So, here at Zigzag, we get asked any number of weird and wonderful puppy questions, to be honest, the more bizarre the better, we just love ‘em! A strange one that comes up more often than you might think is ‘Why does my dog lick my hands?’ Some dogs literally can’t help but lick their humans. It doesn’t bother everyone but others may find the lick does give them the ick! I mean we all know where that pups tongue has been… Urgh! 

Well, however you feel about your dog licking you, we’re here to delve into why your pup licks your hands to fill you in. 

Do you have a dog that loves to lick your hands? In this article, we’ll be exploring the reasons why your dog might lick your hands, whether letting a dog lick your hands is a good or bad thing, and whether you should let them carry on. If you want to stop a dog from licking your hands, we’ll also provide some training tips on how to go about it. 

The Zigzag puppy training app has many puppy behaviour topics covered just like this, we also have a personalised programme based around your puppy’s breed that will teach you how to train them. A unique feature of our app is that we have a team of puppy trainers on hand to be there for you 7 days a week, they’ve got the answers to all of your doggy questions. 

dog on grass with mouth open
Photo by Leon Rojas on Unsplash

Why does my dog lick my hands?

Well obviously you taste great, but the reasons behind why your dog licks your hand can vary, and it doesn’t always mean they are tasting you.

Licking is your dog showing you affection

This is our favourite explanation as to why your dog is licking your hands, it’s because they love you! Licking is a common feature of dog body language to show affection. Dogs often lick one another to show affection, so it’s common for dogs to do the same to us. I mean… How cute is that? 

Have you been crying lately? Your dog probably licked your hands to try and comfort you. Just when you thought dogs couldn’t get any more wonderful!

A quick hand lick can be a dog greeting you

If you’ve been out for a while and return home to your dog, they will often lick your hands when you come in. It’s usually a quick lick to say hello type affair, and often coincides with a wiggly bum and a waggy tail, perhaps jumping up too. They’re so pleased you came back, they missed you. 

Licking your hands might be your dog trying to tell you something

Dogs have to communicate differently with humans, after all, they can’t talk. Some breeds will bark and give you other signs that they want something, whereas others will do it by licking your hands. I’ve known dogs do it when they’re telling you they want to go out for a wee, especially if you’re toilet training a puppy in a flat!

Dogs licking your hands due to stress or anxiety 

Some dogs will lick your hands when they feel stressed or worried about a situation. They can be licking you for reassurance or because they want your attention. There is evidence to show that endorphins are released when dogs lick, so licking can make them feel better. 

You’ll notice the difference because this kind of licking gets quite obsessive, and they keep on and on licking at your hands.

Stress and anxiety can be more prevalent in a fear period. Your puppy will have several of these as they go into adolescence and adulthood.

Licking your hand because they’re in pain

This can also be a reason why your dog licks your hands. Yes, they’re trying to say that they’re hurt, and the licking helps them forget about it for a minute, as well as releasing those feel-good chemicals that make them feel a bit better.

Your dog is licking your hands because they smell interesting

If you’ve been out of the house, you’ll bring all kinds of smells inside with you on your hands. Whatever you touch will stay on your hands, and your dog will be super interested if you’ve touched another creature as that animal’s scent will be on your hands. Try stroking a cat and then letting your dog sniff your hands, they’ll be super nosey!

Hand licking because your hands taste delicious

Of course, your dog could just be doing an operation clean-up by giving your hands a nice wash after you’ve been eating chips or doughnuts. Well, waste not want not!

Scavenging and putting everything in their mouths comes naturally to domestic dogs, it’s how they probably came from wolves after all. 

labrador puppy on grass
Photo by Shane Guymon on Unsplash

Is my dog licking my hand a bad thing?

The type of licking your dog is doing will determine if this kind of hand licking is good or not, and it depends if you like it, or not!

Look at the rest of your dog’s behaviour, and learn to read their body language to see what they’re trying to communicate with the licking. 

Some people don’t mind their dog licking their hands, but other people find it unhygienic, after all, we know what else they lick don’t we? And what have they had in their mouths? Yuk!

Should I let my dog lick my hands?

Hand licking is generally a harmless thing that your dog will do, and is a way for them to communicate with you. If you don’t mind them licking your hands, then that’s totally fine, do give them a wash before you move on and do something else like preparing food, eh?

How do I stop my dog from licking my hands?

If you’re not keen on your dog licking your hands and it’s becoming a problem for you then you’ll want to know how to stop them. Here’s our step-by-step process on how to stop your puppy from licking your hands

1. Determine why your dog is licking your hands

The first step in treating any problem behaviour is to find out the root cause, and here that’s ‘why is my dog licking my hands?’. If you feel like your dog is licking your hands due to stress or anxiety, consult a dog behaviourist who can look at your pup’s behaviour.

If your dog is trying to communicate something like they need the toilet, are hungry or thirsty, then meet their mental or physical needs.

If your dog is licking your hands because they’re being affectionate, wants attention or they’re using it as a greeting behaviour, then it’s quite easy to teach them to do something else with positive reinforcement training. 

2. Offer your dog alternatives to hand licking

Dogs naturally want to chew and lick things. Give them toys which encourage licking, like Kongs and Lickimats, and give your dog an outlet for all of that licking they may want to do. 

3. Redirect them to a toy 

If your puppy enthusiastically greets you by licking your hands or is licking them for attention, offer them a suitable puppy toy and play with them instead.

4. Ask them to do something else

Teach your puppy basic cues, so rather than them licking you when you come into the house they can sit and wait instead. Rewarding behaviours you want to see more of, will make your dog more likely to do them more, and less likely to do behaviours you don’t want, like hand licking! 

If your dog is attention seeking and you’re not able to give them attention, or you’re finding it to be too demanding, teaching them a basic cue like ‘go to your bed’ can teach them that you won’t be giving them attention right now. Don’t forget to give them lots of attention when you can. It’s what they want most from you.

5 . Remove your hands

Don’t leave your hands dangling around, tempting your pup to lick them. If your puppy still tries to lick them, moving them away means they can’t get to them so it breaks the licking habit. Management to stop a dog from practising unwanted behaviour is always going to help hugely!

Dogs lick hands for a variety of reasons, find out what the cause is and then seek professional help if you feel it’s connected to a behaviour problem. Redirecting your dog to a more appropriate outlet, and training them to do something you like instead, is the easiest way to stop the hand licking.

close up of puppy face
Photo by Kayla Farmer on Unsplash

We hope you’ve found this article useful, and it’s answered some of your questions as to ‘why does my dog lick my hands?’. Perhaps you’d like to do some further reading on puppy body language to see what else your puppy is trying to tell you, it’s fascinating to know what they’re saying.

For a full puppy training programme, guides and tips as well as access to a team of puppy trainers, download a trial of the Zigzag puppy training app today and get cracking!