You’re lying under the blanket. Half-awake.
Then, all of a sudden you sense a slobbery touch on your mouth and nose.
It’s the dog alarm!
As if your dog is saying “Wake up!” by licking your face.
They do it every morning. And you can’t help but wonder: “Why?”
Buckle up because you’re about to discover the real reasons behind your dog’s behavior.
Read on and learn:
- The dangers that could be causing your dog to act this way.
- How your dog licking you influences the bond between you two.
- The role of puppy licking and why some dogs carry the behavior into adulthood.
- What could happen during the night that makes your face attractive to your dog in the morning.
- And much much more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog lick me when I wake up?
Your dog licks you when you wake up due to one or more of the following reasons: they’re excited to see you after waking up, that’s their way of showing affection, you’re reinforcing the behavior (whether you realize it or not), they want attention, food or to go potty, and it makes them happy.
Why is my dog so affectionate in the morning?
Your dog is affectionate in the morning because they’re excited to see you and start the day. But it might be also because they’re trying to get your attention so you can give them something they want or need. Such as water or food. Or because you reward them with petting, scratching, and praises.
13 reasons why your dog licks you so much in the morning (when you wake up)
#1: Your dog has your blessing
Dogs are smart creatures. They’ll pick up on your ques. So whether you’re dissatisfied with their slobbery kisses or not, they’ll know.
But maybe you’re the person who says “Oh, stop it you!”. While you don’t mind your dog licking you like crazy. And you laugh, and smile, and enjoy it.
After all, isn’t licking the equivalent of kisses?
Not necessarily but that’s how a lot of people perceive them.
So a lot of dog parents will allow dog licking. And by doing so, they’ll condition their dog to continue. As a result, their dog will gladly do it in the future.
But let’s look at the connection between you smiling and your dog licking you.
What’s more, according to science, dogs are drawn to people who smile. Researchers tested the reactions of 43 dogs.
The dogs were shown smiling and angry faces on a computer twice. The first time affected by oxytocin, and the second not.
Scientists measured how dogs perceived both types of faces.
They found out dogs who were under the influence of oxytocin had much more interest in smiling faces. And perceived the angry ones as less-threatening.
Without being affected by oxytocin, the dogs focused mostly on the angry faces. Because these images managed to evoke the strongest reaction in canines.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re smiling while the dog is licking you, your dog will have a blast. Because they’ll be under the spell of oxytocin.
#2: Your dog has a salt radar
Some nights are hotter than others. So we turn and we twist, and we… sweat. The latter makes our skin salty.
And your dog is a sucker for salt.
So as soon as your dog senses the salt, they’ll be all over you. Trying to lick it all off.
Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Your dog loves how you taste.
#3: “I need something from you!”
“I’m hungry! Oh, actually, food can wait… potty time alert!” is what your dog would say. If they could speak, that is.
Your dog will lick you to get you out of bed. Because they just can’t wait to go outside and relieve themselves.
Or they’re up since some time. And are starting to feel hunger. After all, they’re dependent on you for breakfast.
#4: Attention, attention
Your dog knows what they want. And they want it now.
It’s your attention they’re after.
Maybe they’ve woken up several hours before you. And they want to play.
I mean, they can’t do tug of war without you. Your role is important.
Or they want your cuddles. So the licks are your dog’s way of saying “Wake up, wake up! I demand cuddles.”
My dog Lissa is exactly like that in the morning.
She sleeps in our bed so when she wakes up, she’d climb on one of us. Walk on the chest, start licking, and then, she’ll lean on us. Expecting belly scratches and cuddles.
Check out also: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Licks Your Head (And Hair)
#5: “Because I’m happy!”
I’ve already mentioned the happiness hormone. A.k.a. oxytocin.
Well, dogs get it when they look you in the eye. And also when they lick you.
So, why should they stay away from an activity that makes them happy? Especially if you don’t mind and welcome it.
Your dog will not only feel happy. Their stress levels will also reduce.
And the best part?
Your bond will become stronger. Because you too will feel the happiness. Or in other words, you’ll experience a boost in oxytocin levels.
A study found out there’s a direct correlation between dog-to-human interaction, and vice-versa, and the rising levels of oxytocin.
#6: “Are you with me?”
Your dog could be getting close to your face in the morning to check if you’re still alive. Wild dogs have a history of checking each other’s breath.
That’s how they know whether other pack members are still alive and well.
So, this could be your dog’s method of asking “All good?”.
#7: It’s all about affection
Your dog would say so many things to you… if they could speak. But although they can’t, they’re masters of showing affection.
They aren’t able to say “How did you sleep?” and “Let’s get this day started!”. But they can still show how they feel about it.
Your dog will jump on you, lick you, look at you and wag their tail. Some of the more vocal canines will even emit a bark.
And let’s not forget that mother dogs lick their puppies’ faces. Both as a way to clean the pups and show them affection. So here’s where your dog learned that.
#8: “Good morning!”
It’s a greeting.
Wild dogs hang out in packs. When the older ones return from hunting, the puppies will lick the adults’ snouts.
The cubs do this to greet the older ones. And to also show respect. It’s how they get accepted in the pack.
