As a dog owner, you may often notice your pup sticking their tongues out and licking your face or eyes. You might be a bit surprised the first time, but after a while, it might become a normal routine, and you might actually sort of expecting it.
After all, what is better than having your pooch greet you with their sloppy kiss after a long day at work?
While most owners interpret this behavior as an act of pure love and affection, there is a lot more going on behind this seemingly innocent gesture than you may think.
In this article, I’m going to delve into detailed explanations behind this behavior and provide you with some suggestions on how you can reduce this behavior if you feel it is a bit too much.
Here’s The Short Answer To Why Your Dog Licks Your Eyes:
The first likely reason why your dog licks your eyes is to show you their love. Other reasons include: to get your attention, want to groom you, to gauge your mood, because they’re anxious, or because of a physical or mental condition.
Common Reasons Why Your Dog Licks Your Eyes
Here are those reasons in a bit more detail on why your dog licks your eyes.
1. Showing Affection
This is probably the most obvious reason why your dog licks your eyes. They do this as a simple way of showing affection. When a dog becomes familiar with a person, they will begin to display affectionate behaviors such as cuddling with you, following you around, and of course, licking your eyes.
This is a form of communication your dog may have developed to relate and bond with you over time. This behavior is further reinforced when you, as the owner, respond to the licking by hugging or petting them.
To know for sure what your dog is trying to tell you, you’ll need to observe their body language and analyze the context of the situation.
They can remain calm, or they can jump around and wag their tails while licking your face. No matter which way, if this is a normal part of your dog’s daily greetings, then it is most likely an expression of their affection.
2. Seeking Attention
The second most reason why your dog licks your eyes is that they want some attention from you. Similar to the first one, this behavior often starts out as a way of letting their owner know that they are around and getting them to focus on themselves and what they’re doing.
As time goes by, and if you respond to this licking with affectionate gestures such as giving them a threat, your dog will most likely learn to seek out these loving gestures as a means of getting their own way.
If this is the case, you’ll most likely notice that your dog will lick your face when they want something such as food or a treat.
3. Wanting To Groom You
When puppies are born, their mother spends a lot of time licking them. This behavior serves two important purposes: to encourage the puppies to breathe and to clean up the newborns.
This behavior is then carried on into adulthood, where dogs will groom each other by licking the other’s body parts, and because dogs often view their owners as a member of their “pack,” it is only natural that your pets want to groom you as well.
Licking your eyes can be another form of stimulation for dogs that may not get enough activity during the day.
One thing you should be aware of is that when dogs lick their owners’ eyes because of this reason, over time, their behavior can become compulsive, i.e., excessive licking, which can often annoy and frustrate the owner.
This is why it is important to make sure that you are providing your dog with enough mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis. It doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated: simply playing with your dog and taking them for walks regularly should keep your furry friend from getting bored.
5. It’s a Breed Thing
For some reason, certain dog breeds are more likely to lick their owners’ body parts than others. Though this may not be a specific reason, it is something to keep in mind when you have a dog that licks your eyes quite often.
Here is a list of dog breeds that lick a lot:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Bichon Frise
- Pit Bull
As you can see from the list above, they are all notoriously friendly breeds, which explains why they like to lick people and do other things to show their affection.
To some dogs, the act of grooming can also be a way to relieve anxiety.
When a dog licks their owner’s face or someone close to them, their brain releases oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, that helps them feel calm and safe whenever they sense any type of threat or when they miss you a lot.
Think of this hormone as an antidepressant that helps them deal with anxiety.
When you respond positively to this licking behavior by petting or hugging them, the same hormone is also released in your body. So in some ways, this licking behavior can be a two-way street; both you and your pet benefit from it.
7. Medical Condition
In some cases, dogs can suffer from a mental or physical condition that causes them to lick their owner’s face. One mental condition that is often responsible for this is Canine Compulsive Disorder or CCD. It is when your dog performs repetitive behaviors that can not be stopped or interfere with the dog’s ability to function properly.
On the other side of the coin, excessive face-licking can also be a physical cause. For example, if your dog is suffering from nausea or gastrointestinal upset, they can resort to excessive face-licking as a means to transiently alleviate this discomfort.
In any case, if your dog licks your face too much and you’re concerned that it may be due to a medical issue, then it will be important to visit the vet as soon as possible for them to run some tests and determine the cause of the behavior.
8. Figuring You Out
Dogs rely on their nose and mouth to gather different information about their surroundings, peers, and owners.
When your dog licks you, they are mainly trying to collect information by examining the chemicals released by your body. From the odor and the taste of our skin at that moment in time, they can gauge our emotional state.
This is the reason why dogs like to lick away tears. They can sense when we’re crying from the smell and taste of our tears, and this is their way to comfort us and let us know that they care.
9. Asking for Food
In some cases, dogs lick their owner’s eyes because they want something from them. When your dog was a puppy, licking behavior was a way to garner their mother’s attention so that she would feed them.
As your dog gets older, this behavior might continue as they learn that you are the provider of food.
Should I Let My Dog Lick My Eyes?
In most cases, licking eyes behavior is not a reason to worry if that’s the usual habit of your dog. Instead, what you should be more concerned about is the possibility of your dog transferring parasites, bacteria, or other illnesses from their mouth to your eyes.
Although it’s rare, there were some cases when a dog’s licking could become a problem. One example is when a healthy 63-year old German man ended up dead within weeks after his dog licked him (source).
This case is not the only case, however. A quick search on Google would quickly yield results of other instances in which dogs’ licking led to serious medical problems.
Therefore, if your dog licks you too much and you’re worried about the possibility of them spreading saliva directly to your eyes, then the best thing you can do is train them not to do that.
3 Tips To Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Eyes
The following pointers can help you control or stop your dog’s licking behavior.
1. Stop Positive Reinforcements
The first step that you can take is to stop reinforcing this behavior. The next time your dog licks you, just ignore them. Don’t pet them or give them any attention. Just get up and walk away whenever they come up to your face and start licking.
This response will eventually teach them that you don’t like when they do.
2. Give Them the Required Attention
One cause for excessive licking could be that your dog suffers from separation anxiety. If you frequently leave them alone at home for long hours without any form of attention, then they might resort to licking as a means to alleviate their anxiety.
In these cases, it would be best to spend time with your dog whenever possible by playing games with them. This will make them feel loved and less anxious whenever you are not around.
3. Redirect Their Attention
When your dog starts licking you, just give them a toy or some food to chew on so that they will stop licking and focus their attention on the new object instead.
This trick works because it redirects your dog’s attention to positive stimuli. It’s an easy way of training them to stop licking you. Just be sure that you do this consistently whenever they lick you, and it should help them adopt the new behavior.
1. Why Does My Dog Lick My Nose?
Right from the moment they are born, licking is a way for the mother dog to communicate with her pups. When they grow older, the puppies still retain this instinct.
They want to communicate with you in the same way their mother did when they were young pups; thus, licking your nose and other parts of your body is their way of communicating and bonding with you.
2. Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs?
Similar to the answer above, dogs lick your legs to show their affection for you. This behavior is another way of saying, “I love you,” and they want to express it in the best way that they know-how.
3. Why Does My Dog Lick My Bedsheets?
Dogs lick your bedsheets for various reasons. The first likely reason is because the bedsheets remind them of their owner.