a dog with its tongue out licking its owner

Dogs are known for their affectionate and sometimes quirky behaviours, and one common behaviour that many dog owners experience is excessive licking. While the occasional lick can be endearing, persistent and incessant licking can leave owners puzzled and wondering why their furry friend is showering them with so much attention. In this article, we delve into the various reasons why your dog might be licking you excessively and how to address this behaviour.

a dog with its tongue out licking its owner

Reasons why dogs lick their owners excessively

Seeking attention and affection

Dogs are naturally social animals and often use licking as a means to communicate with their owners. One of the primary reasons why your dog may be licking you excessively is simply to seek attention and affection. By licking you, your dog may be expressing their love and desire for closeness.

Comfort and security

Licking can also serve as a comforting behaviour for dogs. Just like how humans may engage in comforting activities when feeling anxious or stressed, dogs may resort to licking as a way to self-soothe and find comfort in the presence of their owners.

Social bonding

Furthermore, licking is a behaviour deeply ingrained in the social dynamics of dogs. When a dog licks their owner, it can strengthen the bond between them, reinforcing the sense of companionship and trust.

Health-related issues

Excessive licking can sometimes be indicative of underlying health issues that need attention.


Allergies, whether food-related or environmental, can cause itchiness and discomfort in dogs, leading them to excessively lick their skin or paws in an attempt to alleviate the irritation.

Dental problems

Dental issues such as gum disease or tooth pain can also prompt excessive licking behaviour. Dogs may lick their owners to seek relief from oral discomfort or to signal a need for dental care.

Behavioural issues

In some cases, excessive licking can be attributed to behavioural issues that require intervention and training.

Anxiety and stress

Just like humans, dogs can experience anxiety and stress in response to various triggers such as changes in their environment or routine. Excessive licking may serve as a coping mechanism for anxious dogs, helping them alleviate their distress.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

In rare cases, dogs may develop compulsive behaviours like excessive licking as a result of underlying psychological issues such as OCD. Professional guidance may be necessary to address these behavioural problems effectively.

Understanding breed-specific traits

It's essential to consider that certain dog breeds may have predispositions to certain behaviours, including licking.

Breed tendencies

For example, some breeds, like retrievers, are known for their affectionate nature and may be more prone to excessive licking as a way to show their love and devotion to their owners.

Past experiences and conditioning

Additionally, a dog's past experiences and conditioning can influence their behaviour. Dogs that have been positively reinforced for licking in the past may continue this behaviour as a learned response.

How to manage excessive licking behaviour

If your dog's excessive licking is becoming a concern, there are several strategies you can employ to address and manage this behaviour.

Positive reinforcement training

Using positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewarding your dog for alternative behaviours like sitting calmly, can help redirect their focus away from excessive licking.

Providing alternative outlets

Providing your dog with plenty of physical and mental stimulation through activities like regular exercise and interactive play can help alleviate boredom and reduce the urge to lick excessively.

Seeking veterinary advice

If you suspect that your dog's excessive licking may be due to underlying health issues or behavioural problems, it's essential to consult with your veterinarian. They can conduct a thorough evaluation and recommend appropriate treatment options tailored to your dog's specific needs.


Excessive licking behaviour in dogs can stem from various factors, including a desire for attention, health issues, or underlying behavioural issues. By understanding the reasons behind your dog's licking behaviour and implementing appropriate management strategies, you can help ensure a happy and healthy relationship with your furry companion.


  1. Why does my dog lick me when I get home?
    • Dogs may lick their owners as a way to greet them and express excitement upon their return.
  2. Is it normal for my dog to lick me all the time?
    • While occasional licking is normal, persistent and excessive licking may warrant further investigation to rule out underlying issues.
  3. Should I let my dog lick me?
    • Allowing your dog to lick you is a personal preference. However, it's essential to set boundaries and discourage excessive licking if it becomes bothersome.
  4. Can excessive licking cause health problems for my dog?
    • Excessive licking can lead to skin irritation or exacerbate underlying health issues, so it's essential to address the behaviour and any potential underlying causes.
  5. When should I seek professional help for my dog's licking behaviour?
    • If your dog's licking behaviour is accompanied by other concerning symptoms or persists despite attempts to address it, consulting with a veterinarian or animal behaviourist is recommended.

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