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Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs?

Does your dog have a tendency to lick your legs—not just every once in a while, but seemingly incessantly?

Would you like to “cure” your dog from engaging in this persistently annoying activity?

If so, the information presented in this article may prove to be very useful.

Dogs can behave in any number of irritating ways.

Some of these occurrences may be rare and thus tolerable, if not cute, but when the conduct becomes incessant it might be time to intervene.

Stopping a dog’s unwanted behavior before it becomes a fully ingrained habit can ensure a much more amenable relationship between you and your pet.

In this article, we will briefly outline and explain the many reasons why your dog may be licking your legs.

We will also offer some proven suggestions for curbing this behavior.

My Dog Licks My Legs—Why?

We all enjoy the occasional lick from our dog.

Since dogs aren’t able to actually tell us how much they love us through words, we view these affectionate licks as a sign of that love.

And while some of these licking instances are indeed driven by love and affection, there are actually several other reasons a dog may engage in this behavior—some healthier than others.

Moreover, when those occasional licks turn into a constant, maddening trend, intervening can help address some of the causes and bring the conduct to an end.

Here are just some of the reasons your dog may lick your legs, starting with affection.

Affection

Sometimes, a lick is just a lick.

In other words, there are some occasions when that lick means exactly what you think it means:  affection.

As a dog owner—a domesticated dog owner—you provide a lot for your pooch that would otherwise be difficult for him or her to obtain.

You provide food, shelter, warmth, clean drinking water, grooming and even doctor visits when they are sick or injured.

Licking, then, is simply your dog’s way of saying he appreciates you.

Dogs are social animals and they can be very affectionate.

This affection likely stems from feelings of confidence and safety—attributes you have provided them.

If these licks are infrequent and timely, simply take them for what they are and be happy.

However, if they become incessant, you may want to turn to one of our solutions below—in the section entitled, “My Dog Is Licking My Legs—Solutions.”

What’s in It for Me?

While we humans sometimes do nice things out of the goodness of our heart, often we have an ulterior motive in mind.

Husbands, for example, may send flowers to their wives on the day before they want to golf; and small children may clean their rooms before asking their parents if they can go to the movies.

Dogs also have a similar bartering system.

They obey our commands in the hope of getting something in return—a treat or a pat on the head—and, yes, they may even lick our legs as a way to ask for something they want.

They may begin licking our legs when they feel hungry or thirsty, as a way to remind us to fulfill those duties.

They may want to go outside or go for a walk.

Sometimes they lick our legs just to beg for the reciprocate amount of love and affection in return.

Attention-Seeking Behavior

In a way, licking behavior aimed at “getting attention” sort of ties in with some of the reasons already stated.

Because dogs have limited ways to get our attention, they are likely to turn to the most innocuous method to accomplish that goal.

In many cases, they have already figured out that barking tends to bring about negative attention, so when they want us to dote on them, they instead turn to licking.

There can be a myriad of reasons why dogs seek attention.

They may want us to pet them, feed them or look around to see what they see.

And as you will see in our “solutions” section, if they are regularly successful at attaining our attention in this manner, they have zero motivation to stop.

I’m So Excited

Just like their human owners, dogs can get excited for a lot of different reasons.

In fact, they are much more likely than are we to get excited about the “little stuff” in life, such as simply eating, taking a walk or going on a car ride.

In our house, every time I go near the wall hook on which my dog’s leash is hung, I notice that she is eyeing me very intently.

And on those occasions when I actually grab the leash?

She immediately goes nuts:  dancing, yelping and licking my legs.

In the canine world, licking for excitement is a centuries-old behavior—one that will not end any time soon.

Puppies and young adult dogs are most prone to this excitable behavior, but it can even happen in aging dogs; dogs who still appreciate the little things in life that most of us take for granted.

I’m Bored

This next one—licking our legs out of boredom—tends to happen when we are sitting or laying with our dogs.

While we have a plentitude of tasks and leisure activities to keep us busy—reading, watching TV, surfing the web—dogs that are not eating, playing or running outside may simply get bored from the inactivity.

This boredom can sometimes lead them to lick our legs.

Boredom tends to go hand-in-hand with the “attention-seeking” reason for this conduct.

It’s a dog’s way of saying: “hey, have you forgotten about me?”

Usually, ignoring these pleas of boredom is enough to get them to stop, but if it persists, you will definitely need to apply one of the solutions we have highlighted in the next section.

Exploration

Almost the moment a litter of puppies is born, those puppies begin exploring the immediate world that surrounds them.

Their eyes are either still closed, or the concept of eyesight is still new, so this exploration is achieved via two other prominent senses—smell and taste—which is why they are so inclined to sniff and lick at this early age.

If you have a brand new puppy in the home, and that puppy simply never stops licking your legs (and other parts of your body), you can usually chalk up the behavior to simple exploration—as a way to get to know you; how you smell and how you taste.

Typically, once they have fully explored their new environment and become more confident and self-assured, the licking behavior will slow or cease altogether.

Grooming

When a mother dog licks her pups it is usually a sign of grooming.

Similarly, when your dog licks your legs, sometimes he/she is merely trying to smooth out your rough edges.

Grooming in this way, just like barking and other behaviors, is a trait with which canines are born.

Fortunately, if you make it known that you prefer not to be groomed in this way, the behavior will usually stop.

Anxiety

There are a number of inexplicable dog behaviors that can be attributed to anxiety.

Dogs can become anxious for a number of reasons, including being introduced to a new environment, a new family member or even a new pet.

Some dogs chew, dig or urinate when they are anxious, while others may lick.

If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, he/she may exhibit unwanted behaviors when you are away from the home, and turn to licking you excitedly upon your return.

Submission

Just like pooches can exhibit anxiety in a multitude of ways, so too can they show submission.

In the wild, canine species like wolves, coyotes and foxes tend to submit to those atop their hierarchy by licking, among other behaviors.

When this is the case with your dog, the licking conduct may be nothing more than a signal of your position as the alpha in the pack.

Taste

Last but not least, sometimes your dog may be licking your leg simply because he enjoys the taste.

When we perspire, we emit a salty discharge that is pleasing to our dogs.

He may also be attracted to the scent of the soap you use, which is why many dogs tend to lick our legs when we exit from the shower.

My Dog Is Licking My Leg—Solutions

There are many ways to deter your dog from licking your legs, but first you must determine the reason or reasons he is engaging in this behavior.

For instance, if your dog is licking your legs as a way to show or get affection, to get rewards or your peek your attention, or is merely excited or bored, you must show him through consistency that this conduct will not reap the desired response.

Try this:  When your dog licks your leg, instead of petting him or giving him the attention or affection he craves, do the opposite.

Ignore him completely.

If this does not work, get up and walk away when he starts to lick you.

Then, wait a few minutes and sit back down.

Continue to do this until your pooch becomes very aware that licking you will not produce the attention or affection he seeks.

To reinforce this, be sure to show lots of affection and attention when he is NOT licking you.

Do not reward your dog once the licking has become a problem.

This means no petting, feeding or even surrendering your attention when he licks.

Over time, he will begin to recognize that licking, just like barking, is NOT the way to get what he wants.

If boredom is the impetus for the problem, you may want to purchase some toys that help distract your pet while you are reading, studying or watching TV.

This will help take the focus off of you.

Finally, if your dog is licking you incessantly because of anxiety or separation anxiety, be sure to engage with him through activities like walks and one-on-one time.

When this is consistent, often your dog will become more relaxed and self-assured.

If the problem persists, talk about it with your vet.

There are several medical and non-medical interventions that have proven successful against all types of canine anxiety.

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