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13 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Grooms You (+ What It Means)

Why Does My Dog Groom Me

Are you a personification of a lollipop?

No, you’re not.

But you’re still forced to wipe your pooch’s saliva off of you.

“Why do they do this?”

It’s intriguing to know, right? 

There are actually many reasons to consider. 

Continue reading to discover: 

  • If your dog wants to eat you.
  • 13 reasons why your dog grooms you.
  • The meaning behind the dog grooming behavior.
  • Which among your dog’s instincts tell them to groom you.
  • And many more…

Why does my dog groom me?

Your dog grooms you because it’s their instinct to bond with you this way. They show this behavior due to neoteny.  It’s their mode of greeting, attention-seeking, cleaning, asking, and healing you. Other times, this behavior could mean that either you or your dog is stressed, sick, or feeling down.

13 reasons why your dog grooms you

#1: They are grooming you, in a literal sense

Say you just finished your home workout.

It’s right to assume that you could be releasing beads of sweat after the activity.

Then, your dog approaches you and suddenly grooms you.

That grooming is an attempt to help you clean up.

Dogs mostly lick themselves to clean their fur and skin.

It’s a healthy habit for them that clears impurities from their coat.

Your dog is taking care of you and wants to let you know that it may be time for a freshening up.

Don’t take it too personally if this is the case…

It’s a sweet gesture. It means that your pooch volunteered to clean you up.

Check out also: Why Does My Dog Lick My Hair? 13 Weird Reasons + 3 Tips

#2: They’re greeting you

Have you ever woken up because of your fur baby’s tongue? 

That instead of the sun greeting you, it’s your dog licking your face.

It’s sweet to see them first thing in the morning, but sometimes you find it bothersome. Especially if you still want to sleep.

Anyway, this behavior is your dog’s form of greeting you.

Maybe you don’t let Fido sleep on the bed with you. Or they sleep in a different room but your partner lets them in.

And so your furry friend jumps on your bed. 

“Hi hooman…good morning!” says your dog repeatedly as they lick your face.

You try to get a hold of them, but they just drown you with their greetings.

At first, it can be undesirable. But your pooch knows a way around your heart. 

After a few minutes, you greet them back with cuddles, pettings, and baby talk.

I did say moments before that the sun didn’t wake you up in this case.

Hmmm, but a ray of sunshine definitely did!

#3: You reward this behavior

Research says that a dog’s personality is consistent.

And so, dogs must experience consistency – both in their training and surroundings. 

You should establish a behavior as either positive or negative consistently. In this way, your dog can quickly learn.

Learn what?

What is acceptable and what is not.

Getting to the point, you might have rewarded this grooming behavior once or twice too much.

Well, this action makes you happy, but not all the time.

For example:

You just got home from a grocery errand. 

You’re holding grocery bags left and right to set them on the counter.

Your dog follows you as you do so.

As you settle the groceries on the counter, you feel that your dog’s licking your ankles or calf

You want to get over this quickly. It’s been a tiring day running errands, and your dog’s licking is not helping. 

However, your dog is used to that behavior being okay for you.

Usually, you greet them back immediately. Then, you remove your shoes near the door and instantly attend to your dog that misses you. 

So now they think that you enjoy it if they lick you as a ‘hello’ most of the time.

So how can you reinforce this behavior for the right situations?

The key is picking the right timing. 

Don’t immediately return the excitement once you get home. 

Use a few minutes to settle down. After that, you can now deal with your pooch that misses you. 

Constantly doing this will train them to wait. 

Your dog will know that don’t have to press you immediately. It’s because, in the end, you’d still give your dog the attention they’d missed.

#4: You’re their stress-reliever

Your dog grooms you as a way of communicating how they feel.

This time, they could be telling you that they’re feeling stressed. And they want your help eradicating it.

Check if your dog shows these other signs of stress:

  • Pacing.
  • Barking.
  • Shaking.
  • Whining.
  • Yawning.
  • Drooling.
  • Pleading or weary eyes.
  • Trying to escape or run away.
  • Hiding behind you or an object.
  • Unusual body posture, hunched and tucked tail.

If this is the cause, take a look around.

Are you in a crowded place? Is there something noisy outside? Is there something present that your dog doesn’t like?

