Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs and Should I Be Concerned?

So, you have returned home after an exhausting day at work. You enter the living, sit on the couch, and start taking off your shoes. And your dog comes running towards you. There isn’t a better welcome you could have expected after a hectic work-day, right?

Your pooch smothers you with kisses and probably even tries to rebuke you for leaving them alone in the house for so long. They can’t wait for you to freshen up and start playing with them. But then, as you take your socks off, your dog’s attention immediately goes to your legs and they start licking your feet.

Why does my dog lick my legs?

This is what you must wonder whenever your canine best friend licks your feet and legs. Considering that dogs can’t communicate the way humans do, you are likely left alone to explore the possible reasons that might be causing this behavior in your dog.

So, should I be worried if my dog licks my legs? How do I understand why this is happening? What can I do to stop this behavior? These are all questions that might be racing through your mind every time your dog goes into a frenzy of excessive licking.

In this blog, we will take a closer look at what compels dogs to lick human feet and whether it is normal. We will also explore a few solutions you can implement to stop them from licking your feet too much.

Decoding Doggie Behavior

“Why does my dog lick my legs?” – Before we jump right into the answer to this question, it is important to understand how dogs are programmed to behave. To begin with, licking is a natural instinct for dogs. They use it as a way to interact, communicate, and cope.

It is also worth mentioning that when a puppy is born, the mother uses licking as a mechanism to groom them and help them breathe. Moreover, licking helps stimulate digestion in newborn puppies. As a pup begins to gather their senses, they also start licking their mother as a way to show affection. Therefore, the action of licking isn’t out of character for dogs. 

Also, dogs have a special organ called Jacobson’s organ, scientifically known as the vomeronasal organ. It connects the roof of their mouth to their nasal cavity. This, in turn, helps them simultaneously sense the taste and smell of different things. So, whenever they want to know an object or a person, they use licking as a means to gather more information.

Image via Conscious Companion

Using licking to communicate is fine, but what makes my dog lick my legs? Of all the body parts, why do they choose my legs and feet? Well, there isn’t a straightforward way to answer this question. In the following section, we’ll explore a few possible reasons why your pooch could be so fond of your feet.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs?

First things first – licking is typically considered normal for dogs. If your dog occasionally licks your feet, there is likely no reason to worry. However, if you aren’t particularly comfortable with this behavior, it is understandable that you’d want to stop them. But before doing that, you must identify what is compelling your canine companion to lick your legs.

dog lick my legs

Here are a few reasons why your dog might be licking your feet and legs:

1. They Enjoy the Taste of Your Feet

Your legs (feet, in particular) are likely more moist than other parts of your body. The sweat secreted in these body parts gives them a salty taste. And as it turns out, most dogs love the salty taste of human feet.

If you notice that your dog tends to lick your legs after you come back from any rigorous physical activity, such as running or working out, chances are they’re relishing the taste. It is also possible that a speck of food might have stuck to your toes and your dog is just trying to make the most of this opportunity.

2. It is a Sign of Affection

That’s right! Licking your feet is your dog’s way of showering you with love and affection. Or they could be doing it to demonstrate their feeling of gratitude and submission. Likewise, it is also their way of showing their respect and honor for you. Or they are just being playful and want you to reciprocate their actions.

3. They Want Your Attention

Dogs love being showered with attention, especially when they have spent hours away from their favorite human. The moment they see you after a long separation, they try every means possible to get your attention.

And licking your feet is a particularly effective way of achieving that. If the excessive licking stops after you pat your dog or play with them for a while, chances are they were doing it just to get your attention.

4. They are Communicating with You

Just because your pooch can’t talk, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good at expressing their needs and wants. Whether your dog is thirsty or wants to go out for a run, they will likely lick your legs to convey what they want.

Or they might be in pain due to an underlying health condition. If the onset of excessive licking is accompanied by a sudden drop in your dog’s energy levels, it could indicate an underlying medical condition.

5. It is a Way of Gathering Information

The sweat and sebum that accumulate in your feet can relay plenty of information about the type of person you are. That is only to your dog, of course. Dogs, with their hypersensitive olfactory powers, can decipher useful information about you just from the smell and taste of your feet.

That’s why every time a new family member or friend walks into your house, your dog’s first instinct is to lick their feet. It is also the reason why a pup might be excessively licking your legs right after you bring them home from an animal shelter. Think of it as their way of becoming familiar with you.

6. It is a Coping Mechanism

The act of licking releases endorphins in your dog’s body, which in turn helps them cope with stress and anxiety. So, licking your legs might just be a way for your dog to soothe and comfort themselves. If your dog appears fearful or nervous while licking your feet, it could indicate that they are suffering from anxiety.

Should I Be Worried If My Dog Licks My Legs?

As mentioned earlier, occasional licking is normal for dogs. It is a sign that they are bonding with you and want to show that they care. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your daily activities, you shouldn’t discourage this habit in your pooch.

However, if the licking turns into compulsive behavior, it could indicate an underlying physical or psychological disorder. Also, you might be concerned that harmful bacteria from your feet could affect your dog’s digestive health. In such cases, it is a good idea to figure out the right way to stop your dog from excessive licking.

How to Stop My Dog From Licking My Legs?

The easiest way of doing this is to put on a pair of socks and full-length trousers. However, depending on the weather in your neighborhood, this may not always be feasible. Here are a few more techniques you can use to prevent your dog from licking your legs:

1. Distraction

This is a no-brainer. Every time your dog inches closer to your feet, try distracting them with a treat or toy. However, this technique will only work if your dog’s licking is an outcome of affection and playfulness.

2. Behavioral Modification

Work with an experienced trainer to implement positive reinforcement techniques for changing your dog’s licking behavior. At its simplest, this involves asking your dog not to lick your feet and rewarding them for it. Over time, it will encourage them to stop licking.

3. Consult Your Vet

If your dog has suddenly started licking your legs, as well as become exceptionally needy, it could indicate an underlying health issue. In such cases, the best solution is to book an appointment with your veterinarian and identify the root cause of their behavior. Based on the root cause, your vet will suggest the next course of action to stop or modify their behavior.

Conclusion: Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we will address a few common questions that most dog parents have about the act of licking:

Is It Normal for My Dog to Lick My Feet?

Yes. Licking is a natural behavior for dogs. They use it as a way to groom, communicate, and comfort themselves. If your dog licks your feet, they are likely trying to show their love and gratitude. Or they are just being playful and want to get your attention.

Should I Encourage My Dog to Lick My Legs?

Well, it is a matter of personal choice. If you aren’t comfortable or get ticklish near your feet, use positive reinforcement techniques to slowly change their behavior. Otherwise, there is no reason to stop your dog from licking your legs. Just make sure you thoroughly wash your feet and legs every time you come home.

When Should I Worry About My Dog’s Licking Habit?

If your dog’s habit of licking goes to the point of becoming obsessive and jeopardizes their quality of life, it is a cause for concern. In such cases, the best solution is to consult your vet and identify what is causing the sudden onset of compulsive licking.

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