As a dog owner, you likely share a bond with your dog that includes actions that make non-dog people cringe—for example, letting your dog sleep in bed with you or letting him lick peanut butter off a spoon.
But there must be a cut-off somewhere, and for many dog owners, that’s when their dog starts licking their legs.
Such a phenomenon is tickle-inducing, a bit gross, and, if it occurs too often, perhaps a little worrisome. So, are you wondering, “why does my dog lick my legs?” If so, read on, for I’ll share some fascinating reasons with you.
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7 Reasons Why Dogs Enjoy Leg Licking
Your slobber-filled legs may have trouble seeing the good news in your dog’s leg licking, but you’ll be happy to know this much—when a dog licks its owner’s legs and feet, it isn’t usually an indication that they have a medical condition.
So, with that in mind, below are some of the most common reasons dogs lick human legs.
1. They Love You
I think it’s safe to say that you’d rather your dog show his love for you by cuddling next to you on the couch, but he doesn’t know that. So, if your dog licks your legs, it could be because he’s trying to show you that he loves you.
If your dog looks up at you while he does his licking, then you know he’s sealing the love deal—according to a study in Japan, dogs and humans are capable of cross-species bonding by gazing into each other’s eyes.
By doing so, both the dog and human receive a spike of oxytocin, which is affectionately called a “love drug.”
2. Your Legs Taste Good
Do you notice that your dog tends to lick your legs more when you’re sweaty? If so, I hate to break it to you, but your dog is likely doing his licking because he likes the salty taste of your sweat rather than from an act of love.
In that case, you might even notice your dog going for your feet more than your legs since sweat tends to accumulate there.
There is no way to make this not sound gross, but Max my Mini Labradoodle tries to lick my legs after I return from a run outdoors. He likes the salt! Gross.
All dogs need salt in their diet, although too much salt is unhealthy and can send them into a drunk-like state. Luckily, the salt in your sweat shouldn’t be enough to push your dog over the edge.
3. They’re Using It to Cope
If you have an anxious dog, it may lick your legs to calm itself. The act of licking helps dogs boost their endorphin level, thus helping to settle them.
Aside from leg licking, signs that your dog has anxiety include:
- Excessive panting
- Destroying furniture
Therefore, if you notice that your dog licks your legs while also showing signs of nervousness, you should take him to the vet. Just as with humans, anxiety disorder medications can help a dog manage its uneasy ways.
4. An Attention Grabber
The ideal world for your dog would be for you to be with him 24/7, constantly showering him with love and attention.
Although he wants your attention all the time, you probably notice that your dog appears extra needy trying to get your attention when you’ve been gone for longer than usual or are extra distracted. In that case, he might resort to licking your legs.
If your dog successfully gets a walk or playtime from you when he licks your legs, there’s a high chance he’ll pick up the habit. So, perhaps dogs licking their owners’ legs is one of the reasons that researchers found dog owners walk 22 minutes more per day than non-dog owners.
5. To Let You Know That You’re the Alpha
More often than not, dog owners let their dogs walk all over them because they get pleasure from spoiling their dogs. So, most alpha-related articles you see deal with how to teach your dog that you’re the alpha.
But when it comes to leg licking, this can be a sign that your dog is showing you on his own that you’re the alpha. Now that’s something to brag about to your friends!
Dogs don’t only lick their owner’s legs to show them that they’re the alpha—it’s an expected behavior among dogs. So, whenever you see a dog licking another dog, you can be sure that the dog doing the licking is submissive to the other dog, showing him that he acknowledges him as the leader.
6. Trying to Decipher Information
You probably already know that dogs use their powerful olfactory system to get a feel for the world through their nose, but have you ever considered that they do this with humans, too? Dogs use both their nose and licking as a way to gather information about the human they’re assessing.
Dogs have receptors in their nose and mouth that help them shape their view of those around them. Therefore, when they lick you, it heightens their ability to sense your emotions through the molecules in your sweat.
According to a study performed in 2017, dogs can detect emotional transmissions from humans. So, if you’re happy, your dog is probably happy. And if you’re stressed, your dog is likely stressed.
7. To Tell You Something
As a dog owner, you’ve probably gotten good at reading your dog’s behaviors to figure out what he wants. But sometimes, those behaviors can still throw you for a loop, which can be the case when your dog licks your legs.
Often, your dog will lick your legs to try to tell you something. Have you checked his water bowl recently? It could be because he’s thirsty. Alternatively, he could be trying to get you to play.
It’s also possible that your dog resorts to licking your legs when he’s feeling unwell and isn’t sure how to communicate this with you. Therefore, consider bringing your dog to the vet if he seems lethargic and his leg licking is out of the blue.
Is There Reason to Worry When My Dog Licks My Legs?
There’s usually nothing to worry about when your dog licks your legs. Dogs use leg licking to show affection and get attention. Plus, the salt in your legs and feet sometimes tastes too good for them to resist.
Nevertheless, if your dog routinely licks your legs, it could be a sign that there’s a physical or psychological problem going on. In that case, you should bring your dog to the vet.
Tips for Preventing Your Dog From Licking Your Legs
When your dog licks your legs, it might start as being something funny. However, if they get persistent with it or if you’re all dressed up and don’t want to leave the house with slobbery legs, below are some ways to stop your dog from licking.
- Divert your dog’s attention. If your dog seems to be licking your legs out of love or play, try giving them a toy or bone whenever it looks like he’s about to start a licking session.
- Get a trainer. A professional will teach you positive reinforcement tactics to help modify your dog’s licking behavior.
- Speak with your vet. It isn’t common for leg licking to be a health symptom in dogs, but you should never rule it out.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Licking
If you still have lingering questions about your dog licking your legs, I’ve rounded up some common inquiries and answers.
Is It Okay for My Dog to Lick My Legs?
As long as you don’t mind it, it’s perfectly normal for your dog to lick your legs. When dogs lick a person’s legs, it’s a sign that they love and appreciate them. They also might be trying to groom you or get you to play with them.
Should I Stop My Dog from Licking My Legs?
It’s entirely up to you. A dog licking your legs is harmless, aside from the gross side effect of slobbery legs. So, if you get ticklish or simply want to keep your legs clean, feel free to use positive reinforcement techniques to stop your dog from doing it.
Are There Any Circumstances When It Isn’t Normal for a Dog to Lick a Person’s Legs?
Licking a person’s legs is almost always a normal activity for dogs. However, if you feel that your dog is a compulsive leg licker, it might be time to give your vet a call to see if there’s an underlying reason.