Why Do Dogs Lick Your Feet?
Approximately 2 million dogs get adopted each year. Anyone that gets a new dog probably knows about common dog behaviors like barking, biting, etc. However, they probably get confused by uncommon behaviors that their dogs may exhibit.
For example, a lot of owners know that dogs lick. Yet, it may seem strange when dogs lick feet of all things. If you have clicked on this article, you're probably one of these confused owners.
So why do dogs lick your feet? Read on to get some answers.
Why Do Dogs Lick?
In most cases, licking is licking, regardless of the location. Since this is the case, this article will cover some of the common reasons that dogs lick humans first. This list won't include any reasons dogs lick themselves as these are separate issues.
Experts have found that licking can release pleasure chemicals in the minds of dogs. Thus, the act of licking can soothe different kinds of stressful emotions. To know the exact kind of stressful emotions that your dog is feeling, study his or her situation.
Have you recently had a major life change such as moving to a new home? Your dog may lick a lot and perform other unpleasant behaviors to relieve the stress they feel at the new uncertainty. Dogs can also become stressed when they're separated from their owner.
Boredom is another emotion that can cause excessive licking. If your dog keeps licking you, consider if you're stimulating your pet enough with toys, play, and/or trick training. If not, you probably want to start doing so.
Unfortunately, licking can become a compulsive behavior in dogs. This can lead to them developing health problems if they continuously lick themselves.
It may be less dangerous for the health of the dog if they're only licking their human or other objects. Still, it may cause you some concern. If so, you can talk to your vet about some options.
Have you ever heard of the case of Pavlov's Dog? Pavlov was a scientist who rang a bell repeatedly whenever he fed his dogs. Eventually, whenever he rang the bell, regardless of whether or not he was about to feed his dogs, his dogs would start salivating.
Your dog licking you can be a similar situation. The difference is that your dog is Pavlov and the bell is their licking. Also, instead of you salivating, licking leads to you giving your dog attention and/or affection.
Both older dogs and puppies are affectionate creatures and they also need affection.
Do you pet your dog after they lick you? If so, your dog will likely learn that licking will get him or her affection. Thus, when he or she wants affection, he or she will lick you.
Dogs may also lick for attention when they want something from their owners, like food and/or water. If that doesn't work, they may howl, paw you, boop their noses against you, etc. What behavior they repeat depends on how you react to each one.
Licking is also a way that dogs show their love. Mother dogs will often lick their puppies to comfort them. By licking you, your dog may be showing that he or she cares for you.
He or she may also be trying to reciprocate your stroking as he or she can't easily pet you back.
In addition, experts have often found that dogs will often lick owners who are in emotional distress. They're likely attempting to calm their owners down. Other empathetic behaviors dogs display include nuzzling and snuggling.
Experts have observed dogs licking other dogs' muzzles. Their theory is that the more submissive dog is trying to show that he or she is no threat to the more dominant dog. Dogs may be using the same behavior when they interact with humans.
Taste is one of the ways that dogs explore the world along with their other senses. When they lick humans, it may be because they're curious about a substance that a human has on himself or herself. Whatever the human has on himself or herself may also just taste good.
As a side note to this, it's important to note that human sweat is full of salt. Dogs, as well as many other animals, like the taste of salt. So it's typical for many animals to lick sweaty humans if the human lets them.
Why Do Dogs Lick Your Feet in Particular?
Most types of dogs probably don't understand how weird their behavior could seem to humans. They're just following their instincts. It just so happens that their humans' feet have become the target of their typical licking behaviors.
Easiest Place to Reach
Dogs probably won't go out of their way to lick a particular spot on their humans' bodies. When they want to relieve stress, get attention, etc., they'll likely go for whatever part of a human is closest to them. This part or parts can often be their humans' feet.
For example, say you have a very small dog that likes to rush up to you and give affection when you exit the bedroom each morning. You're probably barefoot and the rest of your leg is covered in pajamas. Your dog will lick your feet as they're the most convenient way to lick you.
The same goes for if you're laying on your side. Your dog may jump up behind your legs and start licking your feet. It's just easiest for him or her.
Best Way to Get Attention
Outside of getting foot massages, humans usually don't make a habit of getting their feet touched. It may even feel uncomfortable for them because their feet can be ticklish. Unfortunately, this is what makes them the perfect target for dogs' tongues.