If you answer ‘yes’ on even 1 of just 3, you can consider stress as a cause. 

What to do?

Extract your stressed dog from their stressor. That’s the best way to do it.

And if they won’t groom you when they’re stressed, they might do it to themselves.

“What do you mean?”

Nervous dogs will create habits out of stress. They would want to let the negative energy 

out of them. 

They need to find an outlet.

For your dog, it can be licking. And it will come to the point that they’re grooming you. 

If they do it to themselves, excessive licking can cause acral lick dermatitis

This skin disorder happens due to obsessive licking. 

The area which your dog licks becomes too moist. Repeated licking is also abrasive. 

With that, the area becomes inflamed, and it could be infected.

So, listen and observe what your dog is trying to communicate.

You don’t want to get to the point where stress becomes consistent. 

If stress shows consistently, the habits will follow. And these habits can disrupt both you and your dog’s life. 

#5: They’re showing affection

Dog Grooms You To Show Affection

When your dog was a fresh newborn, their mother licked their tiny bodies. 

A momma dog’s lick is vital for the health of her offspring.

When puppies get groomed, it encourages them to breathe. It also keeps them warm and makes them feel protected.

But the puppies’ well-being isn’t the only reason. Momma dogs also lick their pups because they’re showing affection.

So we can say your pooch has learned it from their momma.

And your dog is grooming you to show you their affection and care.

This behavior’s cause is a pleasant one.

It makes it true that the way a being has been given love is the same way they’ll give love to others.

You might also want to know: Top 10 Reasons Why Dogs Are So Affectionate In The Morning

#6: They need something

Dogs communicate in many different ways. One of which is tactile communication.

This type of communication involves physical contact in the process. 

Physical human-dog interaction helps maintain a social bond.

Plus, did you know? Tactile communication with dogs has a lot of benefits on a person’s physiology and mental state.

Yes! There’s even an observed increase in people’s immune system functions after petting a dog.

So when your dog grooms you, what else can they be communicating? 

I said earlier in reason #5 that they could be telling you that they’re stressed.

But how about this other instance?

This time, they might be telling you that they need something.

Your pooch might be feeling hungry. Or their water bowl is already empty.

Or maybe they want you to hand them their favorite toy. Unfortunately, it’s sitting on your desk, and they can’t reach it. 

So your pooch is hoping to let you know what they want or need. 

And apparently, lead you to provide them what they seek.

#7: Neoteny

I mentioned 2 reasons before that this behavior is from your dog’s biological mother. This will be relevant again for this reason.

But first, let’s familiarize ourselves with what is neoteny in dogs.

It is the retention of their young behavior from when they’re a pup. These behaviors stay with them despite their age.

Dogs are neotenic species due to domestication. 

Neoteny lets them keep a youthful dependency on their human parent. It also lets your dog establish an interdependent relationship with you. 

So, your dog’s act of grooming you is because of a retained behavior. 

These are other traits brought by neoteny:

  • Small teeth.
  • Larger eyes.
  • Shorter snouts.

#8: They’re trying to heal you

So your dog might be grooming you because they’re helping you heal your wound. 

Your dog can smell your injury. So even if they can’t see your cut, they will be able to tell.

But why exactly do dogs do this?  

Dogs can perform self-healing behaviors. One of which is licking their injuries.

I think it’s right to assume that you’ve seen a dog with an Elizabethan collar (E-collar) or a cone. This collar stops dogs from licking the dressings or ointments off their wounds. 

Their instincts will drive your fur baby to access these wounds and dressings. It’s an attempt to heal it on their own.

Additionally, did you know? That a dog’s saliva has slight antibacterial properties. 

That’s why it’s so essential for maternal grooming and wound-healing in dogs!

Plus, their tongue can easily scrape off dirt from their wounds and fur.

However, note that dogs’ saliva only has slight antibacterial properties.

Yes, your pooch’s saliva might fight pathogens a little bit. Specifically, it even has a slight chance against E. coli

But, we have modern medicines now that can provide these antibacterial properties. And not just slightly, but with high efficacy.

Despite that, thank your little fur baby for trying to speed up your healing process. 

