Forced to wipe canine saliva off your face yet again?
Or are you one of those people who’s a fan of getting slobbery kisses from your pooch?
Regardless, I know you’re here for answers to the million-dollar question: “Why does my dog lick me?”
So read on to learn if your dog grooms you because:
- You taste good.
- You need comfort.
- They’re trying to communicate.
- They just want to kiss you (but not really).
- And this is just the beginning…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog groom me?
- What does it mean when a dog grooms you: 11 reasons for grooming
- #1: You taste good
- #2: The notoriety of a 3-year-old
- #3: They want to “talk”
- #4: As a stress reliever
- #5: The literal sense of the word “groom”
- #6: The healing touch
- #7: Neoteny in dogs
- #8: You might be feeling some type of way
- #9: They smell and know something even before you do
- #10: Merely a greeting
- #11: They want to kiss you…
- People also ask:
- 9 tips on what to do if your dog grooms you
Why does my dog groom me?
Dogs groom their humans because they either want to give or receive affection. Licking is their primary means to communicate, being one of the most common behaviors in dogs. Grooming their human could also mean they or the humans themselves are angry, excited, or are sick.
What does it mean when a dog grooms you: 11 reasons for grooming
#1: You taste good
It sounds funny, but your dog might just love the taste of your skin, really.
We, humans, have naturally slightly salty skin. And what we don’t realize is we always have tiny particles of food in our epidermis – before a shower, at least.
You’d understand why your dog might especially love grooming around your face. Because that’s where your mouth is.
Or your hands, even, after a meal. You touched food, you washed your hands, but there’s still some foodstuff left.
A doggo’s nose has over 300 million powerful receptors. So best believe they’ll still smell those tiny little microscopic bits of goodies.
This also applies to licking their bowls clean. Or cleaning the floor when you spill something.
Your dog goes, “This tastes nice. I go lickity lick!”
#2: The notoriety of a 3-year-old
What do puppies and babies have in common?
I can tell you a plethora of things but the main reason is that both need and want attention.
Actually, why not throw in a few more just for laughs?
Firstly, they poop more than you think they will.
Secondly, you show their latest picture on your phone to everyone because you think they’re the cutest.
Thirdly, you and other adults speak to them in baby talk.
Do you also notice that people suddenly want to come over to visit and see them?
Yup, puppies and babies have a lot in common.
But back to pups. When they were in the litter, they were lovingly licked by their dog mamas. So your dog does the same to you to show how much they love you.
Animal psychologist Clive Wynne argues it’s not their intellect that makes dogs remarkable.
Their capacity to form affectionate relationships with other species is what truly does. In short, the dog’s ability to love.
That’s not to say dogs aren’t smart, because they are. But it’s more about acknowledging their ability to love.
And your dog’s love is the best kind of love, wouldn’t you agree?
#3: They want to “talk”
Chances are your dog’s trying to tell you they need something when they groom you.
Maybe you forgot to fill the water bowl. Or maybe you were gone the whole day and they’re hungry.
It could also be that they’re trying to tell you the state of mind they’re in.
Dogs communicate deference or submissiveness in the form of licking.
Ancient wolves, the dogs’ ancestors, used to do this as a form of respect to the dominant pack leader.
Apart from these, your dog is also telling you they want to be friends with you. But this applies more to people they’re not close with.
So you can say they’re comfortable with you and want to bond and get to know you better.
#4: As a stress reliever
Compulsive licking is a thing in dogs.
If your dog’s grooming you, other people, or things excessively, something might be up.
This can be an indicator of underlying issues such as:
It’s likely that your dog’s immoderate licking is them trying to calm themselves.
This behavior can be a healthy stress reliever. But it becomes a problem once it becomes an obsession.
And when it does, it’ll reinforce anxiety and just make the issue worse.
On the other hand, dogs just do it out of boredom sometimes.
#5: The literal sense of the word “groom”
Meaning you both need to get cleaned up, and your pup’s volunteered to do it for you.
If you’re back from a run, it’s highly likely that you’re sweating like it’s nobody’s business.
