There are plenty of myths out there regarding why many dogs constantly want to lick the floor or your face (hopefully not back-to-back). It's not all kissy-kissy affection or hunting for crumbs, folks. Your dog's licking can indicate a lot of different things, some of which might require a call to the vet. Here's a simple breakdown of the five possible reasons that your dog is choosing to lick:
Enjoying a salty snack. Have you ever noticed that your pup seems particularly affectionate after your workouts? While your pup loves you, your sweat is extra salty and, after a good sweat sesh, you become the human equivalent of a bag of potato chips. And just like you and your actual bag of potato chips, your dog simply can't get enough.
Showing respect. When dogs lick the mouth of a human or muzzle of another dog, it's usually an act of subordination. It's your pup's 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 dogs' 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. Your dog's licking can seem a bit out of control sometimes, especially when you get home after a long day at work. At first, your pup is just licking you because he's genuinely happy to see you, but something else starts happening after that. All this excitement and happy licking triggers the release of a boatload of feel-good hormones throughout your dog's system. Licking literally gives your pup a natural high, which leads him to lick even more.
Addressing our (ahem) issues. Until your pup masters the ability to speak or to use email, he's going to have to rely on other methods to communicate his medical needs. While it's perfectly normal for your pup to lick himself; excessive licking could be an indicator of some potential health problems. For example, your dog's paws itch like crazy when he's having an allergic reaction, licking temporarily soothes this itch. If your pup can't stop licking his rump, it probably means that he's experiencing irritation or he's in need of having his anal glands expressed.
Obsessing about stuff. While you express your anxieties and obsessions by alphabetizing your spice rack and compulsively locking doors three times each, dogs sometimes express their anxieties and obsessions by licking the air around them. 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 your dog's vet. She might have some strategies and suggestions for identifying and resolving stressors.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.