Dog licking is a pretty common behavior, especially for puppies but will commonly carry into their adult lives. Fortunately, our hands, feet, and faces are some of the more popular areas for our dogs to go after but it’s our feet that will usually experience this peculiar behavior. While it might feel funny, it raises the question of why our dogs love feet licking so much.
Below, we look at the most common reasons why dogs lick your feet.
Why Do Dogs Lick Your Feet?
Before you bought or adopted your dog, it most likely had siblings; mother dogs will naturally teach their pups to lick and groom each other to form a familial bond. When your canine companion does the same for you, it’s communicating that it considers you to be part of their pack, or that they simply want to take care of you. Puppies also have the instinctual behavior to lick their mother’s face to get attention or food and may do the same to you.
However, when dogs lick human feet, there may be different reasons that we might not fully understand, which are explained below.
It’s a Sign of Affection
Before you reach for the alcohol bottle, remember that this is part of your dog’s natural behavior and makes up a part of your pup’s upbringing. As mentioned, mothers will often lick their puppies to soothe and groom them — this will happen quite a lot before their eyes even open. Mutual grooming is common among puppies of the same litter, so your pooch is simply sharing what it knows with you.
Moreover, scientific research has shown that endorphins (happy hormones) are released from dogs’ brains when they lick their pet parents. When you think about it, licking is the best way for our dogs to tell us that they love us. But because dogs love the taste of salt, they’re more likely to give us smoothes when we sweat.
They Need Your Attention
When a puppy is hungry, it will lick its mother’s face to get food, so it may carry this behavior over into adulthood. This could be a signal to give your dog attention — however, you shouldn’t give your dog negative attention whenever it licks you to avoid it from continuing in the future. If you’re unhappy with your dog’s licking habit is for your attention, be sure to get in touch with an animal behaviorist or dog trainer for ways to break this.
They’re Grooming You
Dog owners can get dirty too, and a dog believes it will be able to help you get clean by grooming you through foot licking. Just like their mother used to do for them, dogs think that licking feet is a good idea and that they’re helping you, especially if you have injured body parts. However, you will need to consider that contact with open wounds could result in bacterial infections, so be sure to keep them covered.
It Helps Soothe Them
Sometimes, our furry friend might engage in occasional licking to overcome a sign of stress — licking helps to release endorphins, which can naturally calm them. Anxious dogs may lick feet as a coping mechanism that helps to give them comfort during unfamiliar situations. In such cases, both the endorphin released from their licking and your scent helps to calm them.
They Do it Out of Curiosity
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell which is roughly 10,000 times better than ours. They also have a pheromone detector known as Jacobson’s organ, which is located inside their nasal cavity, so there’s no telling what kind of scents they can pick up from around your home. They might also be attracted to stinky feet, but it’s best to keep them away if you’ve applied lotion or other potentially toxic products like nail polish.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Own Paws and Feet?
While constant licking on the feet of their family members may be considered normal, dogs shouldn’t engage in excessive paw licking. Some licking behavior is fine because dogs are meant to groom themselves, but obsessive licking can cause infections and blisters. Behavioral issues that stem from licking may eventually break your dog’s skin, which can then lead to fungal or bacterial infections, so it’s best to correct your dog’s behavior before it gets worse.
An underlying cause as to why a dog licks incessantly is itchy skin. Other potential causes for this strange behavior may include food allergies, flea allergies, itchy paws, or a paw injury. Skin irritation may also occur if there are foreign objects lodged between their paws, there are environmental allergies, or medical conditions such as a yeast infection.
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking Your Feet
While dogs believe that licking feet is a nice thing to do for their owners, it isn’t always received as a sign of submission or affection, and not everyone at home will appreciate the behavior. Remember that you should never punish your dog for a behavioral problem but you should try to address the underlying issue instead. Below are a few things you can do to curb this dog behavior.
Take Away the Temptation
Keep your bare feet out of sight if you don’t want your dog licking it in the first place, so be sure to cover your feet with shoes and socks. If your pooch begins to lick your feet and it’s an unwanted behavior, you can hide your feet and firmly say a command word like “Stop.” However, if you believe that your dog is licking itself due to health problems or an allergic reaction, it’s time to take your dog to the vet.
Redirect their Behavior
Sometimes, removing the problem won’t be enough to solve the problem. If your dog has already dedicated its life to your toes, you’ll need to distract it with something better to convince it to move on. Peanut butter, a chew toy, or a lick mat are all great tools for distracting your dog; additionally, puzzle toys can encourage your dog to use its mouth and brain away from your feet.
Reward their New Behavior
While licking a dog’s paws is completely normal, some people may not like it, especially a ticklish dog owner, which is why you need to use positive reinforcement techniques. Once your dog has adjusted its behavior and unlearns its obsession with your feet, you can reward it with new dog foods or toys, or you can even praise it. Repeat this until your best friend is completely occupied by the new activity and has stopped destructive behaviors.
However, you also need to ensure that your dog’s call for attention is met to ensure that it doesn’t go through separation anxiety and go back to its old habits. Be sure to take a closer look at its body language and give it distractions whenever it starts to lick its own feet. Spending plenty of time to play with them is an effective way of keeping them happy and loved.
Dog Licking FAQs
To get quick answers to the points discussed above, here are some of the most commonly asked questions about why dogs might lick ours and their own feet.
Is it Okay for My Dog to Lick My Feet?
Yes, this is totally fine because it’s in their nature to lick themselves and those they want to care for. They also love to sniff and are utterly fascinated by the library of smells that you pick up whenever you leave your house and take with you once you come back home. Moreover, pup licking for your feet triggers a release of endorphins to your dog’s brain, which can further encourage their behavior.
Finally, this is a behavior that all dogs do to give their loved ones a thorough cleaning, or to seek comfort and attention from their owners.
How Can I Stop Dogs from Licking Me?
If you’re not a fan of your dog’s licking skills, the good news is that there are things you can do to help your dog stop. First, start by removing your feet and firmly but gently tell them to stop using a command word consistently. You can also distract them with toys and treats or you may give them some praise to encourage the development of better behaviors.
If you feel that your dog is doing it to get attention, you simply have to ignore it and hide your feet until they do something else. When it gets the message, give your dog the praise and attention it deserves.
Is it Okay for Dogs to Lick Their Feet?
It’s completely normal for dogs to groom themselves, but excessive paw chewing or licking may lead to health issues such as a secondary infection. When left untreated for long periods of time, this can get worse, and lead to quickly declining health, especially in older dogs. If you notice that your dog has skin conditions or a health concern, be sure to see your vet right away.
Is it Alright for My Dog to Lick My Feet?
This is completely fine unless you have an open wound, have diabetes, or are wearing foot lotion. But if you don’t like the sensation, you can always train your pup to leave your feet alone by distracting them with other things like toys and treats or by hiding your feet.
While feet licking may not seem like a great way to show our love and affection as humans, dogs find it soothing — there are also other reasons dogs do this. Apart from indicating medical issues, dogs may also lick to get your attention, ease their anxiety, provide affection, and may even lick out of pure curiosity. But no matter the reason for your soaking feet, you should never punish your dog for doing something that it learned from its mother.
Instead, be sure to use positive reinforcement to teach it when it is and isn’t appropriate to lick, and how to enjoy more productive behaviors in its place.