Does your pooch find every excuse to lick you?
It could be your legs, arms, or head.
You just can’t escape it.
Some owners like it. Others don’t.
But is it something to worry about?
Keep reading and discover:
- 7 reasons why your dog licks your head.
- 5 tips to stop your dog from doing that.
- A step-by-step method for a trick that distracts your dog from licking.
- And a lot more…
Why does my dog lick my head?
Your dog licks your head because you encouraged the behavior. They follow how you show affection. It also comforts them and they find that your sweat is tasty. Licking can also mean they want your attention or have developed obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
7 reasons why your dog licks your head
#1: They follow your example
How do you show affection to your dog?
Do you kiss or pet their heads?
If so, your dog may have picked up that behavior.
They know that it’s how you show affection so they do it to you, too.
The dog experts at AKC, state that dogs can bond with one person. Especially in houses with multiple people.
If you’re the one who feeds and plays with the family dog, then they tend to follow you.
And mirror your personality.
An experiment by Dr. Iris Schoberl found that dogs can mirror their owner’s anxiety and stress.
The researchers exposed 132 dog-owner pairs to different stressful situations.
The pairs were measured for:
- Heart rate.
- Cortisol levels.
- Response to threat.
The study results indicate that owners and dogs influence how they each cope with stress. But humans are more influential than dogs.
#2: You encouraged the behavior
How do you respond when your dog licks your head?
Do you do any of the following?
- Pet them.
- Use a high-pitched voice.
If you do, then your dog takes it this way,
“Hooman likes the licks? Then I’ll do it all the time!”
Your dog wants to do things that you like.
Because they want you to be happy.
Did you know that your dog can read your facial expressions?
Yep, dogs know your faces for sad, happy, and angry.
This study revealed that a dog’s oxytocin levels changed depending on the faces they looked at.
The researchers showed 58 dogs pictures of angry and happy expressions.
Oxytocin levels rose at the happy faces. And fell when viewing the angry ones.
Eye-tracking technology also tells us that dogs don’t make eye contact with angry faces.
#3: Your doggo wants your attention
Doggos are smarter than we give them credit for.
They know what gets your attention.
And if licking your head gets them that, your pooch will keep it up.
This happens even if you give negative attention to your pet, such as:
- Scolding them.
- Pushing them away.
- Ignoring your doggo.
It’s your attention and your dog will take it in any way they can.
Read next: Why does my dog hit me with his paw?
#4: It comforts them
Licking is comforting and calming for your dog.
The brain releases oxytocin. The hormone that promotes:
- Calming effects from stress.
Touch and warmth activate it, hence the licking by your pooch.
Oxytocin also affects dopamine secretion. This is a hormone that’s released when the brain expects a reward.
In the same way, it also influences serotonin production.
High levels of this hormone mean:
- Less anxiety.
- A stable mood.
- More happiness.
Now imagine all these feel-good hormones rushing through your dog’s system when they lick you.
It’s no wonder they do it.
But a word of caution.
Warning: Licking may feel good for your dog, but they can get addicted to the feeling. And that’s dangerous for them.
Want to learn why? Then keep on reading.
#5: Your sweat is tasty
Dogs can also taste the 4 taste profiles:
So when they lick your head, they’re tasting the salt from your sweat.
But did you know that they can’t taste salt very well?
According to the AKC, it’s because meat contains enough salt for their nutritional needs.
To a degree, your pooch can still enjoy salty things.
Your scent profile is also found in your scent.
So by licking your dog’s familiarizing themselves with your smell.
#6: They’re grooming you
Dogs groom by licking.
Momma dogs do it with their puppies.
It keeps them clean. And encourages pooping and peeing.
The puppies then do it with their littermates.
It’s a form of bonding.
According to VCA, adult dogs also use licking to clean up. Some lick their genitals after peeing.
Just a quick once-over the area to clean up.
My friend’s dog, Hela, licks her paws after a walk. But she doesn’t take a long time to do it.
Now, if they lick your head, it may be their way of grooming you.
Don’t forget that it’s also one way that your dog bonds with you.
But if you don’t like the behavior, we have 5 tips below that will help you correct it.
Further reading: 13 reasons why your dog grooms you
Licking your head is fine as long as the behavior isn’t repetitive.
But when your dog seems obsessed with licking, there’s something wrong.
Your pooch may have CCD or Canine Compulsive Disorder.
This is the dog form of OCD.
And it develops because your dog gets addicted to licking.
“How does my dog get that addiction?”
Licking is a very calming activity for dogs. It releases endorphins and relieves stress.
Which is why a lot of anxious dogs lick themselves or their toys for comfort.
The licking doesn’t stop if the dog’s in a constant state of stress.
Or if there are big changes in the dog’s life.
Your dog could develop acral lick dermatitis or lick granuloma if the behavior continues.
This condition results in:
- Red, irritated skin.
- Dark, thickened skin.
Dr. Rod Rosychuk of CSU published an article explaining the most common primary reason for lick granuloma:
This could either be atopic dermatitis or food sensitivity.
Atopic allergies happen when the dog comes in contact with pollen, dust, or other substances they’re sensitive to.
Food sensitivity allergies take place when dogs develop an allergy to their food.
Dr. Rosychuk continues that in his experience, the most common cause was atopic dermatitis.
Other factors include:
- Fungal infection.
- Bone/joint fracture.
- Behavior problems.
- Peripheral neuropathy.
5 tips on how to stop your dog from licking your head
#1: Don’t reward the behavior
Let your dog know that they won’t get anything when they lick your head.
