You have just sat on the couch after a long day at the office (or kitchen depending on how you are using the space during the age of Zoom). Your dog trots over to you and begins to lick you. Many of us view this as our canine’s way of kissing. But is this true? And, what happens if your dog licks too much?

It is still undecided what the meaning is behind this behavior. Some researchers believe that licking maybe your dog’s way of signaling you to vomit up your lunch for them. This behavior is seen in wild puppies. They often lick their mother’s face after she returns from the hunt to get her to regurgitate her latest kill. However, your dog may also lick your face because you taste good. We, humans, have slightly salty skin, especially after we have exercised. Our dogs may be licking us more to seek out salt instead of giving affection. Dogs may lick our faces to also taste the remnants of our last meal. Some researchers believe that while licking may have started off as a food-seeking behavior, the behavior has become a ritualized form of greeting between pack members. Licking can be a form of affection, signaling a feeling of comfort and security felt by your dog.

So, in short, licking can mean lots of things for your dog. But what do we do when our dogs lick too much? The best way to curb this behavior is to redirect your dog. Attempt to engage them in another activity or give them a problem-solving toy. Dogs may also resort to this behavior if they are bored. Walking your dog, a little further or more than once a day might help your dog burn off the extra energy. If your dog has engaged in excessive self-licking, to the point where they are unable to be redirected, call your vet. It may signal an underlying injury or health condition.