Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs All the Time? A Vet Explains

Although the dog has been man’s best friend for thousands of years, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the real meaning of its behaviors. This is not surprising, considering that a dog’s mind, body, and senses work differently than those of humans. Yet, it is also normal to wonder what is going through our four-legged companion’s mind, especially when we notice some habits that may appear weird.

One common question is: Why does my dog lick my legs all the time? Your dog licks your legs all of the time out of affection. However, there might be other reasons: getting your attention, gathering information, or simply enjoying your salty taste after a run.

Let’s analyze the motives of this apparently odd behavior a bit more in detail so that you can fully understand why your dog licks your legs all the time.

Licking as a Sign of Affection

Licking your legs is a way for your dog to express its feelings towards you according to Dr Megan Maxwell that runs a site on pet behavior. After all, don’t people say that licking is a dog’s way of kissing? This behavior is inherited from the puppy stage, when the mother licks her little ones to stimulate them to urinate and defecate.

Later on, during weaning, puppies lick their mother’s muzzle to receive semi-digested food from her. Therefore, the act of licking is indissolubly tied to affection and caregiving. 

The fact that your dog licks your legs and feet specifically is a sign of honor and respect. They like to give you attention. In this behavior, you can recognize the sign of that empathy that is so typical of dogs. You may notice that they lick you more frequently and thoroughly when they sense that you are not feeling quite alright. The dog also releases endorphins during the act, with the result that you will both feel happier.

Does Your Pup Need More Attention?

After you spent a long day at work, it is normal for your pup to want to play or to claim its long-awaited bowl of kibble. Whatever its needs, your dog will notify you through licking. In this sense, licking your legs is a way of communicating, even though we tend to reduce this behavior as a mere sign of playfulness.

If the licking becomes insistent, it may be an indication that your dog feels bored or stressed. All dog breeds have different requirements, but all dogs become irritable and impatient when they are not physically or mentally stimulated. Take your dog for a walk or offer a toy to redirect their attention towards something different than your legs!

Just Licking or Gathering Information?

Licking your legs when you get home is a way for your dog to figure out where you have been. In human terms, it is the equivalent of asking you how your day has been. A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more developed than that of a human.

The same goes for its taste, as dogs possess an organ — situated in their brains — that allows them to smell and taste simultaneously. As such, it is no wonder that they find a way to lick your legs: they are just being curious!

A Weird Fact: Dogs Like the Taste of Sweat

The final trigger that prompts your dog to lick you is that it likes the taste of your sweat. As weird as it may appear, to dogs the salty taste of sweat is nothing but attractive. Have you ever noticed how your dog seems suddenly more interested in licking your legs, hands, and face after you return from a run or training session?

If you and your dog are very close, the smell of your pheromones may also be what prompts it to lick you. To put it simply, your dog likes you, including the taste and smell of your skin, and it’s not afraid of showing it. How cute is that?

Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs After I Shower? Is It Normal?

Here you are again. After a tiring day, you took a well-deserved shower. You step out of the bathroom relaxed and looking forward to a good night of rest. Your furry best friend, though, will have none of that. As soon as it senses your smell in the hallway, he scrambles towards you and starts trying to licking your legs, uncaring of the meticulous cleaning you may have done.

Andrew Lee, a Chicago-based veterinary, the reasons why your dog licks your legs after a shower are mainly two. On the one hand, they are curious about the water droplets on your skin. They want to know what they are, and the only way for them to figure out is to lick them. On the other hand, they are attracted by the taste or smell of the products you used.

The expert veterinary Megan Maxwell backs this affirmation and spills the tea on our furry friends: dogs are compelled to lick you after you shower because they are irresistibly attracted to the smell and taste of your lotion. As weird as this may appear, you should remember that a dog’s smell and taste are its means for exploring the world!

Why Does My Dog Lick the Back of My Legs When I Walk By?

Every morning, when you get ready for work or school, your dog follows you to the doorstep while spasmodically trying to lick the back of your legs. If you’d like to understand why your dog licks the back of your legs while you’re walking, you should know that this behavior is not much different from the generic legs licking that we have discusses so far.

