Another person from the family gets more licks from your dog than you. And you start wondering why…
Is it because they consider the other person a playmate? Or does your dog want to claim them? Is it because they want their attention?
What’s so special about that person?
So many questions, so little answers…
This article will change that.
Keep reading to discover:
- Whether dogs relieve stress through licking.
- Why your dog finds you more appealing than they do anyone else.
- How exactly you could be encouraging or discouraging a dog from licking you.
- A weird reason that reveals your dog’s intention for licking one person a lot (hint: it’s #11).
- And this is just the beginning…
Table of contents
Why do dogs lick one person more than another?
There are different reasons why dogs lick one person more than another. It could be that the person has an open wound and the dog wants to heal it. Or there are traces of food or sweat on the hands or the face of the person. Other reasons include greeting, stress-relieving, showing submission.
11 reasons why dogs lick one person more than the other
#1: The dog associates the licked person with fun
You could be doing everything right. But your dog doesn’t want to lick you for some reason.
You’re running your dog mom/dog dad duties. Going on walks, clipping your dog’s nails, brushing their teeth, giving them food.
You’re also responsible for teaching your dog commands. And it works well.
But as soon as your dog sees that other family member, they start giving slobbery kisses. It’s as if their life’s depending on it.
So what’s that all about?
Well, dogs live to play. And eat, of course. But play really takes a special place in a dog’s heart.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Love goes through the stomach.” This applies to humans and dogs alike.
But with dogs, there’s also the play factor. Play equals fun. And if one of the caretakers provides that, the dog could start leaning toward them.
And I don’t mean just physically but also emotionally. Considering that, it comes as no surprise that dogs will gravitate towards the person who grants them the time of their lives.
The other person could be wrestling with your dog. Playing the favorite fetch game. Or tug of war. Any shared activity like that strengthens the bond between the dog and the human involved.
#2: You’re not a fan of licking (and your dog knows it)
Dogs have the unique ability to recognize human emotions.
So if you left your dog with the impression you don’t want licks, they might not give them to you. For example, you displayed disgust or reluctance.
You might have even emitted a sound of disapproval. Maybe “Eww!” or “NO.”, “Stop!”. A word or two said in a firm voice that indicated anything but you having fun being licked.
To your dog that communicates, you’re not very happy with what’s going on. If this has happened several times, your dog could start getting the point. And stop doing it.
Does it sound unbelievable?
Let’s see what science has to say on the matter…
There’s a study that examined how dogs perceive human emotions. Scientists looked at how dogs reacted to facial expressions and sound stimuli.
The dogs in the experiment were presented with a photo of an angry or a happy face. Along with that, the dogs heard vocalizations that were in tune with the emotion in the photo.
What the researchers found out was that dogs possessed the ability to differentiate between positive and negative emotions.
What’s more, dogs who did this haven’t received any specific training. They were able to tell the difference by using their emotional intelligence. It came innately.
#3: You’ve taught your dog from an early age
You’ve probably set some boundaries in early puppyhood on what’s allowed and what isn’t. Whether you remember or not, you taught your dog to not lick your face.
But let’s say your significant other didn’t. So your dog knows that whenever they get near that person, they can lick all they want.
Because this person allows them to. It’s as simple as that.
This is similar to a kid testing the boundaries they have. With one parent, some things might pass. But with the other not.
The same happens in school. Can you remember this one teacher whose mere presence made everyone instantly shut up?
Then there was also that super mellow teacher who struggled so hard to achieve discipline in class. Everyone was talking and laughing as if they were at a funfair…
The way your dog perceives you and the other person closely resembles these situations.
The licked person just tastes nicer.
If that’s not you… Bummer! Right?
Nah. Just kidding.
You don’t necessarily want to change the behavior. Not being licked is okay.
But understanding the behavior is interesting.
The explanation is that some people ate something tasty. And they might still have the taste on their mouth or fingers.
This makes dogs drool.
Or, it could be that the person in question ate something really smelly.
Then there’s something else to conasider…
Even if the person doesn’t taste like peanut butter, meat, or any other food, dogs like the taste of people.
Sometimes, your dog would like to lick your lips. By doing so, they get an idea of what you’ve eaten and how tasty it was.
Other times it can happen after exercising hard. Or after sweating for any other reason. Your dog’s tongue will be then drawn to your skin like a moth to a flame.
#5: It’s the posture that draws a dog to lick a person
Have you seen how some dogs greet people?
