Tzus lick their owners because they are actually trying to groom them. What a compliment! They see you as a member of their pack and are taking care of you.

Reason Two: Your Shih Tzu Loves You

Many Shih Tzu owners believe that excessive licking is a sign of their dog’s affection for them. They see it as a way of their dog saying “I love you” and giving you attention.

Dogs often lick their owners to show their acceptance and love. Some owners even believe that it’s a way for the dog to take care of them, similar to how a mother would take care of her young.

So sometimes it is best to chalk up a lick loving Shih Tzu as one that loves you and is giving you a compliment!

shih tzu puppy licks tonuge out
A Shih Tzu puppy with its tongue out. Expect a Shih Tzu puppy to lick EVERYTHING!

Reason Three: You Taste Good

Although it is kinda gross, we can actually just taste good to our dogs. Dogs love strange tastes after all!

In fact, some dogs will get EXTRA lick loving after you exercise and work up a sweat. They love the taste of your salty sweat… gross!

See more in our article explaining why some dogs lick your legs.

Reason Four: Your Shih Tzu is Excited

There are many reasons why a Shih Tzu might lick its owner, but one of the most common reasons is excitement. If your dog starts licking you excessively every time you come home, it’s likely because they’re excited to see you.

This is especially true if your dog usually doesn’t lick you that much. You can ask your dog to sit on its mat before you acknowledge it when you return home. This strategy helps reduce the over-excitement.

Reason Five: Attention Seeking

Some dogs will do ANYTHING to get more attention. For some Shih Tzus this can mean licking as a means to garner your focus.

This cause would be more likely if it does it more when you have not been giving your dog much attention and you subsequently give more attention once the licking starts.

If you believe this to be the cause, you need to go out of your way to NOT give your Shih Tzu attention when they lick you. Say a firm No. Then ignore them. Reward them when other behavior that is more desirable is occurring.

Why Do Shih Tzus Lick So Much? 1
A Shitzu Poodle mix Guarding a pillow

Reason Six: Stress or Anxiety as a cause of excessive Shih Tzu licking

In some cases, obsessive Shih Tzu licking may be a sign of underlying issues, including anxiety, boredom, or fear. If you believe that your Shih Tzu is licking you excessively because of one of these reasons, it’s important to take steps to address the issue.

Anxiety can be a major cause of excessive licking in dogs. Dogs who are anxious may lick as a way to self-soothe or calm down. If you believe that your dog is anxious, you should work with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan.

Some common treatments for anxiety in dogs include medication, behavior modification, and environmental enrichment.

The easiest solution for a stressed or anxious Shih Tzu? Tire them out physically and mentally. A well-exercised Shih Tzu that has had some additional mental challenges is less likely to develop anxiety or practice unwanted behaviors.

A frozen stuffed Kong or puzzle feeder can be an easy mental enrichment that also helps a Shih Tzu deal with separation anxiety.

If you think that your Shih Tzu might be licking you because they are anxious or stressed, talk to your veterinarian about ways to help them feel better.

Reason Seven: Submission

Some trainers believe that dogs can lick you as an act of submission. They are recognizing the leader of the pack and are licking to acknowledge this. This is usually only seen in dogs that have a strong pack mentality.

Shih Tzus can display this kind of behavior for this reason – but it is not the most likely cause.

If you believe that your Shih Tzu is licking you as recognition – just do basic redirection. When they do more desirable behaviors give them treats, and when they lick you as an act of submission sharply say NO and then ignore them for a while.

tiny shih poo and maltipoo dogs
Super tiny and super cute! Compare the Shih Poo vs the Maltipoo in out Toy Breed Showdown.

Why It is Probably Not a Medical Cause

There is rarely a medical reason for your Shih Tzu licking either you, your family, or other dogs.

If your Shih is licking itself – then sure there can be medical causes.

  • Sore skin, open wounds
  • Fleas, parasites
  • Grass seeds and debris in their paws
  • Anything that irritates or causes mild pain
  • Ear infections or blockage of the ears
  • Dental disease (gum disease for dogs)

But these almost never translate to a Shih Tzu that licks YOU or other dogs.

How to Get Your Shih Tzu to STOP Licking

  1. Whenever the dog licking happens, stop it immediately. You need to be crazy consistent with this. All members of your family need to be on board for this to work. Give a short sharp UH or NO and then do not give the dog attention for 60 seconds. Rinse and repeat.
  2. Exercise your Shih Tzu – a tired Shih Tzu rarely has enough energy for destructive or unwanted behaviors.
  3. Distract with toys and puzzles – there are plenty of durable dog toys and puzzles that you can mentally enrich your pup with. Shih Tzus tend to do well with puzzle feeders, and some enjoy scent training and nose work
  4. If the licking is WILD – ask your Vet for assistance. If you suspect compulsive behavior, your veterinarian will be able to give expert guidance based on your Shih Tzu’s unique characteristics, and you’ll be able to rule out sickness as a cause.
a cute shih poo puppy
A super cute Shih Poo puppy looks up at the camera

Why Does my Shih Tzu Puppy Lick so Much!?

If your Shih Tzu is a puppy, one of the main reasons it will lick all the time is because… it is a puppy! Puppies lick things! They are exploring their world and learning about everything around them. This is completely normal behavior for a puppy.

Although it can be annoying when your puppy licks you constantly, remember that it is just a phase and it will eventually grow out of it. In the meantime, be consistent with redirecting your puppy to more appropriate behaviors and rewarding them when they do something good.

At least they are licking you instead of their own pee (yes some dogs actually lick their own pee).

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

If you are concerned about germs and bacteria, you might want to avoid your dog licking your face. That’s common sense right?

Well to be honest – dog to human infection is rare and unlikely (Guardian Article). Personally, I don’t love the risk – and you should exercise a lot of caution when allowing young children to be licked by dogs on the face. They will likely be fine – but in very odd circumstances they will have issues.