You’re petting your dog.
They begin licking your arm as a response.
You’re wondering, “What’s my dog trying to tell me?”
If you’re curious to know more about why they treat your arms like ice cream at times…
Read on to discover:
- 7 reasons why dogs lick your arm.
- 3 tips to stop your dog’s licking behavior.
- Different tricks to divert your dog’s attention from licking.
- And many more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog lick my arm so much?
Your dog licks your arm so much as a sign of affection or because they want to find out what you’ve eaten or done. It’s also a to get your attention. Or, to show you empathy. They might like how you taste. It could be that they’re grooming you. If you own a puppy, they lick more to explore.
7 reasons why dogs lick your arm (when you pet them)
#1: Exploration stage in puppies
If you own a puppy, then it’s normal for them to lick you.
Puppies are curious and like to investigate objects using their mouths.
Dr. Terrence Ferguson says that licking is common in every dog breed. But pups tend to lick more than adult dogs. It’s because they’re new to the world. And are trying to inspect their environment.
The absence of hands makes them dependent on both their nose and tongue. That’s why you see them exploring their surroundings by sniffing and licking.
But it isn’t only objects that they’re trying to figure out. They also investigate other dogs, animals, and humans. Including you!
That’s why there are times when they suddenly lick your arms when you’re petting them. Your pup’s trying to get to know you.
“But my pup doesn’t only lick me. Mine also likes nipping my fingers and chewing on objects they see.”
What is teething?
Your puppy is teething when their adult teeth begin to grow. The teething period is intense and it can be uncomfortable for your pup.
Vet MJ Redman says that adult dogs have 42 teeth. And they all come in within 2 months between 4 to 6 months of age.
This makes the pups want to chew on everything. Including your furniture and other objects within their reach.
Here are the other symptoms of teething that you should look out for:
- Poor appetite.
- Missing teeth.
- Frequent drooling.
- Bleeding or swollen gums.
Chewing is their way of alleviating the discomfort of the teething process. So it’s best to provide them with toys than risking them chew on inappropriate objects.
PetMD says it’s important to consider your pup’s age and tooth development stage in choosing the best toys.
You can use the below timeline as a guide:
Birth to 12 weeks old
During this phase, your pup doesn’t need chewing toys. Their tiny teeth can be very sharp but not strong enough. Chewing toys meant for older dogs may damage their teeth.
12 to 24 weeks old
At this age is the peak stage of teething activities. Teething rings and pacifiers help to ease the pain of teething.
These will also keep puppies from chewing inappropriate objects. Such as shoes, furniture, and your personal items.
24 weeks old
At this age, your puppy will have a variety of toys to choose from. They’re ready for adult toys. Such as rope toys, fetch toys, and plush toys.
#2: Sign of affection
Your pooch may be licking your arm to tell you they love you.
AKC says licking can be a sign of affection. It can be their way of giving ‘kisses’ too.
Your dog associates this with a positive memory. Like how their biological mother licked them when they were young. It’s a way for a mother dog to clean and nurture her puppies.
Licking is a behavior that deepens bonds between mother dogs and their pups. As well as among littermates.
So when you pet your Fido, they’ll return the affection by licking your arm. It’s one of the many ways that strengthen your relationship.
When you pet your dog and they’re enjoying it, their body releases oxytocin or happiness hormones. It’s the same thing that happens to your body when you’re close to them.
The cycle of affection makes you both happy.
There are also dog breeds that lick a lot. They lick their dog parents and other pets as a sign of affection.
These dog breeds include:
- French Bulldog.
- Yorkshire Terrier.
- Golden Retriever.
- Labrador Retriever.
- German Shepherd.
- American Pit Bull Terrier.
You might also want to check out: 11 Surprising Reasons Why Your Dog Is So Affectionate In The Morning (#9 Is Cute)
#3: To get your attention
“Hooman… I’m hungry.”
Your Fido might lick your arm to tell you that it’s time to feed them.
According to Alexandra Horowitz, puppies lick the face of their mother as an instinct to be fed.
This causes the mother dog to regurgitate some food. It’s a harmless process.
Fact: Wolves and mother dogs do this on purpose for their puppies to eat. The food that turns to mush makes it easier for them to ingest.
In that case, your dog might also lick you hoping you’ll cough up their meal.
Or as they’ve become domesticated, they hope you’ll toss some tasty meat into their bowl.
