We all know that dogs lick their bodies to clean them, but did you know that they also lick their owners for various reasons?
While it may be gross, licking is a sign of affection for dogs.
Keep reading to get the question, “why does my dog lick my legs” fully answered.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs? The Reasons
To Express Their Affection Towards Their Owners
While a dog’s wet tongue running across your leg might be an uncomfortable experience, behavior like this is the canine way of displaying love and affection to their owners.
Dogs showing signs of loyalty by licking their owners’ legs indicate a strong connection between them and can be seen as a sign of trust and unconditional love.
It is believed that dogs may lick not only to show affection but also because they are used to receiving positive praise, forming a positive association between lip licking and being rewarded.
Form Of Greeting, Bonding, And Appeasement
As it turns out, a big reason why dogs lick their owners’ legs is to greet them and bond with them.
This behavior often displays positive emotions such as happiness and contentment.
They may even lick the person’s leg to let them know that they are there and happy to see them!
Out Of Appeasement
Appeasement occurs when the dog senses that his owner or someone nearby is emotionally distressed.
The act of licking can be used to comfort the distressed individual or suggest that everything is OK.
Therefore, next time your pup gives your leg a good licking, consider it a sign of affection from your furry friend!
To Seek Attention
It may not be the most pleasant sensation when a dog licks someone’s leg, but it is often an attempt to gain their attention or affection.
By licking their owners, dogs convey that they want reassurance and approval.
This behavior shows how highly they value that connection and relationship.
Dogs also use licking as a way to communicate with humans.
It is believed that certain types of licking behaviors can show affection, submission, or possible disappointment.
All of which can be noticed when they lick their owner’s legs.
Anxiety and Other Behavioral Disorders
The behavior can signal displacement behaviors, where the dog is anxious and uncertain but doesn’t know how to express it.
It may also be their response to environmental stressors.
There are many reasons why a dog might engage in this behavior.
Some seek comfort or attention, boredom or frustration, curiosity or greeting behavior, or hunger or thirst.
Additionally, some breeds are known for being more affectionate than others and have natural tendencies towards expressing their love through licking.
Your Dog Is Grooming You
Dogs will use their licking as a grooming tool, similar to what cats do when they groom themselves.
A dog is taking care of you by licking their owner’s legs, too.
This behavior happens because the tongue and saliva help remove dirt and debris from the fur, like human grooming habits such as combing or brushing.
To Communicate That You Are The Alpha
Dogs are pack animals, hard-wired to know their place in the hierarchy.
To show their allegiance and understanding of the order, they will often lick the legs and feet of their owners.
This action is an homage to serving their alpha, a sign of respect and love.
A dog’s instinct is to seek affection from those with higher authority in the pecking order by licking them actively or passively to demonstrate submission.
Showing such loyal behavior toward their owner, the alpha-it assures obedience and security within their family structure.
In this way, dogs use licking to express trust and let you know that you’re the boss.
They’re Using It To Cope
It could also be because they’re trying to cope with their feelings to make themselves feel better.
Sometimes, it may be a sign of anxiety that many pet owners must pay closer attention to.
Owners should watch for this licking and perhaps bring it up during regular checkups with a veterinarian if it continues over time.
There may be underlying causes that can be identified and treated if necessary.
Showing Respect And Submission
Certain breeds of dogs, such as herding dogs, may lick their owners’ legs as a sign of respect and submission.
It is a way to show affection and gratitude towards those they trust and love and a means of communication with humans.
Some experts believe that when dogs lick their owners’ legs, it could be seen as a social cue similar to when one dog licks another to demonstrate its lower rank.
This behavior could be dogs trying to communicate to their owners how much they appreciate them, may it be for care or protection.
Salty Sweat On Your Skin
From their wolf ancestors, dogs have long been programmed to lick their pack leaders, particularly regarding salt intake.
As it turns out, your salty sweat is like a delicacy for them, so they are constantly trying to reach your legs!
Dogs have an innate sense of taste when it comes to finding the right sodium levels in their diet, and licking humans is part of their evolutionary heritage.
That puts some extra perspective on why they often greet you like an old friend after a long run or any other situation where you sweat!
In summary, it is important to note that licking can be a sign of affection from a dog, but it may also have several other meanings.
How To Get Your Dog To Stop Licking Your Legs
Many pet owners have experienced the feeling of a wet, warm, and surprisingly strong tongue running up and down their legs.
While some people might simply find it funny or adorable, it can get slightly annoying for others.
Especially when this behavior is repeated over and over again.
