When it comes to dog licking, most people fall into one of two categories: those who can’t wait for those wet, sloppy kisses from their affectionate canine; and those who cringe at the thought of being greeted by their dog’s slobbery tongue. But regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, there is a common thread among many dog owners, and that’s pondering the question, “Why do dogs lick humans?,” and especially, “Why do dogs lick feet?”
The mouths of dogs encounter, sample, and eat a plethora of different, and often yucky, items throughout the day. Dog kibble, a favourite toy, their hind quarters, a morsel of food from the floor, or even that unidentified “thing” they found in the grass are all typical scenarios where your dog will be exploring the world around him with his mouth. Sometimes, though, when you wake up in the morning, after a long day, or anytime you’re within tongue’s reach, it’s almost as if your pup’s mouth targets you. And while not every dog has a hankering for feet, those who do let their owners know about it.
Fortunately, we have some answers for you. Multifaceted, sure, but by covering both the generalities and specifics, we think you’ll be surprised and satisfied with what you learn about your dog’s licking habits, especially when it comes to your feet.
It’s a Form of Communication
Dogs are non-verbal communicators, unless you count the occasional bark or whimper. Aside from that, we realize that dogs don’t speak “human” at all, so they have to use other methods of communication in order to tell us things. One of these is through licking. The most general explanation for your four-legged friend’s licking is that they are trying to communicate something, but it’s up to us to figure it out!
When your dog was a puppy and still part of his litter, Mom communicated with her babies through licking. Her tongue provided love and care, in addition to being a tool for cleaning and grooming her pups. This method of instinctual communication was exercised in your dog’s earliest of days. An adult dog that is part of a pack, whether wild or domesticated, may use licking as a tool to show submission to the dominant or alpha dog, as well.
You Taste Good
Believe it or not, one reason for your pooch’s licking is simply because they think you taste delicious! Whether it’s a tiny food particle left on your foot from cooking, or you’ve been doing a strenuous activity that has caused your feet to become extra salty (queue the “Ewwws!”), one of the simpler explanations for dog licking is simply that they like the way you taste.
Request for Care
You’re home after a long day’s work. You’ve given your pooch plenty of love and attention. Yet, now that you’ve put your feet up, Fido is still hounding you with his tongue. One reason for this type of licking behaviour is that your furry friend is making a request. Maybe in your tired haze you forgot to let him outside, refill the water bowl, throw his ball, or have completely lost track of dinner time. Either way, it’s important to consider these possibilities if your dog is licking your feet even after receiving praise and a good petting.
It’s Attention-Seeking Behaviour
If you find yourself offering attention to your dog every time he licks your feet, then this rewarding response may be to blame. Perhaps you’re busy playing a game, reading a book, or watching TV, only to feel something warm, wet, and rough all over your toes. So, in an effort to continue with what you’re doing, you reach down and scratch your dog behind the ears. He stops licking, and you go about your business, satisfying everyone. Sometimes, the best way to deter this behaviour, if it’s bothersome to you, is to just ignore your dog’s foot licking, or get up and walk away until he breaks the habit.
Feelings of Comfort and Familiarity
Quite possibly the most common reasons for a dog’s foot licking are comfort and familiarity. Remember that bit earlier about being groomed by Mom as a pup? Well, when a dog licks something, it releases feel-good endorphins. This offers self-soothing properties, allows your dog to engage in social grooming (hey, you’re part of the pack, too), and lets him express his undying loyalty, even if it is the I-love-you-enough-to-lick-your-stinky-feet kind.
It Could Be Compulsive
The occasional, or even daily, ritual of licking your feet is perfectly normal and fine behaviour for your dog to exhibit. However, a sudden uptake in licking or a change in your dog’s licking behaviour may be a warning sign that something is medically wrong with your pup. According to a study, if your canine is acting more obsessive than curious by licking you, your feet, or other objects, like the sofa, floor, or walls, incessantly or compulsively, they he may have a GI disorder. Characterized by the “excessive licking of surfaces,” or ELS, it’s something to watch out for and bring up with your vet.
Does your dog lick your feet? How does it make you feel? Share your views on the issue below!