Many of us have either experienced it or seen it – a dog licking its owner is very common. There are many different reasons why a dog does this, but what is the psychology and meaning behind it?
It is a natural instinct for a dog to lick and when they do it releases satisfying endorphins which provide feelings of comfort. Mothers lick their puppies from the moment they are born initially this stimulates the puppy to start breathing, but later licking is used by the mother to communicate with her puppy. Licking is also viewed as a submissive gesture where subordinate members of the pack will lick the more dominant ones this ensures harmony within the pack.
When dogs lick each other, they are communicating messages, like I need something to eat or I want to be your friend. This is no different when they lick humans, we are just not as good at understanding the message. If a dog is licking you intensely, it is trying to tell you something like I need to go out, I need food or I have no water.
Dogs are naturally attention-seeking animals and this often incorporates the use of their tongues. Dogs lick as a simple greeting to get their owner’s attention. Your dog is indirectly saying: Hello, I am here, play with me. This can lead to learned behaviour that can become demanding so should be limited or stopped in its entirety if you feel your dog is being too demanding.
So in summary licking can be good for you and your dog as long as it does not become excessive and a way to demand attention.