Why Do Dogs Lick Themselves?

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Licking is a natural behavior in dogs.

Mummy dogs can lick their puppies to clean them while puppies can lick each other when playing.

There are many reasons why dogs lick themselves, objects, and people. It could be that your pet wants to show affection or it could be a sign of anxiety or stress.

While dog licking seems like a simple behavior, it is quite complex and has a lot of different meanings. Learn more from this guide on why dogs lick.

Why Do Dogs Lick Themselves?

Most times, dogs lick to groom themselves.

However, pay attention to the licks as some dogs can over-groom their fur, which can lead to skin irritation or bald patches.

Also, note that if she’s very obsessed with grooming it indicates a medical condition or can be a sign of boredom, frustration, or anxiety.

Licking could also be a way of dealing with skin issues, injury, allergic reactions, or pain from conditions like arthritis.

Licking Me

There are many other reasons why dogs lick people, including attention-seeking or seeking rewards.

Often, when your dog licks you, you’ll respond positively giving them the attention they need.

Additionally, your dog could lick you because she thinks you taste nice. Research points out that humans have salty skin especially after sweating during workouts.

Therefore, the licks could be about seeking salt. She could also lick you to communicate a message.

Dogs can lick to say that they’re hungry or thirsty. If she keeps licking you with intensity, it’s worth checking if something is amiss.

Why Dogs Lick Faces

Dogs licking human faces or faces of other dogs is normal. It may be to show affection or to get your attention.

Other times, it can indicate that she wants food or is trying to socialize. A dog can also lick a stranger’s face to appease them so that they don’t threaten or do something harmful.

She can also lick the face of a child for appeasement or to clean food residue from their face.

But, be careful not to let her lick an open wound as she can be carrying bacteria, which can cause an infection.

Why Dogs Lick Paws

Injuries, skin problems, parasites, food allergies, boredom, and anxiety can make your dog lick its paws.

She could also lick paws to clean herself especially when she comes inside after walking on sandy ground.

Take note of the intensity of licking and when it occurs to determine if she’s suffering from a health issue.

My Dog Keeps Licking Her Private Area

Licking her private area especially in public can be embarrassing. But, this is normal behavior as she maybe cleaning the area after urinating.

If this is the cause, the licking should be just a quick swipe. However, if it is persistent, it could indicate a medical condition like urinary tract infection, allergies, etc.


It is possible that your dog is licking themselves because they feel irritated due to allergies.

There are several areas, including the crotch, sides, armpit area, and paws that can get irritated from various allergies.

When your dog feels this itching and irritation, they may lick to provide some relief.

If this only seems to happen a few times a year, then it is a good sign that allergies are the main culprit, especially if they happen to do it more during the spring.

If you notice that the skin is getting really red in the process or when it looks painful, it is time to consult with their vet.

Skin Issues

It is possible that skin issues could cause your dog to start licking themselves more than usual.

If your pet has an infection of the skin that is irritating them or dry skin that just won’t get better, they are likely to keep on licking because it provides some relief.

When the skin condition gets more severe than that, it is possible that the licking will continue, though it can make the condition worse.

It is a good idea to get the skin condition checked out immediately. All that licking can dry out the skin more and make the situation worse for your pet.

Visit a vet right away to discuss possible treatment options that will make your dog feel better and can stop the licking.


When your dog is bored or stressed out, they may decide to start licking themselves. Many dogs find that when they lick themselves, it can release some endorphins into their bloodstream.

This is enough to help them feel good, stay calm, and alleviate stress.

If there is something going on that seems to stress your dog out, or you notice that they are bored when they lick themselves, this is most likely the culprit.

Hormonal Imbalance

In some cases, it may be a hormonal imbalance that is causing your dog to decide to excessively licking themselves.

This is a hard one to discover and you may need the help of your vet to decide if this is the issue concerning your dog.

Hormonal imbalances can add more stress to your pet or cause their skin to dry out, all of which cause excessive licking on their own.

Your vet will be able to complete a full checkup to see whether this is the case and can provide the proper treatment to help your pet feel better.


There are a lot of things that can aggravate the skin of your dog. One of these can be a parasite on the skin.

A decent general guideline that you should follow is to check the skin of your pet.

If you notice that the skin starts to seem unusually red after they have been licking quite a bit, or you notice that they are experiencing baldness or hair loss, this could be a sign of a parasite and you may need to take them into the vet.

Final Thoughts

If your pet isn’t licking to a point they can harm him/herself, this behavior may be perfectly normal.

However, if his/her habits are bothersome or excessive, it’s worth taking him/her to a vet to check underlying issues. Additionally, dog owners are encouraged to use reinforcement training to curb their dog’s tongue bath.