The dog would look at the person, jump and start licking them. Looking a stranger dog in the eyes is sometimes indicated as giving them permission to jump and lick you.
And there are dogs who love meeting (and greeting) new people.
Bear in mind though that dogs don’t usually jump at humans who are kneeling. Or ones who turn their backs on them.
If you’re the one that’s being licked, simply kneel down. And extend your hand so the dog can sniff it.
#6: Gender preferences
Dogs might have gender preferences.
My dog Lissa is very much drawn to all the men in the house. She loves being around my boyfriend and my dad. And you can often see her leaning on them.
They also can’t escape a lick or two… or a minute of them. When it comes to licking them, Lissa gets generous. But they don’t seem to mind at all.
Lissa also licks me and Mum. But not as much as she does the male representatives at home.
#7: The dog’s greeting
Did you know that dogs greet each other by giving a lick on the chin?
If a dog is licking a person’s chin, it’s the pooch’s way of saying “Sup?”. They might jump to reach the chin if the person is not bending or kneeling down.
I mean, talk about dogs being polite and not skipping greetings.
#8: The dog is being submissive
There’s a thing called submissive urination. But dogs could also lick to show submissive behavior.
According to research, dogs who lick other members of the pack on the mouth, are showing their social status is lower. And that they’re aware of it.
Your dog might be licking you to say “I know you call the shots. And I am fine with that.”
You may also notice this behavior between two dogs that meet for the first time. The one who considers the other more powerful will lick them their mouth.
Take a look at this video from VetStreet:
#9: A human stress ball
Is the dog licking you or anyone else obsessively?
If the dog is nervous, they could be trying to calm themselves down. They do that by performing obsessive-compulsive actions such as licking (a person for example).
So the dog would start licking the face or hands. As a stress-relieving gesture.
Basically, the licked human serves as a stress ball.
Here’s what happens: When your dog is licking you, the body releases endorphins. A.k.a. the happiness hormone.
Note: Bear in mind that if this behavior continues, it might turn into a habit.
#10: A grooming ritual
Dogs have a social ritual of grooming each other. It’s also a sign of a good relationship between two dogs to lick one another’s heads, ears, etc.
This is different than licking another dog on the mouth, as discussed in #7 and #8.
#11: Healing intentions
It could be that the licked person has a cut or wound that might need medical attention. Hence, the dog would start licking them. As they would with a dear fellow canine of theirs.
Fun fact: Did you know that ancient Egyptians used dog licks for healing practices? They believed that dog saliva can help cure skin wounds.
And it turns out that dog saliva has its benefits for humans.
These are the findings from a recent study that examined the saliva of 8 Beagles and 8 Labrador Retrievers.
Scientists compared dog and human saliva. The results showed that dog saliva contains antimicrobial peptides.
What’s more, the detected proteins found in dog saliva were similar to the ones contained in humans’.
But that’s not all.
Some dogs are able to detect cancer. For example, if they start licking a mole obsessively, it may be cancerous.
A study found out that dogs manage to recognize healthy people from cancer patients with 99% accuracy.
Same goes for different types of infections. For example poison ivy.
Dogs can even detect skin allergies.
9 tips to stop your dog from licking you
#1: Head to the dog doctor
The reason I’m advising you to first visit the vet is to see whether there’s a medical issue at hand. Some neurological problems could cause licking behavior.
Also, if your dog is strressed out for some reason, you should know whether it’s health-related.
#2: Stimulate the mind and body
Fixing the issue could be one exercise session a day away.
Especially if anxiety is in the core of your dog’s excessive licking. When your dog is focused on something else, they won’t turn to licking.
That’s why it’s good to give them a task. Such as…
A puzzle toy to solve for example. Or toss them a treat in the garden and let them sniff to find it.
And while we’re at it, let me tell you a bit more about…
You are probably unaware of how much sniffing can help you and your dog. It’s one of dogs’ natural instincts. And a favorite activity.
Sniffing can engage a dog and tire them out. But what it can also do is relax your dog.
And that’s not all…
Sniffing can also help your dog have a more optimistic view of the world. A study ran by Alexandra Horowitz reports that this activity can make a dog more positive.
Besides that, your dog will feel mentally enriched after they’ve been allowed to sniff a lot on a walk.
After all, sniffing gives your dog information about who was there before them and what they did. It’s kind of like the dog version of Facebook. 🙂
You can get a treadmill for your dog. That way they can still burn some calories indoors.
