Licking is a way that dogs communicate with each other, as well as with people. When a dog is licking, it could mean that it’s trying to express how it feels. Licking is a type of grooming behavior, frequently used to appease and soothe. When a dog licks you, it’s because it loves you. When a dog licks another dog, it can be a little more complicated.

Why does my dog lick other dogs?

You keep seeing your dog licking other dogs. Maybe even obsessively. What’s going on? There are a few reasons why a dog might lick another dog:

Affection

Licking behaviors are the very first comfort that a dog receives, from its mother and its siblings. Mother dogs lick their puppies and puppies lick each other. Licking is, consequently, one of the primary methods that a dog can show affection. It’s why they lick people, and it’s why they might decide to lick other dogs.

Because of this, licking isn’t just a practical behavior. It’s something that dogs might do idly to comfort each other, to pass the time, or just to show each other they care. They may lick each other throughout the day or just occasionally, but either way, it’s a healthy social dynamic.

Grooming

Licking is a show of affection. But it also does originate for a practical purpose; grooming. Dogs will groom themselves to keep their fur clean. Keeping fur clean is important for any animal as it helps them retain their body heat and repel dirt and bacteria. But dogs can’t reach everything. Grooming each other helps; it’s a type of cooperative effort. 

Dogs are very social animals. Grooming is behavior they can engage in to help foster connections. In the wild, dogs are always in packs and will form relationships with each other. In a home, dogs are going to do this with each other because they’re all part of the same family.

Submissiveness

Note that because licking is a sign of affection and a type of grooming, it may also indicate submissiveness. In other words, showing another dog that they’re not challenging them and that they aren’t interested in aggression. A dog may start to lick another dog because it’s worried or nervous and because it wants to show that it doesn’t want to fight.

Usually, this can be seen because the dog is going to start licking the other dog’s face and mouth. That may seem like an aggressive act, but it’s actually what puppies do with their parents; it shows that your dog is deferring to the other dog and accepting the other dog’s “leadership.” If you see this happen and the other dog seems okay with it (usually dismissive rather than very interested), the power dynamic is healthy.

Of course, that doesn’t cover all reasons a dog could lick another dog. A dog could also lick another dog that tastes good; for instance, a dog that’s gotten into the trash or gotten into something salty. But, for the most part, licking conveys a positive emotion. Either the dog is affectionate or maternal to the other dog, or the dog is trying to show that it doesn’t want any problems.

Why does my dog lick other dog’s faces?

When a dog starts grooming another dog’s face, it’s usually for two specific reasons:

It’s trying to groom its eyes.

A dog’s face can accumulate “gunk” in the corner of its eyes. It, understandably, has difficulty reaching this on its own. One way that dogs can cooperate with each other and communicate their affection is to clean each other’s eyes. This can look very weird to humans, because it may seem as though one dog is licking the other dogs’ eyeballs! But dog eyes are different from human eyes, especially because of their “third eye” membrane which can keep their eyes safe.

It’s engaging in submissive behavior.

If the dog is licking at the other dog’s mouth, this means it’s submissive. This is similarly why dogs will try to target your own mouth. Submissive behavior indicates that the dog is interested in following the other dog’s lead, that it doesn’t want to challenge the other dog, and it doesn’t want there to be any aggressive actions taken. Dogs may also act submissive when stressed.

You can tell pretty easily which it is because you can see where the dog is licking. If a dog is licking eyes, it’s grooming; if a dog is licking mouths, it’s being submissive. Either way, it’s nothing to be alarmed by, and it’s a behavior that’s very likely to be as-needed or temporary.

Why does my dog lick other dog’s ears?

Apart from face and eye-licking, a pet owner might see a dog licking another dog’s ears. This could be either the top of the ears or inside the years.

Ear-licking is one of the most prominent ways dogs can show affection to other dogs. Ear-licking means that a dog really cares about another dog. Usually, it’s seen in dogs that have grown up together or dogs who have become pair-bonded. It’s a little like a dog version of a hug. It has very limited utility; it’s not intended to clean or to groom. It’s just meant to reassure and comfort them. A dog may lick another dog’s ears particularly vigorously if they are upset or ill.

There is one catch though. If your dog is frequently licking inside of another dog’s ears, it could eventually lead to an infection because of the moisture. This only happens in excessive cases and generally in dogs that have ears that fold over. Ears that fold over are going to trap moisture, one way or another. If your dog is licking another dog’s ears a lot, it could also indicate an infection has already occurred, and your dog is trying to clear it up.

Either way, it’s best to call a vet. Especially if your dog starts tilting its head or scratching at its ears.

Why does my dog lick other dog’s bottoms?

It can be embarrassing when your dog excitedly runs up to another dog and begins to lick or sniff its bottom. But it’s very likely to happen and it’s not anything unusual. It’s also not anything you need to worry too much about. When dogs lick other dogs’ bottoms, it’s usually for three reasons:

Meeting a new dog

When meeting a new dog, it’s “customary” for both dogs to smell or lick each other’s bottoms. That’s because a dog’s bottom has glands in it and these glands have their scent. A dog’s scent is a lot like its identity; it tells another dog a lot about them. So, when meeting a new dog, your dog might get very close to the other dog’s bottom to find out more about their new friend.

Showing respect to a dog

A dog may be engaging in submissive licking if it starts licking another dog’s bottom. To some extent, this is also a learned maternal behavior; a dog will lick its puppies to get them to use the bathroom. So, a dog might lick another dog to show that it is submissive to that dog, it respects it, or it otherwise treats it as part of the family. 

Being curious

Otherwise, dogs might just be curious about each other. It’s possible that a dog will do this not for any particular reason, but because it wonders what the other dog’s bottom tastes or smells like. Dogs don’t have a lot of hesitance when it comes to things like this.

In reality, a dog licking another dog’s bottom is going to be something like saying “hello.” A dog might either smell or lick another dog’s bottom, but smelling and licking is actually very close behavior for a dog, in terms of their senses. When they can just smell, they will smell, but if they want to smell more, they may lick.

Why does my dog lick other dog’s privates?

A dog will lick another dog’s privates for much the same reason it will lick other dogs’ bottoms. It’s either meeting a new dog, showing respect to a dog, or just being curious. Dogs don’t really have the same conception of “personal space” and boundaries that people do. They see nothing untoward about licking another dog’s privates, whether it’s their bottom or otherwise. In general, this is never harmful; it’s just a healthy way that dogs communicate.

However, dogs may seem very interested in another dog when they are in heat because they can smell that the dog is in heat. This is why you might see intact (or even neutered) male dogs circling around a female in heat. This is different from ordinary social behavior (and, unless you want a lot of puppies very soon, you probably want to stop this particular behavior).

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.