So other than the sheer excitement of your return, your dog’s drawn to the salty water beads on your flesh.
#6: The healing touch
It’s an instinct for dogs to lick cuts and wounds because they do it to themselves.
This is to clean away the debris that might be in the wound, and just to clean the injury in general. In addition, this also helps speed up the healing process.
So this should explain why your dog grooms you if you have a cut. Also because even if they don’t see it, they can smell it.
And while we’re on the topic, let us interest you with some food for thought:
Did you know that dog saliva has some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties?
The idea has become so prevalent that people believe it can also heal human wounds. Not just modern people, but ones in ancient societies as well.
Did you know that puppy slobber could provide keys to find new treatments for rare diseases?
According to researcher Dr. Mark Neff, rare cancers and other diseases in humans also show up in dogs.
So by studying their DNA, the discovery of genomic causes of diseases will be quicker. This will also help find better treatments faster, both for dogs and humans.
How cool is that?
#7: Neoteny in dogs
Scientifically, neoteny happens when the physiological development of an adult organism is delayed.
So… How is all this relevant to your dog grooming you?
Mama dogs lick puppies and puppies in a litter groom one another.
They’ve picked up this habit since day 1, along with other cute puppy things, and just stuck with them.
Is your dog all grown up but still acts like a puppy? Is the good boy/girl a big baby too?
That’s neoteny in a nutshell – dogs reach maturity but retain juvenile characteristics.
Now you may be asking: “Why are some dogs so small and fluffy if their ancestors are wolves? Wolves aren’t small, are they?”
Delving deeper into biology, neoteny includes traits such as:
- Larger eyes.
- Smaller teeth.
- Shorter snouts.
You’d think things that normally get big when an organism’s growing up will show on dogs too, but that’s not the case.
If you have another dog at home, you’ll also see them grooming the other. #JustDogThings
#8: You might be feeling some type of way
Has it ever occurred that you were feeling negative and your dog came up and tried to comfort you?
There’s a high chance that that’s happened to a lot of fur parents. But if you haven’t experienced it, do you wonder how dogs can just sense how you feel?
Human emotions are distinguishable to dogs by combining what they see and hear.
Being so attuned to your emotions, your dog learns to adopt them as their own.
Do you look happy and sound excited? They reflect optimistic behavior.
Are you sad or upset? Whimpering or crying? That makes them feel the same way.
So what they would do is lick you and maybe even wrap their paws around you. Cuddle, too.
Anything to make their human feel safe because that’s one of their life missions after all.
Here’s another relevant brain food: Dogs really can sense your fear, and then… they get scared too.
Not only that, but we, mortal earthlings in the form of humans, can smell fear too!
#9: They smell and know something even before you do
Emotions aren’t the only thing the canine nose is capable of smelling. It also catches other things going on in humans.
We spend more time interpreting what we see rather than what we smell – and that’s how humans normally work.
Our four-legged best friends are the opposite.
The dog’s sense of smell is so adept that a blind dog adjusts better to vision loss than a human does.
Now, have you talked to a pregnant dog parent?
Yes, dogs can smell there’s something brewing in their human mama’s belly even before she knows.
A shift in a female human’s hormones is responsible for the changes in her scent.
And this explains why dogs suddenly get more protective over their fur mama. This is also a time where they show lots of affection, mainly cuddling and licking.
Other remarkable things that (trained) doggos can detect are:
- Narcolepsy (due to a change in sweat odor).
- Prostate cancer (by sniffing human urine samples).
- Low and high blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (due to changes in human odor).
So if your dog keeps grooming you, they might be telling you something about your health.
#10: Merely a greeting
Nothing says “good morning” better than slobbery doggo kisses.
You don’t agree? It’s alright – totally understandable.
But if your dog does this, it’s likely that it’s because your dog misses you.
When you come home from work, especially from a vacation, you’ll notice your dog is very to see you.
They’ll jump you and lick you with nonstop tail-wagging.
Dogs react differently depending on how strong their bond is with their human. And some dogs are a little more reserved than others.
So if your pooch doesn’t share a room or a bed with you, this explains why they groom you in the morning.
