Pet labrador licking female owner feet

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Feet?

Dog owners around the globe know that their furry friends like to lick you. They do this for a number of reasons that may not make sense to us. One area dogs like to lick are the feet, which can seem puzzling to most owners, and unpleasant to those of you who have ticklish feet or just don't like your feet being touched! The question we will look at today is why dogs lick your feet and what can be done to stop this habit if it's an issue.

Why Dogs Like to Lick?

Dog playfully licks girl's face

Licking is normal behavior for our canine friends. It's their way of taking in their surroundings and communication. Dogs have an extra sensory organ, known as the Jacobson organ. This organ connects your dog's nasal cavity to the roof of your dog's mouth, allowing your dog to be able to smell and taste at the same time.

It's part of what is known as the Flehmen response. It's a necessary tool that allows your dog to sniff out chemical signals and pheromones that are released by other canines as a means to communicate both sexually and socially.

If you've ever seen a female dog with new puppies, you will notice that she licks them often. This is how she cares for them, cleans them, and communicates her affection. It helps to stimulate their need to use the toilet. Puppies will also lick their mother's when they are hungry. So, it's a behavior that is normal and learned early in life. Dogs will also use licking as a social response to their “pack” or family.

Another reason that some dogs may lick is out of anxiety or when showing submission. This can sometimes turn into a compulsory habit and is a lot like when we bite our nails when we feel nervous or anxious.

If it's anxiety toys for anxiety will help, as well as other tools such as anxiety vests and calming collars.

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6 Reasons Why Your Dog Licks You

Puppy licking owner's hand

Some common reasons why dogs lick are listed below:

1. To communicate or get attention – your dog may lick you to let you know it wants to go for a walk, wants to play, wants a treat, or just to let you know they are there.

2. They think you need to be cleaned or groomed.

3. Cleaning wounds – you may have noticed your furry friend going for wounds you have. It's their way of trying to clean it for you.

4. As a sign of submission – your dog may use licking to show submissive behavior or to “apologize” after they have done something wrong.

5. Playtime – most dogs will use their teeth when they are playing, but this is a behavior that we discourage. Instead, they will use licking when playing with us.

6. A sign of affection – just like mother canines lick their pups to show affection, dogs will lick their owners as a way of showing affection as well.

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Why the Feet?

Dog licking owner's feet

Our feet give off tons of biological info through sweat, such as pheromones. Licking the feet can tell a dog a lot about us and our well-being. Dog's also like the salty taste of sweat and can be drawn to your feet if they have been hot and sweaty. Your dog also knows that, when they lick your feet, you are more likely to respond to them right away. 

This can develop into a behavioral issue every time your dog wants attention, but it is something that you can train them not to do.

Licking your feet is also your dog's way of showing respect and honoring you as their caregiver. Licking is an enjoyable habit for canines and is normal for the most part. However, excessive licking of themselves or you can be a signal that there is an issue.

Most common causes of excessive licking in dogs include:

  • Allergies
  • Infections
  • Parasites
  • Dry Skin
  • Boredom and Anxiety
  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Hunger or dehydration
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Aches and pains
  • Neurological problems
  • Anal sac issues
  • Dental diseases

Something else to keep in mind is that your feet can harbor bacteria that can be harmful to your dog and make them ill. The same goes for licking open wounds, which can also harbor harmful bacteria for your dog.

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How To Stop Your Dog From Licking 

Before you correct your dog's licking behavior, it's a good idea to find out why they are doing it, to begin with. If it's excessive, taking them to the vet to rule out any health or anxiety issues is a good starting point.

If your dog is licking your feet purely for enjoyment, and it isn't bothering you, then it's OK to let them lick away! If your dog is licking your feet as a compulsion, for example, to soothe themselves when they are anxious, it is best to try to find a different way for them to cope with this.

A study in 2008 showed a strong link between excessive licking symptoms and gastrointestinal disease. So finding the root cause of the problem is imminent, you could detect an early onset of a serious medical condition, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Chronic Pancreatitis. 

Never punish your furry friend for licking!

You will need to use positive reinforcement when training them to stop, or finding ways to distract them when they start licking. 

Using toys and food can be helpful when training them not to lick.

Puppies tend to learn faster than older dogs, so it may take some time and patience if you are trying to teach your old dog a new trick.

Remember, they have been doing this for most of their lives and it can take around a month of training to break the habit.

Things You'll Need

Some tools that you should get before you start are a few food puzzle toys and a deterrence collar. Also, make sure you have a good supply of their favorite treats. Training requires about 10 to 15 minutes a day and it's important that you wash your feet after training. There are 3 effective methods that you can use.

