Nothing feels greater than getting a sweet greeting from your dog every time they see you. Sometimes they greet you by bumping you, other times they get slobbery and lick you!
One weird yet tickly way dogs greet us is by licking our feet. While it feels like a massage, some find it downright unpleasant.
But what does it mean when a dog licks your feet?
We talk about how dog licking is instinctual and why dogs lick your feet.
We also discuss how you can stop them from licking your feet if you don’t like it.
Dog Licking is Instinctual
Dog licking is a natural form of communication and stimulation for dogs. What we consider “dog kisses” is an instinctual behavior that starts at birth.
Our dogs get it from their wolf ancestors and their mothers.
Their mother communicates with their puppies and stimulates them to start consistently breathing by licking their whole body.
Mothers also lick the puppies to clean them when they are born. All of this is for the sake of the puppies’ survival.
In the wild, wolves will lick their mother’s mouth to beg for food. They try to lick the meat from their mother’s previous hunting activity as a submissive gesture.
This means dogs also lick dominant members to show that they are the subordinate member of the pack.
Why Dogs Lick Your Feet
Now you know that dogs’ licking behavior is natural, but why do they do it to your feet?
Here are some possible reasons why your dog licks your feet all the time.
Your Feet are Sweaty
The most possible reason behind your dog’s love for licking your feet is sweat. Sweaty and stinky feet are full of smells that their nose and tongue will love!
Pheromones are one example. Sweat also contains salt, which many dogs find appealing. Salt flavors can stimulate the nerves in dogs, so they might just find your sweaty feet yummy.
Smell and taste are the strongest senses of your dog. They provide knowledge to them, and your feet tell a lot of stories!
It’s not just about your whereabouts, but also your mood! Apparently, dogs sense our emotions by simply smelling us and looking at our faces.
Your Feet Taste Great
Dogs love salty food. If you have sweaty feet, it could be the reason why they lick it.
But it’s not just that. Your flesh may remind them of chicken, or the callous on your toe may resemble a chew bone.
Dogs may also love the taste of whatever you’ve walked on. If you accidentally step on spilled ketchup, it can cause them to lick off the residue.
Or they enjoy the gross stuff! If your dog loves hanging out in the garbage and playing with dead things, check that fungus problem on your feet. As gross as it is to you, they might be enjoying the taste.
Affection and Respect
The most known reason dogs lick our feet is to greet us and show affection. Because our feet are the most accessible parts of the body to our dogs, it’s the part they lick the most.
It may just mean that they are happy that you just got home, or they want to play a game of fetch with you.
Dogs will lick your feet to show honor and respect as well. It means that your pup sees you as the leader of the pack.
They acknowledge that they are your dog, and you are their master, and they are enjoying their role!
By displaying this act of domesticity and submission, your furry friend guarantees their place in the family and accepts the rules and order of the house.
Sometimes, it can be as simple as the fact that your dog is self-soothing. If your dog has behavioral problems, they will do everything to release endorphins.
Licking your feet or themselves is just one way to pass the time. Beware of this licking behavior once it becomes repetitive to the point of obsession.
Your dog’s frantic licking may indicate that they are overly stressed. They might be lacking physical and mental stimulation, or they are experiencing separation anxiety.
Licking your feet due to separation anxiety may happen every time you get home from somewhere. It can be accompanied by destructive behavior and barking.
Dogs will try to lick your feet to tell you they want attention and approval. It could be their way of asking you for food, a toy, or a hug.
Most especially, dogs perform a behavior that drives sudden responses when they want attention. When they lick your feet, you might laugh, move, or talk to them.
That provides reinforcement for them to do it all the time.
Should You Worry When Your Dog Licks Your Feet?
No, occasional licking of your feet is nothing to worry about. Unless the behavior becomes repetitive and obsessive.
Your dog only licks your feet because they feel comfortable around you. Remember that they won’t be doing this if they don’t feel safe around you.
Mutual grooming is a sign of affection and submission. It strengthens your relationship and provides an opportunity for bonding and more training.
As mentioned, the lack of licking stimulates a release of positive hormones among our furry friends, specifically oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone associated with bonding and emotional attachment. So don’t be annoyed when your dog only wants to bond and show some love for you!
And besides, it’s just your feet. It’s better and much safer for them to lick your feet than your face or hands. This helps avoid the spread of bacteria.
Just make sure that you don’t have open wounds on your feet, and you wash them right after they lick you!
But if you do not like what they are doing, you can simply distract them from the action.
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking Your Feet
If your dog’s licking behavior starts becoming a nuisance, you can stop them by addressing the root cause of the problem.
