Pancho here, and I'm here to set the record straight on a very important topic--licking. Apparently, there are some myths out there regarding the way we dogs use our tongues. It's not all kissy-kissy affection or hunting for crumbs, folks. Our licking can indicate a lot of different things, some of which might require a call to the vet. Here's a simple breakdown of things we give a lick about:
Enjoying a salty snack. Have you ever noticed that we seem particularly affectionate after your workouts? Confession: while we do love you, your sweat is extra salty and you become the human equivalent of a bag of potato chips. And just like you and your actual bag of potato chips, we simply can't get enough.
Showing respect. When we lick the mouth of a human or muzzle of another dog, it's usually an act of subordination. It's our way of saying, "Hey, you're the top dog here." And maybe a little, "Got anything to eat?" This instinct seems to date back to our early evolution, when pups in the wild relied on their mamas to share some of that fresh meat in her mouth.
Enjoying a good endorphin rush. OK, yes, the licking can seem a bit out of control sometimes, especially when you get home after a long day of work. At first, we're just genuinely happy to see you, but something else starts happening, too. All the excitement and happy licking triggers the release of a boatload of feel-good hormones throughout our systems. Licking literally gives us a natural high.
Addressing our (ahem) issues. Until we master the ability to speak or use email, we're going to have to rely on other methods to communicate our medical needs. While it's perfectly normal to lick ourselves, excessive licking can tip you off to some potential problems. For example, our paws itch like crazy when we have an allergic reaction. Licking temporarily soothes the itch. And if we can't stop licking our rumps, it probably means that we're experiencing irritation or need our anal glands expressed. Sorry in advance.
Obsessing about stuff. While you express your anxieties and obsessions by alphabetizing your spice rack and compulsively locking doors three times each, we dogs sometimes express our anxieties and obsessions by licking the air around us. Sure, it looks a little strange, but it's essentially harmless. (Much like your need to put paprika ahead of pepper.) If it seems to be more than an occasional oddity, consult our vet. She might have some strategies and suggestions for identifying and resolving stressors.