Do you have a dog who seems keen to wash your face with sloppy kisses? Some people love it, but others can’t bear it. Which one are you? 

If you’re wondering why dogs lick faces so much, then this article is the one for you. We’re going to fill you in on why your dog licks your face, whether it’s bad if your dog licks your face, whether you should let them go at your face, how to teach your dog about licking boundaries, and if it’s something you should be worried about at all.

As you may already know, puppies could sometimes pass as comedians for the funniest things they do. To know more about their behaviour – face licking and beyond – why download the Zigzag puppy training app? There’s a lot more in store like toilet training, socialisation and a personalised training journey you’ll definitely find handy. 

Oh, and before you go off into the article, you have to hear about our team of puppy trainers. They’re right on hand to help you through all of the trials and tribulations that having a new puppy is all about. Just get in touch via the app; they’ll pick up on via text, email or phone. 

pitbull licking face
Photo by Mark Broadhead on Unsplash

Why does my dog lick my face? 7 reasons why

/Dogs lick their owners’ faces as a regular part of their behavioural repertoire. Dogs can’t speak to us, yet they can tell us a lot through their body language. Dogs will frequently lick each other’s faces, and face licking often reveals information about how your dog is feeling. 

Let’s delve in and figure out why your dog is licking your face.

1. Licking faces can be an appeasement gesture

Appeasement gestures are generally a dog’s way of saying: ‘’I come in peace. I mean you no harm’’. Face-licking may then mean that they’re just showing their friendliness to others. Even strangers. 

You might also hear this type of face licking called social deference or submissive licking. 

2. Dogs lick faces to be affectionate

It’s simply a fact that your dog really loves you. It can’t be much of a surprise that they want to kiss you then, is it? Licking brings in your scent and lets your dog feel close to you, making them feel great. 

3. Licking is pleasurable to dogs

Licking releases endorphins and feel-good chemicals to the brain. This is sometimes why dogs often lick their paws, your feet, or your hands sometimes – you know, if they ever need an extra kick.

4. Dogs like to lick food off your face

You’ll commonly see the family dog waiting patiently underneath the highchair for scraps or doing a clean-up operation on a toddler’s face and hands after dinner. This one is pretty self-explanatory – licking food off a human will simply be very enjoyable for a dog. Face and finger licking good.

5. Face licking to seek attention

Your dog may have worked out that the perfect way to wake you up from an afternoon nap is with a lovely slap of their tongue on your face. That will give them some much-desired attention they’re looking for, right?

6. Face licking to indicate stress or overwhelm

Stressed dogs will often face-lick, particularly if they’re put in situations where they feel overwhelmed. We talked about body language before. It might mean your dog is trying to say, ‘I don’t like it. Please stop’.

7. Face licking might be your dog encouraging you to be sick

Wild canids such as wolves and coyotes regurgitate food for their young. So your dog licking your face might be their way of expressing, ‘hey I’d like some of that too’ Cheeky,

Labrador licking lips
Photo by James Barker on Unsplash

Is it bad that my dog licks my face?

A dog licking faces isn’t a bad thing. It depends on the person and whether they want to be ‘’the lickee’’. Yes, it’s true that dogs’ mouths carry some germs and bacteria, but not as much as you might think. Do remember that they lick all sorts of things other than people’s faces, and sometimes any poo lying around. You might want to keep that off your face. 

I personally don’t want a dog giving the inside of my mouth a wash, but a little lick under the chin or the ear is okay. Your mileage may vary. There’s no judgement from us if you don’t mind your dog licking every crevice on your face! 

Should I let my dog lick my face?

Whether you let your dog lick your face is up to you. It won’t do much harm unless you’re immunocompromised or have an open wound, so the risks of infections are very low. 

As we said before, us humans actually carry a lot more nasties in our mouths than dogs. But dogs can carry certain parasites and diseases such as hookworms, ringworms, and salmonella in their mouths. Some of these can be zoonotic, meaning they can be passed from humans to dogs. Gross!

How do I stop my dog from licking my face?

If you have a dog who is obsessed with face licking and want to stop them from doing it, it doesn’t make you boring. Everyone just has different preferences. Here’s what you can try:

  1. Remove your face

It’s as simple as that. Too often, we get in our dogs’ faces to greet them when we come home. For them, it’s like we’re extending our hand for a handshake. If we give them our face, it can invite our dogs in for a face lick as affection. It can be that they’re overwhelmed, so they go for your face as appeasement behaviour. 

Removing the thing your dog wants to lick is a great way of managing their behaviour as it stops them from practising it.

  1. Offer your dog something else to lick

If your dog is keen to say hello and does this by licking your face, then you could let them lick your hands, and offer them a lickimat or puzzle toy to distract them.

  1. Redirect them onto a toy

If your dog is going to lick you, offer them a toy to hold instead; they can’t lick you when holding a dog toy. Simple as that.

When should I be worried that my dog is licking my face?

Any behaviour out of the ordinary that suddenly comes on may be a cause for concern. If you think this is the case, it might be worth speaking to your vet or a behaviourist if you see anything that’s bothering you.  

You might want to check if there’s any obsessive face licking. This is where your dog doesn’t seem to be able to control themselves and can be your dog’s way of communicating that something’s wrong. They might be saying that they’re in pain, have allergies, feeling anxious or bored.

dog licking window

There we go – that wasn’t too bad. Hopefully, we haven’t made you dizzy. Most of the time, your dog licking you is harmless, but maybe skip the licks if you know they’ve gone for a full pig-out in the woods. Sometimes we don’t know where that mouth has been, but often we do. Ew.

You might want to carry on the licking vibe and learn all about why does my dog lick their paws. Or if you’re in the mood for something different, why not teach your dog some basic cues or even introduce them to puppy training games.

If you’re ready to teach your puppy how to be the best-behaved canine in town, download the Zigzag puppy app. Our personalised programme will teach your pup all about socialisation, being home alone, toilet training, manners training and life skills. 

Here at Zigzag, we understand that raising a puppy can be challenging and talking to someone who knows what they’re doing can make you feel much better. Our team of puppy trainers will be happy to talk to you via text, email or a simple phone call. Go ahead. They’d love to hear from you.