As such, it is a way of expressing a certain feeling or state of mind. In this case, your dog is probably trying to communicate that it knows you are leaving, and that it will miss you. But how can a dog tell that you are leaving? As incredible as this may sound, dogs can quite literally smell the passing of time. The smell of the morning is quite different from that of the sunset, or the night. As such, your dog is capable of associating a certain smell with the moment that it sees you leave.

However, if this behavior is not just a part of the morning routine but a regular occurrence, a simple explanation is just that your dog is attracted by the salty taste of your skin. So much so, that it won’t leave you alone even when you are walking!

Is It Normal for My Dog To Lick Me All the Time or Not?

Not all dog owners are enthusiast about the tendency of their pups to lick them. At some point, you may even wonder if their desire of covering you in wet attentions all the time is normal. The answer to this question strictly depends on what you mean by “all the time”.

If it’s an everyday behavior, but only happens occasionally throughout the day, you can rest assured that it is a perfectly normal behavior. After all, dogs can only communicate with us through their body language. Therefore, they will resort to licking any time they want to express a need or show a certain feeling.

However, if you notice that the licking is obsessive and that your dog cannot easily be distracted, it may be the symptom of an underlying problem. In most cases, the root cause is stress. As explained above, licking is both a soothing behavior and a way of expressing deference.

A great stress reliever for a dog is a chew toy, especially those with raised surfaces. This choice by EASTBLUE is not only pleasant for the average dog but incredibly resistant to wear and tear. Take a look at its listing here.

So, if your dog insistently licks your legs and feet, it may be going over the top with the display of submission because it thinks it has somehow hurt you. If you offer some kind of reassurance, like petting or playing, the behavior should stop.

Your dog may be licking you too much also because it feels that you are stressed out. Dogs are unmatchable when it comes to noticing even the smallest changes in our behavior. If they perceive that you are fearful or anxious, they will try to offer their support by licking you.

Have a look below for a video by a veterinarian’s insight to the behavior of your dog and it’s licking habits!

How to Stop Dog From Licking My Legs: 3 Easy, Effective Ways

Now we can say that licking legs and feet is, in general, a normal thing for a dog. However normal it may be, though, not everyone wants to be licked. There are various ways to discourage this behavior.

Before you go ahead with any of these techniques remember that, in order to successfully condition your dog’s behavior, you need to first understand from where that behavior comes from. In other words, you need to figure out what is the main cause of your dog’s obsessive licking and try to address it. This will make it easier for you to figure out which one of these techniques is for you.

Technique 1: Distraction

If your dog is a bit too eager to offer you a dose of love and affection through licking, the simple way to make it stop is by offering an alternative task they can perform. This technique is also known as “positive reinforcement training”. Treats that are easy to offer but also significant enough to be noted are ideal. An example of a ideal treat would be something like Milk-Bone MaroSnacks. Feel free to take a look at its listing here.

Introduce your dog to a different activity, like playing with a toy or going for a walk. If you taught them some commands, have them perform them and then offer a treat. If you haven’t, you can seize the opportunity for a little training session.

All in all, it all comes down to redirect their attention to something else that they like, and that you consider as more productive. This technique is the go-to for dogs that recur to licking when they are over-excited.

Technique 2: The Walk-Away

As we discussed, one of the main reasons why a dog licks your legs and feet is to get your attention. As such, if you want the behavior to stop, you just have to make very clear that you will not provide any attention if your dog continues licking you.

There are different ways to achieve your goal. You can let your dog lick your leg while you ostentatiously ignore it. Upon realizing that the licking is not working, it should stop. If you simply cannot stand another licking session, you can walk away every time that your dog sticks its tongue out.

You can also try and associate a vocal command with the action, such as “Stop” or “Leave”. It will take a bit of patience but, in the end, you will have a better-trained dog! This technique works particularly well for dogs that get fussy when they feel ignored.

Technique 3: Reassuring

Dogs do not only lick you to express affection or request attention. Sometimes, they may simply feel stressed out. If this is the case, using the techniques suggested above will make them feel rejected, increasing the stress and, in turn, the licking.

