Dog owners often wonder why does my dog lick my feet? It certainly seems like a bizarre behavior for us humans, and it can definitely tickle, but what does it say about your dog?
The first thing to be aware of is that licking is a normal behavior for dogs and in and of itself, it's no reason to be concerned. Licking is your pup's way of both taking in their surroundings and communicating with you. That being said, excessive licking can certainly be problematic when it takes on a compulsive nature.
It's important to note that there's a difference between the occasional lick and habitual licking, the latter of which can signal anything from your dog feeling bored and in need of some of the best dog toys to occupy their time, to attention-seeking behavior that may require positive reinforcement training techniques to put a stop to.
Below, you'll find all the answers you'll need for this weird behavior, including what it means and whether or not it's okay for them to be doing it.
Why do dogs like to lick?
Licking is an instinctive behavior, which means it's tied to memories your dog has from when it was a puppy.
Dogs groom with their tongues, and since they don't have hands to reach out and greet people, they'll use their tongues to bond, say hi, and show affection. The UK Kennel Club says (opens in new tab) that "dogs use their mouths and tongues to help them understand their environment, and to assess the mood of others."
Dogs lick to show affection, to get attention, and in some cases, to soothe you. A 2012 study (opens in new tab) found that dogs were more likely to lick their owners when they were pretending to cry than when they were humming or chatting normally.
When your dog was a puppy, their mother licked them as a form of bonding - the act releases dopamine and endorphins in your dog's brain, so licking really does feel good for your pup.
Why does my dog lick my feet?
Your dog licking your feet could be for the reasons listed above, as well as one other slightly more gross reason - your feet could taste good to them.
Most of the time our feet are sweaty and a little smelly, which are two things that dogs find very interesting. Your feet are also giving off pheromones and other information about your body biology, and since sweat contains salt, your dog is getting a salty treat while also learning a bit about you.
Your dog could also be licking your feet because it's a behavior that elicits an immediate response. Our feet are ticklish, and your dog licking them will probably make you react right away, so this could also be an attention-seeking behavior.
Is it okay for dogs to lick your feet?
There's technically nothing dangerous about your dog licking your feet - unless you've got something harmful on them. Creams and ointments could contain ingredients that are toxic to your dog, so keep that in mind. You also don't want your dog licking your feet if you've got an open wound on them.
The only issue that can stem from your dog licking your feet is if you feel like it's becoming obsessive or indicative of anxiety or a behavioral issue. Then you'll want to try and get to the bottom of the problem while steering your dog away from feet-licking.
How to stop your dog from licking your feet
There are a few ways to get your dog to stop licking your feet. Try offering them something else they might enjoy having in their mouth instead of your toes, like a toy, a long lasting dog chew, or one of the best dog treats.
As it becomes clear that your dog is learning to choose a toy or a treat over your feet, use positive reinforcement training methods to encourage them to keep doing that. You can also try to just ignore the behavior and walk away - don't react, just leave. This may help teach your dog that they won't get any sort of attention or reaction out of you.
If your dog seems to be incessantly licking in an anxious manner, consult your veterinarian who will be able to offer advice on whether the behavior might be coming from and guidance on what to do about it.
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