If you are fed up with having your puppy giving your legs kisses every chance they get, then read on as we explore different ways that you can stop your dog from licking your legs!
While giving our four-legged friends lots of attention and affection may be tempting, ignoring our dogs can be a useful training tool to get them to stop habits such as licking our legs.
This particular behavioral correction method works best when leash walking. It requires us to direct the dog away from us and re-direct their attention elsewhere while providing a positive distraction such as a reward or game.
This will help our dog understand that they are getting attention for doing good things instead of perpetuating unwanted behavior.
Additionally, this technique makes it easier for owners to regain control over a situation, which is especially crucial if the behavior becomes overly frustrating or puts you or your pup in an uncomfortable situation.
Give Them Toys
Keeping a few toys around the house can help keep your dog entertained and distracted.
When you come home, give them a toy to play with instead of their immediate attention to licking your legs.
The toy will provide stimulation and enrichment and serve as a distraction so they won’t feel the urge to show affection through licking you.
Additionally, giving them an appropriate object to invest their energy into will help reinforce positive behavior and encourage self-control when they experience other types of excitement or temptation.
Making this part of your daily routine will ensure lasting results when getting your pup to stop licking your legs.
Reassuring your dog that you are still there and that it is safe is an important way to get them to stop licky-licking your legs.
Giving them verbal cues, like a ‘no’ or politely saying their name, and using a gentle hand motion with the index finger and thumb pressed together to convey that licking is not OK.
Distracting them with a toy or activity is also an effective strategy for focusing them elsewhere.
Giving your pup something else to focus on can help lessen the compulsion to lick! If possible, try bringing in some positive reinforcement by providing treats or a toy right after you successfully distract them away from licking.
With consistency, dogs learn that when they obey these rules, they will be rewarded with treats and attention – stick with it, and you’ll surely see results in no time!
Distract And Re-Direct
If you have a dog that is constantly licking your legs, it can be quite annoying.
The best way to handle this is to distract and re-direct your dog.
This means that when your dog starts licking, immediately catch its attention with a distracting sound or toy.
Then give them something else to focus their energy on, like chewing a toy or walking.
Doing this consistently should help break the habit, as your dog will learn that it will receive more attention by engaging in desired behaviors rather than undesired ones.
It may not be easy, but if done correctly, it can be very successful in getting your pup to stop licking your legs!
Should I Be Concerned If My Dog Licks My Legs?
While a dog licking your legs can be seen as a sign of comfort and love, it can also cause concern because it could spread bacteria and germs.
However, overall there is not much reason to worry.
If your dog is healthy and its mouth is free of sores or wounds, you will not likely get an infection through the saliva.
It’s still best to remember some basic hygiene tips when dealing with animals.
Always wash your hands after handling pets or interacting with their saliva, clean any cuts and abrasions that come into contact with them.
And finally, make sure they receive their yearly wellness checkup with their veterinarian to ensure they remain healthy (you too!).
As long as these steps are taken, enjoying your pup’s loving gestures should remain without worry!
Can I Allow My Dog To Lick My Legs?
As mentioned before, a pup giving you kisses on your legs may be sweet, but it’s important to keep your pup’s health and hygiene in mind when it comes to licking.
While many bacteria live harmlessly on our dog’s fur, those can end up being transferred to you if they lick you.
This can lead to skin irritation or even more serious issues.
Dirt, dust, and other environmental debris could also make their way into your pup’s mouth and land on your legs.
Therefore, it would be wisest to limit the amount of licking between you and your four-legged friend so everyone involved can remain healthy.
Is It Necessary To Prevent My Dog From Licking My Legs?
Deciding whether to prevent your dog from licking your legs comes down to how much licking you can tolerate.
On the one hand, an occasional light lick from your loyal pup may be just the loving reminder you need to keep you going throughout the day.
However, dogs tend to get more excited when it comes to licking, and it can quickly become intense, leaving you feeling uncomfortable or violated.
If that’s the case for you, then teaching your pup some boundaries might be necessary.
You can start by discouraging your pup’s licking with a gentle no or physically blocking them from licking with your hands and using positive reinforcement through verbal praise and treats when they cease their behavior.
With patience and dedication from both you and your pup, they will soon understand what behaviors are acceptable!
Before You Go…
Now you know the answer to the question, “Why does my dog lick my legs?”.
If you want to learn more, read the following articles too!
Jessica has been a dog content freelance writer for the past few years. She grew up with different kinds of pets, like dogs, cats and birds. Her passion for writing about pets started in her twenties after she graduated.