Curiosity often leads our furry companions to engage in some rather peculiar behaviors, and one of the most notable is the diverse array of strange things dogs lick. From seemingly mundane objects to downright bizarre items, our canine pals have a penchant for licking that goes beyond the conventional.
In this intriguing exploration, we’ll delve into the wacky world of dog behavior to discover 10 of the oddest things our pups put their mouths on (and find out WHY they do it). Let’s get started!
Content & Quick Navigation
10 FAQs About the Strange Things Dog Lick
There are two kinds of dog owners – those who kiss their dogs on the mouth, and those who don’t. Although I’ve had dogs all of my life, I’m definitely on Team “no lick.” For me, it’s a violation of the highest order, but I’m also a frequent hand-washing, sanitizer-carrying germaphobe.
While some people regard dog-licking as a form of affection, some people think it’s just plain gross. And can we blame them? We’ve all seen our dogs put things in their mouths that have sent chills down our spines. Let’s look at some of the weirdest of all and answer your “why do dogs lick…” FAQs!
1. Why do dogs lick blankets?
From your sleeping in a warm room to bingeing on the Game of Thrones series, a blanket might have traces of food, sweat, or other smells and tastes that attract your dog’s attention.
Smell and taste are two of a dog’s strongest senses, so they may lick a blanket to explore what flavors are embedded in the fibers.
Puppies could either lick blankets as part of their teething process or because they enjoy the sensation of soft fabric on their gums.
2. Why do dogs lick cats?
A dog licking a cat could be a way to groom them or give affection. This happens a lot when a dog has accepted a kitten into their litter of pups.
On the plus side, a dog licking a cat helps keep the cat’s coat clean while creating a bond that is usually uncommon between two different species…at least it is in cartoons.
3. Why do dogs lick lotion?
Again, dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Lotions often have scents that can be quite appealing to them.
If your lotion smells tasty, your pup might want to get a sample of it too. Just be careful that your dog isn’t ingesting any harmful ingredients.
Lotions also contain moisture, so dogs might lick lotion to get some hydration, especially if they are feeling thirsty or if their skin is dry.
4. Why do dogs lick pillows?
If your pillow happens to have some lingering scents from you or other members of the household, your dog might be drawn to it because they find those scents comforting.
It’s like having a little piece of you nearby when you’re not around!
5. Why do dogs lick the floor?
Okay, I admit it. I’ve let my dog “tongue mop” my floor if I happen to drop a morsel of food.
But what about a dog licking the floor when there’s no food in sight? Turns out, you may have brought in some fresh new scents from outside.
While stepping on a poop pile is largely avoidable, if you live in the suburbs like I do, wild rabbit poop is a little more discreet and could be tracked in.
Your dog licking the floor isn’t ideal if you mop your floors with a toxic cleaner.
Best bet? Leave your shoes at the door. I have a handy shoe rack near the entryway that prevents me from tracking in the outdoors.
6. Why do dogs lick the ground?
Dogs are natural scavengers. If they spot a scrap of food on the ground, they’ll give it a lick to check it out. This instinct goes back to their wild ancestors who had to scavenge for food to survive.
Believe it or not, licking the ground can also be a way for dogs to mark their territory.
They have scent glands in their mouths, and by leaving some saliva behind, they’re essentially saying, “This spot is claimed by me!”
Dog spit is better than pee, right?
7. Why do dogs lick your legs?
This one is easy – your legs taste like two salty meat sticks! Seriously, though, when your dog licks your legs, it’s often a display of affection and a means of bonding.
It can also be a comforting behavior, especially when they’re feeling anxious. In other words, you’re kind of like their pacifier.
8. Why do dogs lick your mouth and nose?
Dogs are salt-seekers: The skin around your nose and mouth can be salty because of sweat, oils, and that last bag of potato chips.
Dogs love that salty taste, so they might be licking those areas to savor the flavor.
It’s either that or the lingering scent of the burger you scarfed down!
9. Why do dogs lick injuries?
Dog saliva is known to have a small antibacterial effect, so licking is an act of cleaning…the same as dousing your paper cut with some alcohol.
A dog licking their injuries is also like a human rubbing their head after they’ve been hit. Licking becomes an act of self-soothing that keeps the pain down.
10. Why do dogs lick their private parts?
We all know how awkward is it when you have visitors, and your pooch is casually going to town in Crotch City in the corner of the room. Dogs like to be clean too!
