If your dog has been licking you when you pet it, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason.
So, why does my dog lick me when I pet it? Possible reasons why your dog licks you when you pet it are that it is showing affection back to you, it has not learned that it is not ok to lick you or that it has learned that the behavior is rewarded.
Since there are a number of possible causes, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the main cause, it should become a lot easier to figure out what to do about it.
Why does my dog lick me when I pet them?
Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason.
Your dog is showing affection back to you
Licking is a way that dogs will often show affection towards someone. Since you are being affectionate towards it by petting it your dog might be trying to show that it appreciates it by also being affectionate to you.
Your dog hasn’t learned that it is not ok to lick you
The cause could be that it thinks that it is ok to lick you. This would be more likely if it has not had much training yet. To teach it to stop, it would help to immediately stop giving it attention as soon as it starts licking you.
Encouraging the behavior
It might also be the case that it has learned that the behavior gets rewarded. If you tend to give it things such as extra attention, toys or treats, when it licks you, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want it to and to stop rewarding it when it does not.
When dogs are young, one of the first ways that they will explore the world is by licking and sniffing things. If your dog is a puppy then it is likely to be the case that it is exploring when it is licking your eyes. The habit of licking things will stay with it as it gets older which is why they will naturally lick quite often.
Dogs will often lick when they are excited. It is likely that the reason why your dog licks you is that they are excited. To prevent this, it would help to avoid giving your dog any more attention as soon as they start to lick so that they learn that licking results in you not giving them more attention.
If you have not been giving your dog much attention apart from occasionally petting them, it could be the case that your dog gets very excited when you pet them as a result. In this case, it could help to give your dog more attention throughout the day by walking them, playing with them, being the one who feeds them and petting them more often.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.
What else happened when it first started doing it
If your dog did not always lick you, when you pet it, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as learning that the behavior gets rewarded or possibly things such as separation anxiety if it started doing it when you leave or arrive home.
What is different when your dog licks you while petting it
If there is a certain time that your dog tends to lick you, it would also help to consider what is different about the timing. For example, if it only does it when you arrive home, it could be due to some separation anxiety or excitement to see you.
The age of your dog
When dogs are young, they get excited very easily and dogs will often lick when they get excited. If your dog is still a puppy, it would be a lot more likely that your dog has been doing it due to getting excited when you pet them. In this case, it would help to train your dog to learn not to lick by not giving them attention as soon as they start licking. As your dog gets older, they should learn that licking is not rewarded.
What to do about your dog licking you when you pet it
Below are a number of options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.
Positive reinforcement training
In order to get your dog to stop licking you, when you pet it, it would help to make use of positive reinforcement training. This is where you encourage behaviors you want to see by rewarding them and discourage unwanted behaviors by not rewarding them. To use it to get your dog to stop licking you when you pet it, you would start petting it then immediately stop as soon as it starts licking you. If it does not lick you when it normally would, you could also reward it with a treat.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
As mentioned above, it might be the case that it has learned that it gets rewards when it licks you while you pet it. Instead, it would help to reward it when it does not do it and, if it starts licking you, to wait for it to stop licking you before giving it any attention or rewards. It would also help to try giving your dog a “time out” as soon as they start licking you so that they learn that licking you is not rewarded.
Redirect its focus
In addition to the above, another thing to do would be to redirect its focus towards something else as soon as it seems likely to start licking you. Things to redirect its focus towards could include toys or a bone. Doing this should help to get it out of the habit of licking you.
If your dog is still a puppy, it is likely that the behavior will reduce as your dog gets older. Often, puppies can get excited very easily and dogs will often lick a lot when they are excited. As your dog gets older they should start to get a bit less excited when you pet them which should result in much less licking.
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