I have always wondered why dogs lick my hands as often as they do. Little did I know, it’s a form of communication. Not only that, but it’s their way of showing affection, releasing endorphins, being obedient, or simply just wanting our attention.
Many people find it annoying or gross, but for me, I admire it. It’s healthy for both the owner and the puppy, and there is nothing better than receiving that love and affection from our pets. In this article, I’ll dive deeper into the science behind dogs and their habit of licking our hands and licking in general.
Signs of Affection
As owners, we must get familiar with our dogs and know what makes them happy. First off, showing love back to your dog is very important. Licks are to be treated as kisses. Puppies learn this behavior at a young age from their mothers and littermates. In fact, when dogs are puppies they instinctively learn how to greet their mothers by licking. It’s a natural state of affection.
Not only do they love to lick our hands, but they lick faces as well, which is most common. Dogs are very intelligent and can sense your mood and emotions. So, anytime you are feeling down or upset, expect your puppy to sense that and cheer you up with a few licks!
As mentioned earlier, dogs licking our hands are a form of communication. Let’s say you leave the house to go to the store. Once you get back, they tend to lick your hands to gather information about your whereabouts.
They also go crazy with licking because they are excited to see you! It seems like forever to our pets when we are gone for short periods and even longer when we are gone for hours. So greeting us with licks is a natural reaction for them.
Similar to humans, communication is key. Make sure to acknowledge them when they greet you. Not only is it a nice gesture, but it helps them feel appreciated and loved.
When meeting a new dog for the first time, another form of communication is allowing the dog to approach your hand first. To not disturb or terrify them, it’s wise to simply hold the back of your hand out for the dog to sniff. Many people use this strategy to prevent getting bitten or attacked.
Being gentle is vital. Dogs can be easily intimidated by someone who aggressively approaches them.
I use this at dog parks or other places where I meet new dogs. It works every time. My experiences even lead to a lick, which indicates that the dog thinks I’m a friendly person and not a threat. I learned this from the Netflix series Canine Intervention, starring Cali K9’s very own Jas Leverette. I strongly recommend checking it out!
Release of Endorphins
Licking releases endorphins in dogs’ brains, allowing them to feel calmer and more relaxed. Endorphins, also known as neurotransmitters, can also be found in humans. I find it funny how licking has a sensational feeling to it for dogs! This feeling could be the same as getting a massage for humans. Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea.
My dog not only licks my hand but also licks other surfaces like the couch or my clothes. She does it so often that it sometimes puts her to sleep!
I’ve personally seen my Golden Lab literally lick herself to sleep! A lot of times, I just let her sit and lick my hands continuously, and she ends up slowly closing her eyes. It’s pretty interesting to watch. Who would’ve ever known!
Like any other pet, dogs like to have attention. Not only do they want to show affection to you, but they also want that same affection reciprocated back. Personally, I look at dogs like little humans. I treat them as if they were my child because, essentially, they are. They have feelings and emotions just like humans do.
It’s vital as pet owners we pay close attention to our dogs. Stick to the basics. Feed them, give them water, show affection, and love them to the best of your ability. We can’t be the perfect dog owner, but at least put in the effort to attend to their needs, which will suffice because they do love us as owners.
Take them for walks instead of tying them up to chains in your backyard. Where I’m from, that’s a common trend. Any animal that’s kept chained up or locked in a cage is bound to be wild once set free. In this case, they’re not used to freedom and have no structure. So when they interact with other people or dogs, they can be aggressive. I recommend taking good care of your dog because it does matter how you treat them.
Humans Taste Good
Another reason why dogs lick us so much is that humans naturally have salty skin. We form a sensational taste for our dogs. Many dogs lick our hands because we have an acquired taste. Dogs will lick your hands simply because our natural body oils and sweat are a favorite of theirs.
Additionally, as most of us know, our dogs are always hungry. Constantly begging for our food, drinks, and whatever else we have that is edible. Sometimes it can become a hassle, but that is just how they are. Continue to love them and let them lick you. They adore it!
Dealing with Excessive Licking
As much as we love our dogs licking our hands or face, the loving can be a bit compelling. Something may be wrong if they continuously are licking you. On another note, if they are licking themselves too often, that may be a sign of disaster as well.
Dr. Benjamin Razic from DogMD stated that excessive licking is something that should not be taken lightly. Certain dogs can be a bit much with their licking, which is unusual. A few factors that lead to excessive licking include:
- Sensitive/Painful Areas
If the hand licking or licking of themselves get out of hand, I highly advise seeing a veterinarian.
I can go on and on about why dogs love to lick. There is tons of research and other topics that go into depth about dogs and their love for licking humans. Keep admiring their licks. Treat them like kisses and reciprocate that love and affection back to them. If it gets out of hand, seek help and take action in keeping a healthy pup. I promise it will pay off in the long run!