By: Gillian Daniels – Trainer at New Dawn Animal Behavior Center Clearwater, Florida
It is a common belief that a dog licking you is a sign of affection. It certainly can be, but there are a few things to keep in mind with a dog that excessively licks.
If your dog is licking as a sign of affection, or wanting attention/play, you can teach your dog how to greet you or get your attention in a different way. Such as teaching your dog to sit when they greet you, or teaching them to bring you a toy instead when they want to play.
There is also a kind of licking that is often referred to as “Kiss to Dismiss.” This kiss to dismiss is the dog trying to create space, or communicate stress. Think of how you respond when your dog licks your face. Most of the time you turn away and you usually look away. This increases the distance and comfort for the dog when things are too intense.
I’m sure you have all seen the videos of a dog “cleaning the baby” or a young child. This is actually a kiss to dismiss. The child is too close, hanging all over the dog, or right up in his face. This is dangerous to do to a dog, as it’s not natural for dogs to get in each other’s face this way, and it is very stressful for them.
Unfortunately this is why children often get bitten by dogs. The licking is misinterpreted as affection, and the dog feels like he’s screaming for the child to get away and no one is listening to him. Dogs don’t communicate the way that we do, and having a dog requires learning how to read their body language so that we can keep everyone feeling safe and happy.