Most things about dog ownership are simply beautiful. But some things are not for the faint of heart.
Under the beautiful category, there are warm snuggles, energetic playtimes, and someone always happy to see you come home. In the less savory category? Picking up poop and anything, including the words “anal glands.”
Then there are those things that are kind of in-between. For example, your pup licking your arm. In moderation, you probably enjoy the affection. Still, if done in excess, you may just get sick of having a wet, slobbery arm!
…and why exactly does your dog lick your arm anyway?
It is normal behavior for your dog to lick your arm, but it can mean many things. Your dog may lick your arm for harmless reasons like showing affection or from compulsion due to anxiety. Generally, it is considered safe and okay for your dog to lick your arm.
In this article, I will explore the many different reasons dogs lick arms. I hope that by explaining the various reasons your dog may do this, you will be able to better decide if it is good and healthy for your dog to lick your arm.
Always wondered what it means when your pup saddles up and drags his tongue across your arm…repeatedly?
Well, join me to find out.
Here we go!
Your dog licking your arm may seem like a very surface action with one very likely explanation:
“They’re doing it because they love you” or “it’s their way of showing affection!”
And a lot of times, this is true. But interestingly, this is only one piece of the puzzle when answering the question of why your dog licks your arms.
There are actually many reasons your dog does this. Let’s take a look at some:
I thought I’d get perhaps the grossest reason out of the way first.
Researchers of the behaviors of wild canids like wolves, foxes, coyotes, and other dogs in the wilderness have observed that puppies tend to lick their mother’s muzzles and faces when she’s returned from hunting. In this scenario, the young wild dog is hoping to prompt their mother to regurgitate their food for them to eat.
A little icky and likely not the reason that your domesticated pup is licking your arm, but you never know…genetics and your pup’s wolf-pack roots run deep!
Your dog is likely licking you to show affection.
Your pup’s behavior was deeply programmed from their litter days with their mama. Between mom and pup, licking is a natural behavior that expresses love and cements their bond. So it’s only natural that your dog would continue their licking ways to show you that they love you too.
Dogs are often utilized as service animals for this very reason. They can easily pick up on human emotions and offer their love. When your dog senses that you may need some comfort, they could lick your arm to show you that they’re there for you.
Another habit harkening back to the mother and puppy bond, your pup could be licking your arm to groom you. Your pup’s mother used to lick them to clean them up when they were tiny.
Then, as your pup grew older, they began to lick themselves to carry on this grooming tradition. And now your pup is extending the ritual by licking your arm too!
This motivation for licking your arm may go way back to your pup’s wild pack-animal roots. In the dog pack dynamics, the leader receives licks from the other members as a sign of submission.
Your pup may be licking your arm to tell you that they recognize and respect you as the leader of their little pack.
Your dog may be licking you simply because they like what they taste!
Your body chemistry and the salt in your sweat may be a refreshing and welcomed treat to your pup. It may just be that simple…you taste good to them!
There technically isn’t a reason not to allow your dog to lick your arm. None of the reasons for your pup licking your arm are harmful, and the act itself isn’t unsanitary as long as you are a healthy adult.
In some cases, dogs licking babies, immunocompromised or elderly people in excess can be dangerous. This is because your pup’s saliva can carry pathogens that can infect these vulnerable groups. For these people, some licks on the arm could be harmless. But you certainly don’t want your pup licking these people’s faces or mouths.
Another thing you may want to consider is whether your dog may be licking your arm out of compulsion.
A healthy dog may give you a few licks here and there and then keep things moving. But if your dog’s licking seems to be more repetitive and zombie-like, they may be doing it out of boredom, anxiety, or a health problem.
If you have a hunch your pup’s licking is coming from a place of distress rather than love, it’s always best to take them to the vet and have them checked out.
If you simply prefer your dog doesn’t lick your arm, this is a completely valid desire!
You may feel bad if you feel this way like you’re pushing their love away. But this likely isn’t the case. There are probably other ways you enjoy experiencing your dog’s love…this just may not be your favorite!
In the instance you or anyone in your house would like to deter your dog from licking their arm, there are ways to do this.
First, you can always ignore your dog’s licking. This will help not reinforce the behavior with neither positive nor negative attention. You can also redirect their attention to another toy or game to immediately switch their focus when they start to lick.
It should be relatively easy to deter or redirect your pup’s licking ways. However, if you have trouble, you can always reach out to a trainer or your vet if you need additional help.
On the surface, it’s easy to assume puppy licks equal nothing more than an explosion of heart-eye emojis. But your pup is more multifaceted than that.
Your dog licking your arm can be a simple expression of love. It can also be them acting out of their basic pack-animal instincts of showing submission or desiring to be fed directly from your mouth. Your dog could also be grooming you…or simply love the way you taste!
On the darker side, your pup could be licking you out of compulsion, which can signal that there is something wrong with them, mentally or physically.
If you’ve confirmed your pup is healthy and you enjoy them licking you, I say, let em’ do it. Each relationship between dog and owner is sacred, and if this is a special part of your bond, there is no reason to stop the licks and love from flowing!