Why does your dog lick you?
Updated: Jul 2
Licking is a very interesting behaviour. Having owned Georgie, my little Toy Spoodle, has changed my views about licking.
She is a very highly strung little girl, extremely sensitive and highly intelligent, gentle but also courageous. A very interesting, complex combination. She has taught me many things about dog training as many of the more traditional theories and methods didn't work with her. It has sent me on a journey of discovery and made me a better and more intuitive trainer as a result.
One of my interesting discoveries was licking. Georgie has always been a licker. By licking I mean licking people. All dogs will lick themselves to self clean. That is not the behaviour I am talking about here.
If you allowed her, Georgie would lick every part of your exposed skin. Most people assume that this is a sign of affection and I initially did too until I discovered that the more she licked the more anxious she became and the more badly behaved she also became. It seemed she would start gently and then the behaviour would quickly escalate into more and more licking. This would then turn into pushy behaviour. I also discovered that if I tried to pacify her, the licking became more intense. I then tried to stop her with a gentle push away. It didn't work and indeed made her more determined to lick.
This I realised was actually a power play. Georgie had started with a gentle lick to 'test the boundaries'. I had allowed it so she thought 'great I can take control now'. Once I understood the dynamics of what was going on it was an easy fix. The second she licked I pushed her out of my personal space firmly. I made it very clear she could not be near me if she licked. I didn't do this in a rough or aggressive manner but I was very firm about it. Then I waited for her to settle away from me and then re-invited her back in. She came back to me, settled gently and calmly in my lap, with no licking. A different dog altogether.
It is always important to try to work out the reasoning behind behaviours. Dog training is not a dictatorship but it is also not an equal partnership. It is about showing leadership in a strong but fair and reasonable way.