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Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

Why Does My Dog Lick Me So Much?

It’s a question many pet parents have asked: "Why does my dog lick my face?" While we can’t know for sure what goes on in our furry friends’ minds, several well-established theories can help explain this behavior.

Dog Licking Is an Instinctual Behavior

In the wild, wolf and wild dog cubs lick their mother’s face to stimulate food regurgitation. Domestic puppies display a similar behavior, signaling hunger by licking their mom’s muzzle. When dogs lick humans, it may be an instinctual way of communicating friendliness and non-threat.

Dog Licking Is a Sign of Affection

People often interpret face licking as “kissing,” considering it a sign of affection. While it might be more about appeasement than love, it can still foster positive feelings. When a dog licks another dog’s face, they’re indicating friendly intentions. Similarly, when dogs lick humans, they may be expressing friendliness and seeking attention, leading to positive emotional responses in both the dog and the person.

Dog Licking Is an Attention-Seeking Behavior

Dogs quickly learn that licking gets them attention. Whether the response is joy or displeasure, dogs typically interpret it as positive attention. For instance, if your dog licks your face while you’re on a Zoom call, they may be signaling they’re ready to play or seeking your attention.

Dog Licking Is an Attempt to Get Space

In some cases, licking is a dog’s way of asking for space. If your dog is licking someone while displaying signs of stress—such as dilated pupils, a tucked tail, or forceful licking—they may be trying to get that person to move away. This behavior, sometimes called “kiss to dismiss,” can indicate discomfort or stress.

Dog Licking Is a Stress-Reliever

Dogs often lick to relieve stress. Continuous licking of specific textures, like rugs or couches, can indicate anxiety. This behavior releases endorphins, helping the dog feel more at ease. Providing a LickiMat® or a similar product loaded with wet dog food, peanut butter, or yogurt can help soothe your dog.

Dog Licking Is Their Way of Grooming

Dogs use their tongues to groom themselves and each other. This behavior begins early, as mother dogs lick their pups to clean them and stimulate bodily functions. Dogs might also be drawn to specific scents, like earwax or blood, prompting them to lick in an attempt to eliminate the odor.

Dogs Lick Because They Like Your Taste

Human faces are full of scents, bacteria, food particles, and other interesting substances. Dogs may be attracted to the taste of sweat, tears, or food remnants on your skin.

Dogs Lick Because They Are Hungry

While dogs don’t expect humans to regurgitate food, they may lick you to get your attention and signal that they’re hungry.

Is It Safe for Dogs to Lick My Face?

Generally, dogs licking your face poses a low risk. While a dog’s mouth contains germs like Capnocytophaga, these are usually harmless to humans. However, if you have an open wound, a compromised immune system, or allergies to animal saliva, it’s best to avoid being licked.

A Dog Licked My Face. What Should I Do?

If a dog licks your face and you feel uncomfortable, simply wash the area with warm water and antibacterial soap. If you have allergies, be sure to clean off any saliva or fur. Training your dog to understand a cue that signals when to stop licking or redirecting their licking to your hands can help manage this behavior.


Why do dogs lick your face when you cry?

Tears contain more than just saline; they also have hormones and proteins that may attract dogs. Licking can be a way for dogs to taste these components or clean the area. Additionally, dogs may lick to soothe you, which in turn soothes them.

Why do dogs lick your face in the morning?

Possible reasons include the bacteria in your mouth, the scent of your morning breath, or your dog signaling that they’re ready for breakfast or want you to wake up.

Why do dogs lick your face and ears?

Faces and ears are full of bacteria, skin cells, perspiration, and food particles. If these areas smell appealing to your dog, licking follows. Additionally, if you laugh and giggle when your dog licks your face or ears, they learn that this behavior gets a positive response, making them more likely to do it again.

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