#11: They want to kiss you…
… But not exactly.
What you interpret to be affection might be your pup encouraging you to throw up your lunch.
When puppies are still little, they lick their mama dog’s mouth to regurgitate food for them to eat.
Ancestral dogs used to do this in the wild because. It’s safer and easier for the maternal canine to chew and eat solid food than to bring it home.
This is also to avoid preys she might cross on her way back home to her fur children.
You might also notice some dogs that throw up and eat their own vomit. That also stems from this very reason.
People also ask:
Why does my dog like to groom me?
Your dog likes to groom you to show affection or tell you that they want affection themselves.
While affection’s the primary reason, your dog grooming you is also an indicator of:
- Possible physical discomfort.
- Underlying psychological issues.
- Wanting to comfort you or you to comfort them.
Why does my dog groom me before bed?
Your dog grooms you before bed because they’ll miss you while you sleep even though they’ll be sleeping as well. They may also do it to strengthen your bond.
Your dog understands that you’re about to call it a day, especially if it’s a routine.
Mama dogs also do this to their puppies. It’s something they’ve gotten used to and learned from their original mom.
They’re likely to remember those moments and want to do the same to you because they love you.
You might also be interested in: Why do dogs lick one person more than another?
Why does my dog groom me in the morning?
Your dog grooms you in the morning due to your absence the whole night upon retiring to bed.
This is highly likely to happen if you don’t share a bed or a room with your dog. Or if they’re not used to not being with you.
For instance, you have a strong bond with your dog but you’ve trained them to stay in their own bed that’s not in your room.
They see you in the morning, all excited, and can’t wait to jump you.
Then you give them permission by reacting that you’re excited to see them too.
They jump you and lick you all over because they’ve missed you.
Every moment you’re not with them, all they think about is you. Because that’s how loyal and loving dogs are.
It’s okay if you’re not a fan of wet good morning puppy kisses – not all people are.
But there’s really no scientific reason to explain why your dog grooms you in the morning. Ultimately, it’s just love.
Why does my dog groom me with his teeth?
Your dog grooms you with his teeth because he either wants to play or show affection. This is also called nibbling and could be indicative of mental disorders such as PTSD or anxiety.
Aggression out of fear is also a common cause of mouthing behavior in dogs.
PTSD in dogs happens when they’re exposed to some kind of trauma. While anxiety and fear stem from lack of socialization most of the time.
If you have a puppy, nibbling is a common behavior in them. They do it to both fellow fur children and humans as a playful gesture.
But if you have an older dog that’s nibbling on you excessively to the point it hurts, assess what’s making them do it. Look into the psychological issues that may be causing it.
Other than that, your dog grooming you with his teeth is also a display of affection. So no need to be alarmed as long as it’s not excessive and doesn’t hurt you.
Should I let my dog groom me?
You should let your dog groom you because it boosts the level of oxytocin for both of you.
Oxytocin is a hormone that’s released into the bloodstream in response to love. This also contributes to other positive emotional states such as childbirth.
You shouldn’t let your dog groom you because a dog’s muzzle and mouth are full of bacteria, viruses, and germs.
To help make and back up your decision, I’ll elaborate and explain further.
Grooming and affection are given to dogs as puppies by their dog moms.
Fun fact: Humans are the only mammals that don’t lick their young.
Canine mothers provide tongue washes for their puppies to:
- Clean them.
- Wake them up.
- Get them interested in eating.
- Encourage them to breathe (upon giving birth).
- Stimulate them to empty their tummies (poop and pee because they can’t do it on their own).
Now let’s discuss the only 2 possible answers to the question if you should let your dog “kiss” you.
If you’re leaning towards no, these might reinforce your decision:
A dog’s muzzle is full of bacteria, viruses, and germs.
This is from sticking their nose in dirty corners or hovering over their (or other dog’s) feces. Dogs lick their nose all the time so this should be a concern.
There are bacteria in a dog’s mouth that are zoonotic, meaning they can cause diseases in humans.
- Dipylidium caninum (causes tapeworm infection).