It’s such a kind-hearted gesture if you think about it.

#9: Attention-seeking

Imagine this:

You’ve been sitting for a while in front of your office table. It’s a work-from-home set-up.

You’re very busy with your work, and suddenly, your dog positions themselves near your feet. After a few seconds, they start grooming your calf.


Fido is asking you to take a break and give them attention for a few minutes. 

They might be feeling under-stimulated. There could be nothing around that they find fun. So, they run to you and start grooming you.

But as mentioned, you’re really busy. You could even be in a meeting.

Since you have work responsibilities, you can’t always attend to your fur baby’s needs. So how can we prevent instances like this?

Here are things you can do to lessen your dog’s attention-seeking behavior:

  • Provide them stimulating toys. Like a treat ball, which dispenses treats as your pooch plays with it and rolls it around.
  • Before starting your shift, you can walk your dog in the morning. Consider this as your exercise, too. It’s also a great bonding for you and your dog.
  • Leave them in a room with another family member, if you live in a multi-people house. This ensures that there will be someone to look after them and play with them while you work.

#10: They smell your health

A dog’s olfactory sense is so strong, and they can even smell your health. 

Yes, your dog knows what goes on inside your body. 

They can detect and remember smells, especially with enough training.

A straightforward example could be menstruation. Your four-legged friend can tell from the change in odor and hormone level. 


Dogs have 60 times more smell receptors than humans have. This allows them to differentiate between 30,000 to 100,000 smells.

Your dog may even be able to tell that a woman is pregnant.

They do it by detecting the change of odor brought by increased levels of hormones. 

And I promise this is the last one – but it’s just so fascinating! – Dogs can detect blood sugar changes, too. 

A study reveals, 65% of dogs warned their fur parents about upcoming low blood sugar levels. The dogs alerted them through barking and whining.

So does your dog keep grooming you and see nothing wrong elsewhere? Then they might be telling you something about your health.

Note: Don’t be quick to worry or make any assumptions. Instead, if you suspect something might be off, a health check with your GP wouldn’t hurt. 

#11: Instinctive behavior

Your dog’s grooming behavior is innate to them.

As mentioned before, it first comes from their mothers. And that it also gets retained due to neoteny.

Well, grooming plays a role in a dog’s social bonding, too. So may it be from canine-to-canine or human-to-canine. 

Grooming in mammals can suggest a cooperative social system. This maintains and establishes social relationships within its members.

Therefore, dogs bond with each other through grooming. 

And if they do the same to you, well, then it means the same thing – they’re strengthening your bond. 

How can you further tell if this is the case?

It’s easy.

You would notice that as your dog grooms you, they’re calmly sitting or lying. 

With that, you can confirm, your fur baby only wants to spend some time with you. 

#12: Your dog can tell that you’re not okay

Being the sweet little angel that they are, your dog can sense that something’s wrong.

Maybe you’re not feeling yourself today – it’s okay, we all have these moments.

But then, here comes your fur baby to the rescue.

As you sit on the couch, contemplating, Fido jumps and sits beside you. 

After a while, you feel them grooming your arms.

Your dog does this because they’re sensitive to your emotional state. So regardless if your emotion is strong or not, they know. 

Their exceptional sensitivity makes them recognize your emotions.

Even if you don’t show it to them, a study’s result implies that dogs can still tell. 

And this act of grooming is their way of patting you on the shoulder.

Your pooch is telling you not to worry, and everything’s going to be okay.

It’s heartwarming, isn’t it? That when you think about it, you would even cheer up a little bit.

#13: You taste good

No, this doesn’t mean they want to eat you…

Your four-legged friend just wants a little taste, though.

Think of this scenario:

You’re preparing for a dinner party at your house. 

So it’s going to be an afternoon of cooking and cleaning around.

You decided to rest first before freshening up. 

Moments later, your dog starts grooming you. 


They still might be smelling something from you. That something is the food that you prepared for your visitors.

Or, since cleaning is a very intense chore, too, you could be sweating after.

Your beads of sweat could draw your dog.

How so?

Well, Fido likes the salty taste our sweat has. 

Plus, remember the first reason? They might be cleaning you up, too. 

It’s a 2-in-1 situation for your dog!