Picture of a dog licking a person's hand - why do they do that?

Why Does My Dog Lick My Hands? (The Answer May Surprise You)

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Many dog owners may have the same questions regarding their dog’s licking habits: why does my dog lick my hands and feet? Licking can be normal when raising a dog, but excessive licking can signify a more severe issue.

Read on to learn more about why your dog licks your hands and what you can do to help the licking stop.

Why Do Dogs Lick Hands?

Most of the time, licking hands and feet is a normal part of dog ownership. However, excessive licking can indicate pain, discomfort, or allergic reactions. Dogs may also lick to convey emotion, like affection, or get information about where their owner has been and what they have touched.

However, some owners may wonder: why does my dog lick my hands after I wash him, and why does my dog lick my hands at night?

These licks could be a simple way to convey affection and get information about what kind of products you use or things you’ve spent your day doing.

What Happens if My Dog Licks My Hands?

Nothing happens when your dog licks your hands or feet. The only thing this builds is a bad habit of excessive licking. However, proper training and using keywords with your dog can help keep this habit at bay.

How Can I Keep My Dog From Licking My Hands?

Your dog may want to share information with you, and licking can be their method of choice. However, many dog owners do not enjoy excessive licking and may prefer their dogs to stop licking them so much.

There are several ways you can help your dog to stop licking your hands and feet so much, although it may take time.

Training

Use training treats and plenty of praise to help your dog understand what you expect from them and what you want them to do. Proper training and keywords can help your dog understand that excessive licking is not something you want from them.

Consider employing a consistent schedule to ensure that repetition helps your dog keep their training at the forefront of its mind. Even short training sessions, like 15 minutes, can help your dog keep up with your expectations.

Offer Alternatives

You can give your dog something else to play with or use to keep them from licking your hands and feet. For example, toys, puzzles, or a scoop of peanut butter may keep them occupied and away from your hands and feet.

Tips from Our Vets

Dogs make excellent companions and bring so much joy to our lives. Unfortunately, however, they cannot speak to us.

If your pet exhibits odd behavior, it can be worrisome and difficult to know if the behavior is normal or a reason for concern.

Not sure why your dog is exhibiting a specific behavior?

  • Some behaviors can seem very odd but may be completely normal.
  • Others could signal illness or injury.
  • Due to the lack of ability for a dog to communicate with us verbally, it is imperative to pay close attention to what the dog is telling us through their behavioral changes.

The most important takeaway is that if you are ever concerned about a behavior that your dog is displaying, your best resource for information is your veterinarian.

In general, a new behavior that is not typical for your dog should be investigated. Examples would be:

  • Not eating
  • Suddenly sleeping more than usual
  • Being reluctant to go on walks or to play
  • Becoming aggressive or grumpy when interacting with other people or pets

These behavior changes most commonly indicate that something is wrong, and your pet needs to see their veterinarian as soon as possible. It is much easier and more likely to be successful, to treat an illness early in its course as opposed to waiting until the dog is very sick.

Other odd behaviors include:

  • Eating feces
  • Chasing their tail
  • Sudden bursts of activity (known as the “zoomies”)

These may be completely normal. However, if you notice a drastic change in your dog, for example, they never exhibited one of these behaviors, and now they suddenly are, it is prudent to have them examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if the behavior is normal, it may lead to unintended issues.

For example, young dogs consuming their feces or the feces of other dogs can be a normal behavior but can lead to gastrointestinal upset as well as intestinal parasitism.

Parasites from your dog can cause serious health complications, not only for your dog, but also for you and your family, as many are transmissible to humans.

Licking of the feet or scratching may seem like normal dog behavior but typically indicates a health issue such as allergies, fleas, or skin infection.

Left untreated, these issues will worsen and cause additional discomfort for your dog.

Remember that your best source of reliable health information for your dog is your veterinarian. Because dogs cannot verbally communicate with us, it is essential to be proactive with any possible health concerns.

Working with a trusted veterinarian as your partner will ensure many happy and healthy years for both you and your dog.

Final Thoughts: Why Do Dogs Lick Hands?

Dogs can lick a lot, and it can be difficult for both dog and owner when licking gets out of control. Dogs may lick for various reasons, but there are ways to help squash excessive licking before it gets too much or frustrating.

Keep in mind some facts about licking:

  • Dogs lick to convey affection and information.
  • Dogs may lick excessively to show how much they love you.
  • Licking can be controlled using training methods and repetition.

With time and patience, you and your dog can get licking under control and prevent any growing frustration.

If you’re looking for answers to explain your dog’s behaviors, you can check out our series of guides on why dogs do what they do:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.