Stop Method

With this method, you are training your dog to stop licking when you command. First, you need to teach them to lick when you command.

Step 1

Choose a command work, like ‘Lick’. When your dog begins to lick, use that command, and do it in a voice that is upbeat.

Step 2

When your dog licks on command, reward him with a treat. It may take a few days for your dog to get the hang of the lick command.

Step 3

Once your dog has the lick command down, you can move on to using the “stop” command. When your dog begins to lick your feet, use the stop command in an upbeat voice.

Step 4

When your dog stops licking on your command, reward him with a treat. Continue to do this for a few days.

Step 5

After you have had about a week of training success, you are going to move on to using your stop command without giving treats. You may need to cut out the treats gradually but continue to use the stop command whenever he starts licking.

Deterrence Method

With this method, you are using a “no” command to deter your dog from licking.

Step 1

When you see that your dog is about to start licking, use a firm “no” command in a loud but non-threatening voice. Your dog needs to understand that this is not acceptable behavior.

Step 2

In this step, you will be using a deterrence collar, which releases a citrusy spray around the dog's face. A good collar to look at is the Downtown Pet Supply Citronella Collar. These are a humane option for training your dog. As soon as your dog begins to lick, you just press a button and out comes the spray. This helps them associate licking your feet with an unpleasant experience. It may take a few days for your dog to get the point.

Step 3

This step makes it clear to your dog that he has done something wrong. When he begins to lick, use your “no” command and the deterrence collar, and then remove your dog from the room. Refrain from giving him attention.

Step 4

After you have removed your dog from the room, leave him in another room for about 30 seconds for a time out. Make sure he is not playing with toys or others in the house when in time out so that he can equate licking with negative consequences.

Step 5

You will need to set out some firm rules with anyone else in the house while training. This means making sure no one encourages your dog or laughs when they begin to lick feet. Everyone needs to be strict or your dog won't learn the lesson you are trying to teach. If someone is laughing when he licks their feet, it makes your dog think it's a good thing to do.

Distraction Method

With this method, you will be distracting your dog when he goes to lick, to take his attention away from the compulsive behavior.

Step 1

Using exercise as a deterrent is your first port of call. A lot of dogs who misbehave tend to be bored and need to burn off excess energy. The goal is to tire your dog out during the day so that he naps a lot.

Step 2

Using tricks as a distraction is another tool. Have your dog perform a trick when they look like they are about to come over to lick your feet. Teaching him to “stay”, “sit”, or “lay down” is a very productive way to shift that energy from feet licking to something more positive.

Step 3

Once your dog has performed his trick, make sure you reward him with a treat. This is a good way to teach your dog that licking feet isn't the only way he can get a treat or attention. It shifts the focus from feet licking to tricks.

Step 4

Remember, some dogs like to lick as a way to seek attention. So, make sure you are giving your furry friend enough playtime during the day so that he is getting positive attention.

Step 5

This is where those food puzzle toys come in handy. They are made to entertain your pooch for hours, taking their mind off of feet licking. Some good options are the Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball or the Trixie Mad Scientist for Dogs.

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Things to Consider With Licking

Some dog owners don't mind their dogs licking them, whether it is the feet, face, or hands. But there are some things that you should think about before letting your furry friend lick you.

Where has their face been?

Dog sniffing grass

Your dog will pick up everything he finds fascinating with his mouth. 

This can include feces from other animals and dirty water. While most of the organisms they pick up may be harmless to your pooch, it can make you sick. A dog's nose is also a place that comes into contact with bacteria and organisms that can be harmful to people.

Organisms, such as parasites, viruses, yeast, and bacteria will thrive in a canine's mouth. Now, most of these things will be harmless to your pooch because they have built up an immunity to it. However, some of these things can be harmful to you, such as e. Coli and salmonella. This is even more dangerous if you have an immune system that has been compromised. So, before you let your dog lick yourself or others, bear these things in mind.

Discouraging dogs to lick the faces of small children is also recommended to avoid them licking inside of a child’s mouth and making them ill.

Summary

Your fur baby's need to lick is not always a bad thing and is something quite natural to them. Of course, there are situations where it can become an issue, for example, if they lick anyone's feet that come into the home, including guests. There is also the concern of bacteria and organisms that can be living in your dog's mouth that can make us human beings ill.

With the 3 methods mentioned above, you should find the best option to help train your dog to stop their foot licking behavior and focus it on something more positive. Also, taking a trip to your vet is a good way to rule out any underlying issues, such as anxiety and fear. You'll have your pup free from his licking behavior in no time at all!

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