Has your dog taken a newfound interest in licking you? Does it precisely like licking your legs? Are wet, slobbery kisses your dog’s way of greeting you?
The licking may be regular if the dog does so occasionally. And if you do not mind the behavior, there is nothing to be worried about.
But there can be a possibility that the dog may obsessively lick your legs. This can be annoying and unpleasant. There could also be health reasons triggering such behavior.
For example, liking could be how dogs show affection, groom, or show they are submissive to you. But serious concerns like stress and anxiety could also trigger the behavior.
So, if you are wondering, ‘why does my dog lick my legs,’ the article will explore the reasons behind the same. We will also look at techniques that may help you stop the behavior.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs? – 8 Possible Reasons
If the licking is how the dog communicates with you and shows that you are part of the family, that is not a cause for alarm. But if the dog is stressed, then vet care may be necessary.
Let us look at eight reasons dogs may lick a human’s legs.
1. It is a form of Affection
Licking is a natural behavior in dogs. In fact, it is a common behavior you may have seen with many other animals.
Once the puppies are born, you often see the mother licking them. The primary purpose could be to keep the puppies clean and groom them. But it also helps the mother and child bond.
As the puppies grow, licking transforms into social behavior. It is how dogs show their affection.
So, suppose the dog is licking your feet while lounging on the sofa, watching television or reading a book, or spending quality time with the pet. In that case, the behavior can be a form of affection.
The licking may or may not be limited to your feet. For example, if it is a small puppy, it may only be able to reach up to your legs, or if it is sitting on your lap, it may lick your face.
2. It is an Attention-Seeking Behavior
All dogs require some level of attention from their owners. However, some dogs may like to be the center of attention regarding their human family. You may walk and play with them, but they would still want to spend time with you.
For example, breeds like Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, and Border Collies would want more attention than other dogs.
These dogs are also intelligent. So they will understand ways to gain your attention when you are alone, minding your own business. Licking your feet is the one way they may go about it.
For example, when the dog licks, do your pet, play, or talk to it? If yes, you are reacting to the licking. So, the dog learns to lick and get your attention, and you will engage with the pet.
3. It is a form of Greeting
If the dog is seeing you after an extended period, licking could be its way of greeting.
For example, you enter through the main door, and the dog runs towards you, licks your legs, and puts its front legs in the air, waiting to be picked up.
The behavior can be traced back to the dog’s ancestors. And the compelling reason for such licking was food.
According to research on wild dogs, wolves, and coyotes, the puppies would lick their mothers once they returned to the den after their hunt. Licking was how they would get the mothers to throw up their food.
The domesticated puppies of today, who enjoy the comfort of the modern world and regular feeding, may not want to throw up your food when you return, but the licking behavior has stuck around.
4. The Dog is Being Submissive
Pack members would lick the pack leader to show their submission. It was a sign that the pack members trusted and respected their leaders. Again, this is a reason that can be traced to the dog’s wild ancestors.
Do not take submissive behavior in the wrong way. So if the dog licks or sits close to your feet, it can signify submission. It means that your dog trusts you and is comfortable around you.
Some dogs may show dominant behavior, trying to establish themselves as the ‘alpha‘ member.’ But we can consider leg licking the opposite. The dog accepts you are the ‘alpha’ member and respects your position.
5. You Taste Good
This may seem like a weird, or unappetizing reason, but your dog may like how you taste. And when we say you, we mean your sweat in particular.
Dogs recognize their human family through their smell and taste. For example, when you sweat, it is not only water but also salts that are released from your pores. These salts are what the dog likes to lick.
So, if you have come back from a run or a workout session, chances are you will find your dog licking you more aggressively than usual.
It is also possible you may have dried sweat on your skin. You may not realize it, but your dog will happily lick it off your skin.
6. It is Grooming You
Licking their skin and fur is a common way of grooming in the animal kingdom. Mothers will first groom the puppies by licking them. Then the puppies will learn the behavior and start licking themselves.
They will often lick their paws and then use the wet paws to clean hard-to-get areas. So, if you sit near your dog with bare legs, the dog will try to lick you.
The act of grooming is like a social bonding experience for the dog. It can be a good stress reliever and also a way to show affection.