But keep in mind the timing of your dog’s licking behavior. If they begin licking you after they just ate, then hunger is not likely the reason.
If they do it after long hours without food, it’s their way of asking for a meal. You might be so busy that you forgot to serve them on time.
#4: Your dog likes your taste
Did you know that dogs like the taste of our sweat?
Our sweat glands release salt and water. Something that’s tasty to canines.
Joel Silverman, author of “What Color is Your Dog?” says that many animals like the taste of salt.
Note: There are ‘salt licks’ in pastures for horses or cows to lick.
The thing is, dogs want the sodium in your sweat too. So your dog might go right for it after your workout or exercise. When you pet them, they’d grab the opportunity to lick you.
Even when you’re not sweating, your skin may taste like salt to your pooch. So the licking behavior can still happen even if you’re not sweating too much.
It’s also possible that you have something on your skin. Something your Fido smells and wants to taste. Lotion, for example.
According to Dr. Tina Wismer, dogs like the taste of lotions. Since they’re scented, it’ll attract your dog to have a taste.
“Would it be dangerous if my dogs licked the lotion off my skin?”
A lick or two wouldn’t cause an issue. But it’s better to discourage your pooch for their own safety. So don’t pet your Fido until your skin has absorbed the product.
You might also be interested in: 9 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Licks Your Head (And Hair) + 5 Easy Tips To Stop It
#5: Your dog’s grooming you
Licking is a grooming technique among canines.
When they were puppies, their biological mother licked them to groom them. And as they become adult dogs, they begin to lick themselves as well.
So if your Fido licks you, they might be trying to groom you. Oh, but don’t be offended. They’re not telling you to have a shower.
It’s just a behavior that they learned which they’re trying to use on you.
Do you turn for your pooch when feeling down?
You don’t say words to them. Sometimes petting them alone already gives you comfort. Then, they’d start licking your arms and whimper.
You can’t help but wonder if dogs can recognize your sadness. And if their licking behavior is their way of comforting us.
Well, the answer to that is yes.
According to a study, canines are capable of empathizing. They can pick up on the emotions of humans as well as other dogs.
Another study found that dogs will go to their humans faster in some cases.
For example when the person makes distressing sounds. Such as crying or saying “help”. Compared to when they made neutral sounds.
Your pooch can tell when you’re sad. And they would react to it by licking, nuzzling, whining, or laying in your lap.
Don’t miss out on: Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs? 7 Unusual Reasons + 7 Simple Tips
My friend’s experience
My friend had an unfortunate event. She learned from a phone call about the death of her brother’s friend. The 2 girls were very close.
She sat on the sofa and dealt with her sadness. She couldn’t do anything because her dear friend lived in a different country. So my friend cried and wouldn’t stop wiping her tears.
At that moment, her dog came to her. Then laid his head on her knee and began to whimper.
It didn’t stop there because the dog walked away a moment later. Then returned with his toy and placed it in my friend’s lap. He also began licking her arm.
She believed her dog could feel her pain and sadness. And the things he did were his ways of comforting her.
So if you experience something similar with your dog, remember this. As bringing you their toys, and staying by your side is an attempt to cheer you up.
Watch video compilation of dogs reacting to their crying parents to see what I mean:
You may also find helpful: 13 Bizzare Reasons Why Your Dog Lays His Head On You + 3 Quick Tips
#7: To find out what you’ve been doing recently
Dogs are curious creatures. So as soon as you come back home from work, your pooch will come to you. You’ll get a lot of sniffs and licks.
But there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Besides greeting you after a long day, it’s your dog’s way to find out what you’ve been up to. Because dogs pick up the scent of our arms.
But canines could also like urine, poop, and other items they wish to know more about.
Probably if your dog could speak, they’d ask questions such as:
“What did you eat today?”
“Who did you meet?”
Your dog can get this information in just seconds of sniffing and licking you.
So if you’ve touched other dogs, your canine would know. Anything tasty you’ve eaten? Your hands will give you away.
It’s alright. Your Fido will still love you unconditionally.
Should you let your dog lick your arm? Is it safe?
It’s okay to let your dog lick your arm as long as it doesn’t bother you. Plus, it’s safe if you don’t have any open wounds there.
If you do, keep in mind that dogs lick their wounds and they may use the behavior on you.
So make sure that there are no cuts and grazes on your arm.
Bacteria can thrive in your dog’s mouth. They can cause infections, one of which is septicemia (blood poisoning by bacteria).
