Licking is a natural behavior for dogs. They can lick everything and anything within their reach, from your shirt to overshoes, from your pants to different parts of your body.
In fact, human legs are one of their most favorite licking spots.
Here is Why Your Dog Licks Your Legs:
Your dog licks your legs to show affection. Other reasons include they are grooming you, they like the taste, they’re looking for attention, they feel rewarded for doing so, they’re bored, they’re trying to show empathy, or they’re being submissive.
Here’re some more explanations and suggestions for stopping your dog from licking your leg excessively.
1. They are showing affection
Simply put, the main reason why dogs like to lick their owners’ legs is that they are trying to show affection to their humans. They do that because they love you and want to return the warmth and care you have shown.
Why don’t they lick your face or other parts of your body?
Well, it’s probably because your legs are the nearest body part that they are able to reach to lick at the moment.
Fun Fact: Here are other ways dogs show their love and affection:
- Wagging their tails
- Engaging in eye contact with their owners
- Jumping at you
- Leaning on you for comfort
- Following you everywhere
- Bringing their toys
- Nudging you
2. They are showing submission
In dog packs, licking is one of the many ways dogs use to show respect to the leaders of the packs. Since your dog has lived with you, they may instinctively see you as their pack leader.
And so they lick your legs to show you their appreciation. This would be more likely if they also show other submissive signs after they lick you, such as bending their body and tucking their tails between their hind legs.
3. They are grooming you
It’s common to see mother dogs lick their puppies to clean them. Right now, you are their family, and so to show their responsibility to you, they might imitate their mother by licking you to groom you. If your dog often licks you after you get out of the shower, then it’s the more likely reason why your dog has been doing it.
Fun Fact: Mother dogs lick their puppies right away after giving birth. They do this for a variety of reasons, including to clean their newborns, to encourage them to breathe, to stimulate the reflex to urinate and defecate.
4. They are looking for extra attention
It could be the case that your dog feels ignored, and they try to lick your legs to catch your attention. This would be more likely the case if you leave your dog home alone for an 8-hour workday. They may experience separation anxiety and try to get your attention all the time.
Other symptoms of separation anxiety include:
- Urinating or defecating when left alone
- Coprophagia (consuming all or some of their excrement)
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive barking or howling
5. They are showing empathy
Do you know that dogs can sense when their owners feel stress or tension? If whenever you’re troubled by something, your dog tries to interact with you in any way they can (drop their head in your lap, nuzzle you, lick you, whine), that means they are trying to comfort and make you feel better.
You should feel lucky if your dog does this because it means they care about you a lot.
6. They feel rewarded
The next time your dog licks your leg, note your reaction. Did you pet them? Give them more attention? Give them treats? Your reaction to their behavior will tell you the reason they do it. If your dog thinks they are being rewarded for doing something, they will likely do the same thing again in the future.
Moreover, it’s proven that licking releases endorphins in a dog’s brain, the hormone that is often called ‘happy chemical.’ This release is comparable to the feeling we get when laughing. So, if anything, the reason why your dog licks your legs all the time is simply because they feel happy.
7. They are trying to communicate with you
Licking is one of many ways dogs communicate with their humans, and it’s important for you as a dog owner to be aware of what your dog is trying to tell you. For example, they may be trying to tell you they are hungry, or they need to go potty, or they simply just want to play with you.
Should you choose to ignore it, be prepared with the whining that inevitably will follow.
8. They like the taste
Does your dog tend to lick you after every workout? If that’s the case, it could be that they like the salty taste of your legs. Furthermore, if, in addition to licking your legs, your dog licks your sweaty shirt as well, then it’s confirmed.
9. They are stressed
Although it’s rare, licking legs can also be linked to signs of psychological distress in dogs, especially if they start doing it suddenly. If you’re suspicious that your dog may be experiencing stress or anxiety, keep an eye out for other indicators of stress in dogs that include the following:
- Pacing or shaking
- Whining or barking
- Yawning, drolling, and licking
- Changes in eyes and ears
- Changes in body posture
- Changes in bodily function
- Avoidance or displacement behavior
- Hiding or escape behavior
Don’t Like It? Here’s How to Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Legs
While it may seem adorable that your dog wants to always ‘kiss’ your legs all the time, I understand that not everyone enjoys being licked by their dogs. Below are some steps you can try to prevent your dog from licking your legs.
In most cases, positive reinforcement is the best way to correct your dog’s behavior.
What is positive reinforcement training? Positive reinforcement training is a method of training that utilizes rewards and praises instead of punishment to correct the dog’s behavior. It quickly becomes popular among trainers and behaviorists due to its effectiveness when compared to traditional punishment-based training, which can actually do more harm than good.
Here’s how to do it.
- Ignore your dog the instant they start to licking your legs. You can also avert your eyes, leave the room, or withhold their treats. The key is to not show any reaction. When you ignore them, your dog will learn that their behaviors are not rewarded.
- Wait a few moments, and then give your attention back. Wait at least two seconds; when they stop licking, you can reward them with a treat or vocal praise.
- When they start licking your legs again, withhold the reward and ignore them.
- Repeat the above steps again several times until they learn that your legs are off-limits.
Most of the time, your dog licks your legs to show their affection and appreciation. However, you should be aware that it is possible that your dog may have stress or anxiety, especially if they don’t usually do so. In that case, you should have your vet check them out to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on.