Therefore, you must offer some form of reassurance before attempting to discourage the unwanted behavior. Go for a small pet session, and make sure that your dog is relaxed and receptive. Only then can you use some distraction tactics or use a command to tell it to stop licking.

This technique is ideal for dogs that tend to get anxious or are very emotional. Addressing the licking issue calmly will make them feel understood and encourage compliance.

Is It Normal for Dogs to Lick Legs? Beware of These Signs

While it may be normal for dogs to lick your legs, can the same be said when they lick their own legs? Despite a common misconception that all dogs lick their legs, this behavior should not be regarded as normal.

To be sure, from time to time dogs will groom themselves through licking. But it is a rare occurrence, especially for dogs that live in a house. Therefore, when you hear the slurping sound that inevitably comes with a dog licking its own legs, this should ring a bell that something is not right.

This Chart Discusses The Areas A Dog Might Lick And What They Mean:

Description Of The Area A Dog Might LickPercentage of total results
Having your dog lick your face is a fairly ordinary experience as a dog owner. 33.33%
As well as licking your face, dogs have also been known to try and lick your mouth. 23.81%
Licking around the thigh and leg region is a display of affection from your dog.19.05%
Dogs licking a pet owner’s wounds is often a sign of endearment and is somewhat uncommon. 14.29%
An equally uncommon, but surprising behavior that dogs do is the action of licking the hands of their owners. 14.29%
Data derived from multiple online pet forums

Why Is My Dog Constantly Licking? 5 Most Common Causes

There may be many reasons why your dog constantly licks, but all of them belong to two categories: behavioral or medical licking. Behavioral licking is brought about by a state of psychological discomfort, whereas medical licking is caused by an underlying physiological issue. Let’s see what are the most common causes of excessive licking in dogs.

1. Stress

A dog may be stressed due to an unpleasant interaction with its owner. If you yelled at your dog or he feels that he has done something you didn’t lick, you may have unwittingly triggered the licking.

But other situations can increase the levels of stress of your pet. An example could be a displeasing encounter with non-friendly dogs or people. A change in the environment could also be the cause: a newborn in the house, a new puppy, or sudden loud noises can stress out your dog and prompt it to lick to soothe itself.

2. Boredom

Although we think of boredom as a human emotion, dogs can also be bored and, at times, frustrated. The level of activity a dog requires is different for each one of them, but some breeds need to have a task to perform at all times not to fall into the spiral of boredom.

This feeling is particularly tricky because dogs will do anything to relieve it, from scratching your furniture to licking themselves to the point of hurting their legs. Usually, it is sufficient to offer a toy or an alternative activity to perform. In the most persistent cases, impulse control training may be required.

3. Skin Problems

Stepping into the field of medical licking, skin problems such as allergies, irritations, wounds, or parasites can be the cause of your dog’s licking. In case of allergies, a dog will lick its front legs to try and clean them from the harmful pathogen. In most cases, a pill or injection will solve the issue.

When it comes to wounds, it could be something as innocuous as a broken nail or a bug bite, to something more serious, like damage to the spine. You should know that several dog illnesses manifest themselves with pain that radiates towards the legs. The licking, in this case, is caused by the attempt to relieve the suffering.

4. Nausea

If, in addition to the licking, you notice drooling and smacking of the lips, the culprit may be nausea. While in the wild or on the outside a dog would try to eat grass to stimulate regurgitation, inside the house it will be prompted to lick any available surface to get rid of the excess saliva.

In this case, you will notice an increased tendency to lick in general, while the focus of the attention will probably be the front legs. In fact, these come in quite handy as they are easily reachable even when your dog is lying down. 

5. A Matter of Age

On the one hand, this behavior is brought about by the fact that, with the advancing age, dogs will become increasingly irritable and possibly even develop an aversion for certain sounds, animals, or people. If this is the case, the increase in the levels of stress will be demonstrated by obsessive licking of the lips.

On the other hand, an old dog is more exposed to health issues that prompt dogs to lick themselves, from allergies to skin irritations and nausea. In this case, the dog will insistently lick the interested area to try and soothe the unpleasant feeling.

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