And most importantly, it’ll help prevent pent-up energy. The latter may result in a lot of unwanted behaviors. One of which is licking.
Another option would be to play some physical games together. Such ones are tug of war and fetch. Besides reducing your dog’s energy, they’ll teach your dog impulse control.
Last but not least, you can do something you both enjoy equally. For example hiking or swimming. Some outdoor fun that gets both of you excited.
#3: Do not reward dog licking
Are you excited whenever your dog licks you?
Maybe you find it a tiny bit flattering. After all, we humans know the concepts of kissing. Dogs don’t. But their slobbery licks come close to that.
So, while you’re not in love with being licked by your dog, maybe you don’t mind it that much.
What does this mean for your dog?
Green light! Ready, set… licking time!
Saying “Hahah, go away!” or “Naaah, stop it!” but in a playful tone of voice doesn’t communicate to your dog you’re not okay with the behavior.
But hey, even if you’re using a firm tone of voice, you might not discourage your dog from licking.
Now, why is that?
See, dogs pick up cues from our mood, body language, and tone of voice. This combo helps them better determine how to react in a situation.
So if you’re saying “NO.” but you’re not moving away, your dog might not take you seriously. I mean, it’s like placing a jar of tasty chocolate-chip cookies in front of a hungry child.
Say you’ve never before made any remarks about the child taking cookies from the jar.
And all of a sudden you start saying “NO.”
But you’re not removing the jar or anything.
What is the child going to do?
By now they’re used to taking cookies. And that gave them the message it was all fine. Now, they’re a bit confused. But they could still take a cookie.
All because they have no idea that you’re being serious about restricting them. And also due to the fact that children are naturally curious and playful.
So they’ll likely test your boundaries. Not because they disrespect you. But because they’re explorers and are not used to taking “no” for an answer like most adults tend to.
But back to dog licking. If you teach your dog that they will get absolutely no attention, if they lick you, they’ll think twice next time.
#4: Reward your dog for not licking you
In short: give attention whenever your dog is not licking you. And ignore them when they try to stick that tongue on your skin.
For example, don’t pet your dog while they’re trying to lick you. And don’t talk to them. If you don’t engage, your dog will likely stop licking soon after.
If your dog persists nevertheless, get up and leave. That will send a clear signal to your dog that you’re not enjoying licks.
#5: Don’t smell appealing to your dog
This tip might sound harder to achieve than it is.
But… It has to do with hygiene. Wash your hands and wipe your mouth after eating a cheeseburger, pizza, or anything that has meat. And has dogs drooling.
Whenever my boyfriend and I get a tasty doner kebab, we keep our hands and face away from our dog. Otherwise, Lissa would take a licking opportunity right away.
But let’s leave food odors aside, shall we?
Same goes if you’re sweaty. See, while for us humans, it may seem gross, for dogs it’s irresistible.
So, if you’re not in for dog licks after exercising or hurrying to get back home, take a bath right away. Or, your dog will give you one. The licky way.
#6: Train your dog to do something else instead of licking
Substitute the behavior you want to eliminate. Give your dog something else that’s engaging and fun to do. And that doesn’t bother you.
And once you choose a game or an activity, make sure to reward your dog big time.
Be consistent with redirecting your dog’s attention to the new behavior. And with the positive reinforcement techniques.
#7: Relax your dog
A lot of people do yoga or meditate when they want to relax. But dogs?
Well, there are some dogs that do doga… Or at least the Internet says so.
But let’s focus on something simpler than doga. For starters that is. If you want to try doga, please, be my guest.
For simpler solutions, try rewarding calm behavior. Pet your dog, talk to ‘em, give ‘em a treat.
#8: Never ever punish your dog
You mustn’t ever punish a dog for licking you.
No raising your voice. No yelling.
Because that way you can traumatize your dog. And stress them out even more.
Plus, there’s the possibility that you rewarded your dog for licking you in the past. Sure, you could have been unaware. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t done it.
So if you punish them for the same behavior, you’ll confuse them at best.
#9: When to visit the human doctor
If your dog’s licking like crazy, going to the vet is a no-brainer.
But do you know when you or another person should get yourselves checked by a doctor?
When the dog licks a specific area of a human’s body.
Remember that dogs have the ability to detect changes in blood sugar levels. As well as migraines, infections, and cancer.
So better check with a specialist because your dog might be trying to tell you something.