Treat Your Feet
Your dog may enjoy licking your feet because there’s something on it. Make sure to keep your feet clean, so any dirt, food, or sweat is removed.
You also want to clip your toenails and remove the hard, dead skin from your feet.
However, if the sweat buildup and the odor are uncontrollable, you should see your doctor.
They may prescribe antiperspirants so you can have sweat-free feet without your dog trying to get a taste!
If it is not too hot, you could try wearing socks or slippers for a while to see if it makes a difference deterring your pup.
Treat Separation Anxiety or Fear
If you think that your dog’s licking behavior is a behavioral problem, try helping them cope with their fear or anxiety.
Anxiety in dogs shows itself in many destructive and undesirable behaviors. Fear-related anxiety can be caused by loud noises, strangers, or visual stimuli.
We have a comprehensive guide on helping a fearful dog which you can check out.
Separation anxiety may also lead to excessive licking of you once they finally see you.
They were unable to find comfort while they were alone, so they might be compensating now by licking you.
Lastly, your dog may be experiencing cognitive dysfunction, although this is only common among senior dogs.
Distract Your Dog with a Toy
If your dog enjoys playing with your feet because of the chewy texture, a toy can help.
Offer your dog a toy to distract them from your feet. This may be more common if you have a teething puppy.
Some dogs also lick your feet just because they have nothing else to play with. This toy will be their new favorite!
Aside from curbing the licking behavior, this corn-shaped dog toy can also clean their teeth. The protrusions are arranged to reach their incisors, fangs, and molars.
Train Your Dog
We know our dog might just want our attention, so we should not punish them for this behavior. After all, licking is an instinctual behavior among our furry friends.
Instead, use positive reinforcement techniques. This means rewarding your dog for good behavior.
When training your dog to stop licking your feet, timing is essential. Give a reward right away if they stop when told to.
This will make them associate stopping the behavior with rewards, leading them to ignore your feet all the time from now on.
If your dog does this behavior to other members of the family, everyone should use the same commands as well. The safest and simplest command is “stop.”
Otherwise, they can get confused if everyone is using different commands.
If your dog won’t keep their tongue in their mouth after trying out all these solutions, consult your veterinarian.
Your dog may have an underlying medical or behavioral condition.
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking Their Paws
Aside from your feet, your dog may also be licking their paws incessantly. There can be several reasons why they are doing this, such as:
- food allergies
- behavioral issues
Dogs lick their paws when they are in pain as a form of self-soothing behavior. This can be internal or external.
Make sure to rule out these problems with your veterinarian.
If it’s not a health issue, your dog might be suffering from anxiety too.
To alleviate boredom and anxiety, try taking your dog for more walks, runs, or playtime. Give them toys for mental stimulation and chew toys to keep them busy.
These activities will take their focus away from their paws.
Don’t wait too long to resolve the licking behavior because the moisture on their paws from their saliva can cause more bacterial or yeast infection.
Treatment for this may involve anti-itch sprays, antibiotics, or anti-fungals.
If your dog compulsively licks their paws, training them to stop this behavior also helps.
We have more information on how to stop dogs licking their paws.
FAQ Dog Licking Behavior
Are Dog Licks Really Kisses?
As mentioned, dogs lick us for many possible reasons. It’s hard to tell what they are communicating.
Try to look for other behaviors that accompany their licking to identify what they are saying. For example, licking your feet then running around may mean they want to play.
Dogs show their love in many ways, not just kisses! Check out their different love languages now.
What is My Dog Trying to Tell Me When They Lick Their Paws?
As with licking our feet, dogs lick their paws for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes, it just feels comforting to them. Other times, your dog may be in pain.
Dogs usually lick themselves as a self-soothing practice. The pain they are experiencing can be internal or external.
Find out other signs of pain in dogs now and treat the root cause before their licking behavior becomes infectious!
How Do I Brush My Dog’s Tongue?
If your dog harmlessly licks you all the time, you need to make sure their tongue is clean!
It’s hard to clean their tongue, so the best method is to let them lick dog toothpaste on their toothbrush.
Change the angles of the brush every few moments so they can also change the angle of their tongue.
Before reaching for your tube of toothpaste, find out why you should not use human toothpaste on dogs!
Dog Kisses are More than Just Slobber!
There’s no problem with your dog licking your feet if they do it out of affection and not frustration!
Aside from giving you slobbery kisses, your dog may lick your feet because they love the taste of your sweaty feet.
They may also do it because they receive instant attention from you through laughs.
Give your dog enough attention so they don’t develop undesirable behaviors like excessive licking!