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Licking Gone Too Far

it’s only natural that the tongue is one of the primary instruments by which dogs interact with their environment

New Delhi, October 22, 2019: When we ask, “Why do dogs lick people?” we must remember that they are practically licked into life. One of the first sensations that puppies feel, upon entering this strange world of ours, is the nurturing tongue of the mother who helped them. Mom uses her tongue to clear away baby’s nostrils, encouraging each puppy that emerges from her womb to breathe the sweet air and make use of tiny lungs. With such a greeting, it’s only natural that the tongue is one of the primary instruments by which dogs interact with their environment. Given this, we must expect the tongue, and its power of licking, to play at least some part in their interactions with people.

Dogs lick people for some reasons that we can safely interpret and likely for many reasons we will never understand, until that glorious day when dogs acquire the power of human speech. Anyway, it’s not much of a conundrum, really.The bottom line is that most of the time, dogs will lick their people as a sign of affection. “You are the sun and the moon,” their silky tongue would have you know. “And guess what? You taste good, too!” But much as barking can be, licking is also a multi-faceted tool that seems to play many roles in canine behavior and, consequently, tends towards many different interpretations.

When you come home after a long day of work or for no apparent reason other than pure love, your dog will show you affection by licking your face. Canine attention-seeking behavior often incorporates the tongue. Dogs often lick you to get your attention or as a simple greeting. As in, “Hey, I’m here. I’m cute. Pet me.” Sure, there’s a good portion of endearment involved in every face lick, but a lot of time that’s not the only reason why your dog wants to give you a facial treatment.

In some cases, our dogs simply like how we taste. This especially applies to the period right after you’ve cooked food, as the pores in our skin tend to pick up a lot of smells and flavors from the cooked meals. There are also times where your dog might be grooming you. Believe it or not, even pups tend to get concerned with hygiene, and you – as the pack leader – have the priority here. Licking releases pleasurable endorphins, which gives dogs a feeling of comfort and pleasure — like the feeling people get when they are biting their nails — it relieves stress. If your dog’s licking is purely a sign of affection, one way to decrease this is to ignore the licking. Licking never gets attention. If your dog licks you, then you immediately stand up and walk into another room. You want to teach your dog that licking means the person will leave the room. When you pet your dog, if he starts to lick, the petting stops and you walk away. With repetition the licking will stop. Of course there are those times when licking may take on abnormal tones. Dogs who suffer certain types of obsessive-compulsive behaviors may manifest these as excessive licking. Typically, however, dogs affected by these behavioral disorders will turn to objects –– or more often, themselves –– by way of displaying their outsized penchant for licking. All dog owners observing this behavior are encouraged to seek out the assistance of a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist for assistance. Many of these patients can be treated successfully so that their life might include more than what they might find at the end of their tongue.

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