Step 1: When your dog starts licking your head. Move away from them. Go away from the room. This will help them know that the behavior takes you away.
Step 2: After a few minutes, get back into the room with your dog. If the licking starts, move away again. You may need to do this a few times before your dog makes the connection.
Step 3: If your dog makes the decision not to lick you, praise and reward them with a treat or playtime.
Step 4: Try not to push your dog away when they do it, this can still count as rewarding behavior.
#2: Redirect their attention to a chew toy
Have a toy in hand for this method.
Step 1: Once your dog starts to lick, make a sound that indicates negative behavior. Something like, “Uh-uh” or whatever phrase you normally use.
Step 2: If you have their attention, get the toy and give it to them. You can initiate a short play session to make them interested in the toy.
Step 3: Give your dog treats and praise if they play with the chew toy and not you.
#3: Have a schedule for attention time
Sometimes our pets will lick our heads because they want some attention.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s negative.
Make sure to spend time with your dog aside from the usual daily walkies.
It will keep them happy. And lessen the need to lick you for attention.
You can do the following activities with your dog:
- Dog sports.
- Short road trips.
- Visit road parks.
- Mountain climbing.
Just remember that whatever you do, make sure that your dog likes it too.
Note: Before choosing an activity, consider your dog’s health status and exercise needs. Take them to the vet for examination for any conditions that will hinder activity.
#4: Teach other ways of showing affection
Do you show affection by kissing your dog on the head?
If so, maybe your dog is copying you when they lick your head.
You can correct this behavior by teaching your dog other ways to show affection.
In particular, you can teach your dog how to hug.
Watch this video to learn how:
A hug isn’t the normal way dogs show affection. But you can still teach them to associate it with your attention.
Note: If your dog pulls away when you put your arms around them, stop the training. This means that your dog isn’t comfortable.
Instead, you can teach your dog not to lick when you pet them.
Step 1: Have your dog in a “sit” position.
Step 2: Start petting your dog.
Step 3: If they start to get excited or start licking you, take your hand away.
Step 4: Move away from your dog and wait a few minutes for your dog to calm down.
Step 5: Have your dog in a “sit” position once again and repeat Steps 1-3.
Step 6: Once your dog makes the connection between the petting and the licking, reward with extra long pets or even a treat.
#5: Trick training
When your dog knows tricks, it’s easier to distract them from licking you.
Trick training also gives you bonding time with your dog outside of the house.
It builds trust and communication with your pooch.
So they can study your body language. And you can learn how they respond to you.
Overall, it’s a great way to learn how to adjust to each other.
Here is a simple trick that you can teach your dog.
This is a variation of the “Sit”. You can use a clicker to mark the right behavior or a simple “Yes!”.
Step 1: Put your dog in a sit position.
Step 2: Hold a treat above your dog’s head. Make sure your pooch stays in the sit.
Step 3: Wait for your dog to stand on bent back legs and reach for the treat with their front legs.
Step 4: Mark the behavior with a click or a “Yes!” or “Good!”. Make sure to do it right after your dog does it.
Step 5: Repeat a few times until your dog does it automatically.
Step 6: Start saying “Sit pretty” with the action. This lets your dog learn to associate the command with it.
Step 7: Repeat a few times. And when it’s automatic for your dog, try putting your hand up and saying the command.
Step 8: When they learn that, you can just say the command. And not put your hand up.
If at any step your dog doesn’t seem to get it, relax. Take a step back and repeat the exercise.
And if your dog isn’t food motivated, you can use a favorite toy instead.
People also ask:
Is it bad if my dog licks my head?
It’s not bad if your dog licks your head. It’s a sign of affection and grooming behavior. But there are times when licking becomes a repetitive behavior. And that is dangerous.
Obsessive licking is a sign that your dog developed a form of Canine Compulsive Disorder or CCD.
With obsessive licking you may notice that your dog has:
- Red or irritated skin.
- Patchy spots in their coat.
Take your dog to the vet for an examination.
Your vet may ask the following questions:
- When did the behavior start?
- Did it get worse from when you noticed it?
- Were there any major changes in your home?
- Does your dog do other repetitive behaviors?
- When does your dog do this behavior?
Anxiety or stress is one possible cause. For that, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety meds and behavioral training.
Other causes include allergies or pain caused by physical trauma.
Why does my dog lick my head at bedtime?
Your dog licks your head at bedtime because they want to groom you. Licking is normal behavior for dogs and they will often do it before bedtime.
Mother dogs do it to their puppies to:
- Keep the nest clean.
- Clean them after birth.
- Encourage pooing and peeing.
The puppies also do it to their mother but this provides a very specific purpose.
From birth to up to 5 months, there is a possibility that the mother dog will vomit pre-digested food for her puppies.
This is called epimeletic or care-giving vomiting. It happens when the mother stays with her puppies all the time.
This study states that the puppies lick their mother in the mouth to induce vomiting.
But, this behavior vanishes if the puppies stay away from the mother. It can happen immediately or a few days after separation.
Why does my dog lick my head and ears?
Your dog licks your head and ears because they like the taste of your skin. Salty sweat can accumulate on your skin. Especially near the head and ears.
The AKC says that dogs are likely to lick your skin after a sweaty day.
The salt in your sweat is tasty for them. The same also happens when your dog licks their food bowl, even when there’s no food inside.
Licking is a form of self-expression for our doggos. And it’s generally harmless.
According to Dr. Jangi Bajwa, dogs should only lick themselves for a few minutes every day.
But, if you don’t like the licking you can redirect their attention with:
- Ball play.
- A few trick commands.
- Interactive puzzle toys.