Unfortunately, touching a human's feet is a great way to get a human's attention. Also, dogs don't necessarily care if you like or don't like to get your feet touched. They often just want your attention.
Even if you scold them or push them away, they may continue their behavior. Many dogs just don't want to be ignored.
Dogs may also believe that licking their humans' feet is a positive interaction. This will especially be the case if humans smile and/or laugh when their dogs lick their feet.
Dogs likely don't understand how humans react to tickling. They likely just see smiling and laughing as a positive thing, regardless of their human's positive or negative opinion of tickling.
Feet Can Have Many Interesting Tastes
Your feet can pick up a lot of interesting things as you walk. This is especially the case if you walk around barefoot. There are also certain things that you may put on your feet that your dog may be interested in.
Feet, like many other parts of the body, can get sweaty. As mentioned above, human sweat is usually very salty, and dogs like salt. So your dog may just be wanting the salt that's in your feet's sweat.
Some people often put lotion on their feet. While this isn't good for dogs to ingest, dogs will probably still lick it up anyways because they're curious.
Unfortunately, they may like the taste and continue licking it. In this case, you should probably find ways to discourage your dog from continuing this behavior.
It's not a good idea to walk around anywhere barefoot. You'll probably be a bit safer if you only walk around indoors, but this still isn't the best idea. That being said, though, you'll probably pick up a lot of interesting things if you walk around.
Indoors, you might pick up bits of food, etc. Outside, you can pick up plant and animal debris. All of this may be interesting to your dog and cause him or her to lick your feet.
Will I Become Sick if My Dog Licks My Feet?
Here's a fun fact: ancient societies believed that the saliva of all dogs (from the worst to the best dog breeds) had healing powers. However, in the modern day, we know that this fact is far from true. If a dog licks your wounds, you may be at risk of developing certain health issues.
It's Mostly Safe
If you don't have any open wounds on your feet, however, it's fairly safe for your dog to lick your feet. It's more dangerous if your dog licks your face and/or mouth. The bacteria in his or her mouth can transfer directly to your body.
Don't Encourage It
Don't encourage your dog's foot-licking behavior if you can. Your feet may have picked up bacteria and/or other substances that can be hazardous to your dog.
Also, you need to refrain from touching dog-licked feet right away. You could pick up bacteria with your hand and then touch your face and/or mouth. Do your best to disinfect or clean your feet as soon as possible after your dog licks them.
How to Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Feet
Do you feel unsafe and/or uncomfortable when your dog licks your feet? Luckily, you don't have to just put up with it. There are some dog training techniques that you can use to make your dog stop licking your feet.
Body Language Tricks
Dogs usually pay close attention to human body language. They use this information to tell, among other things, if their human approves of their behaviors. The problem is that they don't always read their human's body language accurately.
If you're upset about your dog's behavior, you need to give them clear messages through your movements. You also need to be consistent with your behaviors to avoid confusing your dog.
If your dog starts licking your feet, move your feet away. Don't say anything or make eye contact while you're doing this, as your dog may see this as getting attention. Remain neutral.
You can also move away from the dog entirely or leave the room. What you're doing is telling your dog that you'll ignore him or her if he or she keeps up the behavior. This should result in you training your dog to not lick your feet.
Over time, your dog will likely stop licking you. You can then give him or her positive attention for refraining from this behavior. This will make him or her even more likely to stay away from your feet.
You can also redirect your dog's attention when they start up a licking behavior. This can help them direct their positive or negative feelings toward a less dangerous activity.
Try handing your dog a toy when they start licking your feet. He or she can burn off any stress that he or she has by playing with the toy. You can also join in on their playtime as well.
Use licking as a signal to start creating a more obedient dog. As soon as the licking starts, grab some treats and begin or continue teaching your dog to do tricks on command. Be sure to also give your dog positive attention as well as treats.
Your dog may be licking you because he or she has a lot of pent-up energy. Exercise can be a good way to burn off that energy. You can start to exercise your dog through walking, playing, etc. as soon as he or she starts licking or you can just create a regular exercise schedule.
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So why do dogs lick your feet? As you can see, there are multiple reasons why this may occur.
However, it is a controllable behavior with enough dedication and practice. Also, this isn't a dangerous behavior as long as you're careful with the cleanup.
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