- Capnocytophaga canimorsus (caused blood poisoning in an elderly woman).
- Haemophilus aphrophilus (causes brain abscesses and inflammation of the heart).
- Pasteurella multocida (caused meningitis to 42 infants in France almost two decades ago).
- Clostridium, E-coli, and Campylobacter (these cause gastroenteritis, vomiting, diarrhea, and more).
Now if you’re a fan of such kisses and feel like answering “yes” more, I feel ya! Here are the benefits of letting your dog groom you:
One word: Oxytocin.
When dogs and humans have a positive interaction, a surge in oxytocin is present. It’s also called the “Love Hormone” because it contributes to positive emotional states.
If you’re happy, doggo’s happy too.
Acts of affection strengthen your bond and increase your attachment to each other.
Did you know that your dog loves seeing you smile?
Some dogs love their humans so much that they might have the tendency to ignore danger for the human’s sake.
To top it all off, there isn’t really much to worry about if your dog’s grooming you, especially if you’re healthy.
But at the end of the day, only you can decide.
In a world full of negativity, an act as little as a lick to show love and affection wouldn’t hurt anyone.
If anything, it’ll have nothing but a ripple of positive effect, if I can say so myself.
9 tips on what to do if your dog grooms you
#1: Respond to your dog
No, I don’t mean lick your dog too.
Respond with affection as well by petting them. Cuddling is also nice.
Treat them to a bit of snack too, but do so in moderation, of course.
Literally, anything you can think of that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy that you can do with your dog, do it. Because they’ll feel the same way too.
If you’ve rescued or adopted a dog, try to learn about their history before you got them.
If they lick excessively, they might’ve been exposed to traumatic experiences such as:
- A serious accident.
- The loss of their caretaker.
- Being abandoned to live in the wild.
- A natural disaster (like a hurricane).
- Military combat (applicable to military dogs).
- Bad interactions with other animals (dogfighting).
- Physical or emotional abuse (by previous owners or other people).
Expose your dogs to other dogs, people, and places.
Interaction with others helps not only your pooch but you as well.
Anxiety caused by stress is a thing in dogs that groom themselves or their human. Nibbling, even, can lead to biting.
So socializing your dog will also help other psychological issues. This can be done at any age, but best to start at the puppy stages.
It’s this simple: when your dog starts licking you, walk away. Leave the room.
This will teach your dog that licking you makes you leave, and they don’t want that.
Repeat until your dog gets it, but don’t overdo it. Don’t do things that might make your dog fearful of you.
Remember to implement positive reinforcement as well. When your dog’s restraining from nibbling or grooming you, reward them.
Ensuring you make time to bond and play with your dog is a big factor in preventing them from grooming you too much. And themselves, too.
Doing fun stuff with them will stimulate them and keep their mind occupied.
This will also make both your oxytocin levels go high, so it’s a win-win!
#6: Regular checkups
Not just for your pup, but yourself as well.
As mentioned before, dogs can smell if you’re sick because your odor changes.
And as for your dog, make sure you keep their vaccinations and dewormings up-to-date. Especially if you allow doggo kisses.
Ask your vet about parasite prevention shots or medications as well.
#7: “Talk” to your dog, too
Your dog grooming you is also a sign of their deference to someone more dominant than them – you.
While this is a good thing, you might want to let your dog know that you’re equals.
The best way to do this? Communicate your love towards them as well. Dedicate time and attention to them.
#8: Seek professional help
If the grooming has gotten out of hand, it’s time to let a professional help.
For instance, a harmless nibbling becomes more aggressive. This might be happening because your dog’s gotten too comfortable doing it.
Ask animal behaviorists or dog trainers for advice on what you can do. Or have a trainer train your dog.
#9: Patience is a virtue
There are things you can change overnight; your dog grooming you isn’t one of them.
Patience is always key when you’re a dog (or any animal) parent.
So if your dog loves giving you kisses and you don’t want it, don’t punish them. Instead, find ways to redirect their behavior.
Remember: The nicer you are to your dog, the more they’ll love you. Plus, they’ll be calmer around you and trust you more.