Your dog will not try to groom every other person it sits next to with bare legs. It will only try to groom people it is comfortable with. So, if you get the special grooming treatment, know that it is a sign your dog loves you.
7. The Dog is Stressed or Anxious
If your dog is stressed or anxious, it may invest time in destructive behaviors. For example, it may lick itself obsessively, you, the furniture around, or the floor. This is one of the serious reasons behind ‘why does my dog lick my legs?‘
Occasional licking is fine, but if you feel the dog is going overboard, then you need to investigate the cause.
For example, loud noises could be a trigger for the dog. So, whenever the dog hears the doorbell or the sudden honk of the car, it can get stressed. If you are around, it may start licking your feet or other objects to seek comfort.
The repeated action of licking can help the dog calm down. The taste of your skin, in particular, can help it relax.
If the cause is stress or anxiety, it would be best not to ignore the behavior. Instead, visit the vet, who can help you identify the cause and prescribe treatment accordingly.
8. It is a Behavioral Problem
The same behaviors can become problematic if the dog spends hours indulging in them. For example, it is normal if the dog licks for a few minutes, grooming itself. But it is a problem if it also starts licking you and leaving every furniture or wall surface with its slob.
Boredom could be the cause of such excessive licking.
If it has nothing better to do, it will divert its attention to destructive behaviors.
The dog could also suffer from health issues, and the repetitive behavior could be its way of seeking comfort from the pain. Please contact the vet if you see a sudden change in your dog’s behavior.
Should I Worry If My Dog Licks My Legs?
Most dogs will lick their owners to get close to them. The licking will not be limited to your feet. If your dog has always licked you to show affection or excitement, there is nothing to worry about.
As long as you are fine dealing with the dog’s slob, you can go by your day as usual.
If the licking is a new behavior, you must pay attention to the pet. When did you notice the behavior change? Is the dog showing other signs like weakness, drooling, or loss of appetite?
If yes, then please get in touch with the vet for a proper diagnosis.
How to Stop the Dog from Licking My Legs?
Some pet parents like to be slobbered with their pet’s kisses, while others do not prefer being drenched in their pet’s saliva. There is no right or wrong in this situation. It is your choice, nothing to be guilty about.
If you want your dog to stop licking you, here are techniques that may help.
The next time the dog comes to lick your feet, ignore it. Do not push the dog away or scold it. Because if the dog is trying to get your attention, even though you react negatively, it is still a reaction.
If you aim to stop the behavior, then punishing the dog will not help.
You can fold your legs or cover them up in a blanket. Then, if the dog still tries to lick, you can sit up or stand and walk to a different room.
2. Do Not Encourage the Behavior
What did you do the first few times when the dog licked your legs? Did you pet and cuddle with it? Did you reward it, ‘you are such a good boy?‘
If you have any kind of positive reaction, you taught the dog that licking your legs is good, and you appreciate the behavior.
But now the dog has made it a habit, and it is starting to get annoying for you. This is why you should be careful about encouraging behaviors in pets.
You can use the ignore technique to help the dog realize its behavior is not appreciated.
3. Use Distractions
When the dog tries to lick you, direct its attention to a more favorable activity. For example, you can use toys, puzzles, chewy treats, or soft plushies to redirect the dog’s attention from your legs.
Any play-related tools have a higher chance of being acknowledged by the pet than food.
This may seem like an obvious technique, but exercise alone can do wonders for your pet’s body and mind.
All dogs require exercise, but the frequency and difficulty level will vary. For example, a 30-minute walk will be good exercise for some dogs, but for others, an hour of walking along with playtime may be necessary.
It would be best to meet your dog’s breed’s physical and mental exertion quota. This pent-up energy, with no outlets to release, drives them towards destructive habits like excessive licking.
Exercise can also help manage stress and anxiety in dogs.
Why does my dog lick my legs? Well, your dog loves you, and licking is its way of showing its affection towards you. It signifies that the dog trusts you and considers you a part of the pack.
Licking can be its way to show excitement when it sees you after a long day or to appease you. The dog could be grooming you like it grooms its puppies.
Another weird reason for the behavior is that your dog may like how you taste. These, though, are harmless reasons behind licking.
Reasons like stress, anxiety, and behavioral problems are a cause of worry and are best discussed with the vet.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.