But that’s not all.
Fido’s wound-licking behavior can also lead to diseases. Such as rabies, toxocara canis, and salmonella.
“But Petya. I heard that dogs’ saliva has antibacterial properties. So why does it cause infection?”
Yup. There are proteins called histatins that are present in their saliva. These increase the process of healing and allow the regrowth of cells in the skin. In short – it helps close an open wound.
It also contains enzymes and cells that help kill bacteria in your wound. White blood cells, antibodies, and lactoferrin are examples.
Still, that doesn’t make it 100% safe to let your dog lick your wound. As I’ve said, there are also harmful bacteria that are present in their saliva that can cause an infection.
3 tips to stop your dog from licking your arm
#1: Train your pooch by using positive reinforcement
To stop your dog from licking your arm, use positive reinforcement.
How does it work?
It’s when you give rewards such as treats or praise to encourage your dog to learn commands or new behaviors.
Here’s how you’ll use it:
Step 1: When your dog starts to lick your arm, stop petting them. Stand up and hide your arm behind your back.
Step 2: Wait a few moments and go back to giving your dog attention. When they lick your arm again, turn away and hide your arm.
Step 3: Repeat the steps. So that they’ll learn that it can only get your attention back when they stop licking your arm.
Step 4: When they stop licking your arm while giving them attention, reward. Praise them or give treats for a job well done.
Make sure that other family members are with you on the plan. This will make the training more effective. When everyone in the house ignores your dog’s licking, Fido will learn faster they shouldn’t do it.
#2: Redirect your dog’s attention with toys
When your dog starts to lick you, divert their attention to toys.
Give them something to put in their mouth. In this way, they’ll be occupied and won’t bother licking you. This also helps if you own a puppy who’s undergoing the teething phase.
Because they’ll not only lick. They also nibble and chew. So giving them chew toys can keep your fur baby’s attention for hours.
It doesn’t only save you from being a target of their mouthy behavior. Chewing toys also provide benefits for their health. These can keep their jaw strong and provide gum relief.
Make sure that you’re giving safe chew toys for your pup depending on their tooth development stage.
Here are some engaging toys that you can get for your pup.
Note: Use the timeline above as a guide in choosing the best toys for your puppy’s age:
- Nylabone Puppy Chew Toy
- KONG – Puppy Goodie Bone – Teething Rubber
- Nylabone Dental Dinosaur Power Chew
- KONG – Puppy Ball – Soft Rubber
- Pacific Pups Products – Dog Rope Toys
- ZippyPaws – No Stuffing Squeaky Plush Dog Toy
#3: Redirect their attention with trick training
Training distractions will make your dog occupied.
These will take your Fido’s mind off why they want to lick.
Again, you should use positive reinforcement in teaching them different tricks.
So prepare some treats to reward them.
Here are some tricks that you can teach your dog.
Step 1: Hold the treat in front of your dog’s nose. Then, move it towards the floor to make your dog follow it.
Step 2: Make sure that your Fido’s all the way down. If they’re not following it down with their body, try to pull the treat away a little bit.
Step 3: When your dog’s fully down, give petting and praise. Repeat the steps.
Step 4: Introduce the “down” command once they’re doing the down motion. Say the cue clearly while moving the treat downwards.
Step 5: Repeat the steps with the verbal cue. Give your dog treats after they lie down.
Step 1: Train your dog to roll over using first the verbal cue “down”.
Step 2: Once they lie down, hold the treat in front of their nose. Then move the treat toward their shoulder. It’ll lure them to roll on their side.
Do it a few times. Praise after they lie flat on their side.
Step 3: Then continue to move your hand. This time from their shoulder to their backbone. It’ll lure them to roll onto their side.
Do it a few times. Praise after they roll onto the other side.
Step 4: Repeat the steps. Then add the “roll over” cue when they do the steps consistently.
Step 5: Reduce the treats and hand motion gradually until they roll on just a verbal cue.
You can also train them in different ways to show affection. Hugs for example.
Here’s how you can do it.
Step 1: Sit at your dog’s eye level. Place your hand with a treat behind your head.
Step 2: Your dog will try to grab it. Let them nibble a little bit. Then give it to them. Still with your hand behind your neck.
Step 3: Repeat after a few times. Then use the verbal cue “hug me”.
Step 4: Your final go is to increase the duration of the hug. So only give them the treat after they hold for a few seconds.