Dogs are able to understand human language when we create associations with things or activities, and express themselves with the ways they know how; barking, whining, growling, sighing, and more. By creating associations with activities and a communication tool, we can create a way to communicate with our dogs in daily life.
Dogs can’t communicate with words the way you do, but they do use body language to “talk” to you. One of the behaviors your dog may use involves licking, especially licking your face. If you’ve ever wondered why your dog licks your face, the roots of the behavior run deep.
Why Do Dogs Lick Faces?
When dogs are puppies, their mothers lick them to groom them and to get them to urinate and even digest food. Before a pup even opens its eyes, it knows the calming and familiar experience of being groomed by mom. Young puppies will groom each other, too.
So when you ask “why do dogs lick you?” one answer has to do with pack behavior. It’s what pack members do with each other, starting at a young age.
Many Reasons for Face-Licking
So, other than that, why do dogs lick faces? There are lots of other reasons. Young puppies will sometimes get pre-digested food from mom, and they will lick mom’s face to get snacks. You may get those doggie “kisses,” too, because you are likely giving your dog attention and treats. Besides this, your face may smell good or interesting. Maybe your furry baby can smell the snack you had last and wants to share!
Another reason has to do with pacifying or subservient behaviors. You probably already know dogs are pack creatures, and there is a “pack leader.” Hopefully, in your house, that’s you! When a dog greets other members of their pack, they will often lick faces. When one dog is pacifying or showing submissive behavior, they will often lick another dog’s face, all while staying a little lower.
The dog getting the face lick often stands tall and does not return the licks. This behavior is seen in wolves, too. If you’re wondering why your puppy licks your face, part of it may be communicating your position in your pack. Or, your furry baby may be feeling submissive or even guilty about something — maybe it’s time to check on that new pair of shoes.
Does Your Dog Offer “Kisses?”
Many people wonder whether dog licks are “kisses” and wonder whether this is a sign of affection or love. It’s certainly a fair way to interpret it. Dogs don’t lick the faces of dogs they don’t get along with. It’s a behavior shared by family and pack members, and it’s one of the first sensory experience your furbaby likely ever had. It’s fair to say a face lick is affectionate and a way of showing you’re part of the family.
And if you’re worried about hygiene, don’t be. If you are a healthy adult and your furbaby gets plenty of attention and preventive care from the vet, including regular dewormers, you’re probably safe. Yes, your furry buddy’s saliva has some bacteria, but unless one or both of you are ill, you should be fine. If you’re worried, turn away so your dog can’t get your mouth and nose and talk to your vet about any concerns.