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

So, you just 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. It can’t wait for you to freshen up and start playing some games. But then, as you take your socks off, your dog’s attention immediately goes to you as it starts licking your feet enthusiastically.

Why does my dog lick my legs?

This must be what you are pondering 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 the dog goes into a frenzy of excessive licking.

Let us take a closer look at what causes dogs to lick human feet and if it is a normal behavior. 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?”, well, 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 pups. As a pup begins gathering its senses, it will also start licking its mother as a way to express affection. Therefore, the action of licking isn’t out of character for dogs. 

Also, dogs possess 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 sense the taste and smell of different things at the same time. 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?

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 Flavour 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.

Noticing 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. Another possibility is 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 a 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 adore being showered with attention, especially after spending 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 uncontrolled licking stops after you pat the dog or play with it for a while, chances are it was doing it just to get your valued 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, it will likely lick your legs to convey its wishes.

Or it 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 perspiration and oils that gather on your feet hold valuable insights into your personality, but only as far as your furry companion is concerned. Dogs possess incredibly keen noses and can extract useful details about you simply from the scent and flavor of your feet.

That’s why whenever a new member joins your household, whether it’s a family member or a friend, your dog’s natural inclination is to give their feet a friendly lick. Similarly, when you bring home a pup from an animal shelter, you may notice them eagerly showering your legs with licks. Consider it their unique way of getting to know you better.

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 this 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 solid idea to figure out the right way to stop your dog from compulsively licking your feet.

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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