#9: Natural excitement
Your dog hasn’t seen you all night. Or, interacted with you, if you’d prefer.
So as soon as they wake up, they’re ready to dive in a new adventure. With their favorite human buddy.
And you know dogs. They’re so genuine and pure. Whenever they see you come back home, they shake their bodies and tails as if it’s the first time they see you.
And pretty much the same thing happens once you wake up. See, dogs live in the moment. And they appreciate each and every one of these moments.
Your dog licking you in the morning is not always a good sign. Sometimes this behavior indicates an underlying health issue. Like anxiety.
When your dog is anxious, they will look for ways to calm themselves down. Some coping behaviors include obsessive-compulsive actions. Like excessive licking.
You can look at this as the equivalent of human nail-biting.
While licking is a healthy coping mechanism, obsessive licking signals danger.
Your dog has been up for hours. With no one to play with, nothing to eat, and nowhere to go.
You’re their ticket to the outside world and socializing with other canines.
So you sleeping equals boredom. You being awake means your dog’s one step closer to getting at least some excitement.
Dogs are creatures of play. If there are no chew or dental toys in the room, your dog will just have to do something. Like interacting with you.
#12: Pent-up energy
Dogs are active animals. They need exercise and play. And if they lack either of the two, your dog is going to accumulate pent-up energy.
Why is this bad?
When your dog has too much energy and too little to spend it on, you’ll start witnessing undesirable behaviors.
Apart from chewing cables, furniture or scratching at the wall, your dog might start licking you obsessively.
In this case, licking is your dog’s way to cope with the fact that they’re not getting enough physical and mental stimulation.
#13: Licking stems from puppyhood
According to Dr. Emily Blackwell, licking your face is something dogs will do for humans. But not for other dogs.
She elaborates that when we take care of dogs we become the primary caretaker. And in the role of such, we encourage puppy-like behavior.
This is what makes it possible to see prolonged puppy behavior even in adult dogs.
5 tips to stop your dog from licking you when you wake up
While for some dog lovers licking is a blessing, for others it can get a bit too much.
I know – you love your dog. But having your face covered in saliva? That’s a whole other thing.
Not to worry. You can change that with these easy tips…
#1: Ensure your dog has the essentials
It would be uncomfortable for your dog if they’re thirsty but don’t have access to water. This can make your dog lick you enthusiastically in the morning.
After all, licking could be caused by a lot of reasons. But what you can do is rule out the chance of your dog being thirsty.
To ensure that your dog is well-hydrated, put a water bowl in the sleeping room. Or just don’t close the door to the room in which the water bowl is.
You could also leave food for your dog. But bear in mind that some dogs won’t stop eating until their food bowl is empty. Which could cause them to overeat.
What you can do to avoid your dog starving or overeating, is to put their food in a slow-feeding bowl. This will allow your dog to eat slower and feel full faster.
#2: Give your dog a dedicated sleep place
If your dog is sleeping in your room, one of the most natural things they can do in the morning is to lick you.
But if you’re not a fan of these slobbery kisses, you can teach your dog to sleep somewhere else. For example in their crate in another room.
A crate will function as your dog’s safe haven. It will smell of them, be their dedicated place they don’t have to share with anyone.
Another option is to give your dog a comfy dog bed. And start luring them there by giving treats.
#3: Don’t reinforce the behavior
Remember: any type of reaction to your dog’s licking is a reward for them. Regardless if you get irritated and scold them for doing it.
Instead, do this:
Next time your dog licks you, try saying “NO” with a firm tone of voice. Then, stand up and walk away.
And while you do that, do not engage with your dog. Don’t look at them, talk to them or touch them. Simply ignore your dog.
This will make your dog understand that licking is not your cup of tea. Plus, that it drives their favorite play buddy away. And that’s how your dog will eventually stop doing it.
Bear in mind that your dog perceives petting, ear scratches, cuddles or even laughing as a reward. So if you don’t want licks, don’t engage in these behaviors.
#4: Redirect your dog’s attention to something else
Your dog is ready to groom your face. But that’s not what you want.
Just take a favorite toy of theirs and toss it to them. Or, ask your dog to perform a simple command such as “sit” or “lie down”.
Then reward your dog with a treat. This way, your dog will focus on another engaging activity and will forget about licking.
Alternatively, if it’s only your face you mind being licked, you can redirect your pooch to lick your hand. Just give them a treat or praise as soon as they do so.
#5: Keep calm and… train on
Positive reinforcement training can do wonders for your dog. But if they’re used to licking you in the morning, it will take some time before they grow out of it.
Do not raise your tone of voice or yell at your dog. Instead, try to remain cool and collected. Your dog will pick up on your energy and the training sessions will be more effective.
BONUS: Remove your dog from any stressful situation
Fear in dogs as in humans is meant to protect the species. That’s why it’s not all bad. But hey, if your dog’s licking’s due to fear or anxiety, you need to remove the stressor.
A quiet place will serve your dog just fine.
Otherwise, there’s the danger of your dog becoming too fearful. Which might make them less confident.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, you should make your dog work for their treats. They’re more enjoyable to them like this anyway.
All you need to do is distract your dog and let them focus on something they like. This will provide them with a sense of security.