And since dogs don’t have fingers to grab a toilet paper roll, they have to resort to the next best option: the tongue.
Also, your dog could be in heat if they are not spayed or neutered.
While it’s perfectly normal canine behavior, if there is a focus in that private area, please see a veterinarian as there could be an allergy, infection, or anal gland impaction.
What are some of the top reasons why dogs lick?
Now that we’ve covered the “why” behind some of the strangest things your dog licks, let’s look at some more general reasons for this intriguing dog behavior.
Dogs use their tongues like a detective’s magnifying glass.
They lick stuff to figure out what it tastes like, how it feels, and what it smells like. It’s their way of getting to know the world around them and gathering information.
Licking can be like texting for dogs. They might lick other dogs or people to say, “Hey, I like you” or “I’m cool with you being in charge.”
Dogs often lick other dogs or people as a way to show affection and submission or to establish social bonds.
For example, a mother dog will lick her puppies to groom them while creating a strong maternal bond.
Even though you had to drag your dog out of that mud puddle last week, dogs prefer to be clean.
They lick as a form of grooming to keep their fur clean and free from dirt, debris, and bugs.
And sometimes, they’ll even give their human pals a little grooming session to show affection.
Have you ever seen gorillas comb through each other’s hair and pick for ticks? It’s that kind of affection albeit a bit less gross.
Taste and Enjoyment
If something tastes good, you can bet your dog’s tongue will find it.
Dogs have a strong sense of taste, and they may lick things simply because they find them tasty or enjoyable.
This can include licking their food bowls, the floor for that last crumb, or even their lips after eating.
Licking can have a calming and soothing effect on dogs.
When they are stressed or anxious, some dogs may lick themselves or objects as a way to self-soothe and reduce their anxiety.
Philip Tedeschi, director emeritus and founder of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel says, “The behavior [licking] itself releases endorphins allowing dogs to reduce stress.”
Saliva spa day, anyone?
In some cases, excessive licking can be a sign of an underlying medical issue, such as allergies, skin irritations, or stomach problems.
Dogs may lick to relieve itching or discomfort in these situations. If you find your dog focusing on one spot alone, check it out then consult a veterinarian, if necessary.
Dogs love attention.
If a dog licks a person and receives a positive response, such as petting or verbal praise, they may repeat the behavior to seek more attention.
It’s like saying, “Hey, pay attention to me!”
Whether or not you’re on Team Lick or Team No-Lick, we can’t fault our pooches for being who they are.
So if you’re not big on licking, but you also hate cats, then consider a dog breed that has low “Netflix and Chill” energy.
But be careful – some of the calmest dog breeds are also those that drool the worst!
Remember, while licking is usually no big deal, keep an eye out for over-the-top licking.
It could be a sign of a health problem, so it’s always good to check with the vet if you’re concerned.
And if your pup’s licking something they shouldn’t, like a toxic substance, step in to keep them safe or use safety training like the “Leave It” command.
Most Common Questions about Dog Licking
Are dog mouths dirty?
The idea that a dog’s mouth is dirty is a common myth.
While it’s true that dogs use their mouths for the various and questionable activities that we just discussed, their mouths are not “dirty” in the sense that they are filled with harmful bacteria that can easily transfer to humans.
Dogs have bacteria in their mouths, just like humans do, but most of these bacteria are specific to their species and are not typically harmful to them.
A dog’s saliva contains some enzymes and antimicrobial proteins that can help them fight off certain infections.
Can my dog get me sick if it kisses me on the mouth?
While most bacteria in a dog’s mouth are not harmful to humans, we’re not playing Spin The Bottle with our pooches yet.
Dogs can carry some bacteria in their mouths that might be potentially harmful to humans, such as Salmonella or E. coli.
This kind of transmission typically requires direct contact with contaminated saliva or feces like when dogs lick their rear-ends after pooping or greet each other with that infamous nose-to-rump ‘hello.’
It’s a good practice to avoid letting your dog lick open wounds, your face, or your mouth.
How can I train my dog not to lick me?
Excessive licking (that’s not tied to a health issue) can be alleviated with a little training and positive reinforcement.
Start by eliminating the attention you give when your dog licks. When your dog withdraws their tongue, reward them.
What are some of the strangest things your dog licks? Share below!