Does your dog tend to lavish your arm with licks, leaving you with slobbery skin and a little confusion?
If you’re wondering why your dog licks your arm, read on to find out!
Why Does My Dog Lick My Arm?
Your dog may lick your arm for a wide variety of reasons. These reasons typically involve the expression of affection or as a way of collecting information.
A dog licks in a different way for different purposes, but it’s not always possible to tell why exactly your dog is licking your arm this time.
9 Reasons Dogs Lick Their Owner’s Arms
1. To Show Affection
Your dogs have probably showered you with affection through licks loads of times! They’re like doggy kisses, an excitable show of love that’s adorable and just a little messy.
It can mean that your dog’s missed you after a long day or may just be a cute way of saying “I love you”. A dog may simply prefer to lick your arms because of their close distance during cuddles, or it may lick your face or feet, too!
2. To Display Empathy
Does your dog tend to lick your arms most when you’re feeling a little sad?
Dogs often try to lighten the mood and comfort you by showing empathy through their licks. It’s their equivalent of putting an arm around you.
Dogs are quite insightful and can perceive when you’re upset or feeling down or anxious. Your dog’s licks will stimulate the production of the love hormone oxytocin, which can make both of you feel better.
It’s a wonderful thing for a dog to lavish you with its sympathy and care!
3. Because It Likes The Taste
Dogs are funny little animals. They like the strangest smells and tastes, and your arm can serve as a bit of a tasty treat to them, as weird as that sounds!
Your arm might have sweat that tastes tangy or salty to dogs, or, since your arm smells like you, a dog may want to lap it up.
If your dog tends to give you small, tentative licks, it’s likely its way of savoring the taste of your skin.
4. To Get Your Attention
Dogs have limited methods of communication with human beings, as they can’t speak or show any obvious gestures in a way that all of us can easily understand. That’s why dogs will resort to other behaviors to grab your attention when needed.
Some dogs automatically lick as a way of bonding with or grabbing the attention of those around them.
But what’s likely happened with you is that you often respond to your dog’s licks in some way. The first few times your dog licked you, it learned that doing so would get a reaction of some sort from you, perhaps often one of affection or attention.
As such, now when your dog needs attention, it will lick you to get it. It’s a tried and true method, as far as the dog’s concerned! If your dog tends to lick you when you’re busy or occupied, chances are this is what it’s going for.
5. To “Explore” As A Puppy
Puppies, especially very young ones, are still learning about the world around them. Even after they open their eyes, they’re inundated by so much to learn and discover!
They use all of their sense in this exploration and curiosity, so it’s not just sniffing around and pricking up their ears. They’ll also use their tongues to taste things to explore and inspect them properly.
If you have a puppy who is licking you and many other things, this is probably its way of exploring.
While many dogs outgrow this behavior, a fair few adult dogs will continue to use their tongues and sense of taste as a way of exploring the world around them – and the people and animals they share a home with!
6. To Groom You
Have you ever seen a mother dog with her puppies? These mama dogs groom their babies by licking them vigorously as a form of “bath”.
Dogs then learn this behavior from their mothers and do it to their siblings, their doggy friends, and the humans they love!
A grooming lick is typically quite noisy and very long and raspy. Some dogs will do this right before you or your dog is trying to fall asleep, harkening back to the days when a mother dog did it for them!
7. To Learn About Your Day
Dogs pick up a lot of information from various forms of sensory input, and taste is a big asset to them.
If you’ve been out all day and smell a little strange, your dog may try to learn about what you’ve done throughout the day by licking your skin. This is usually accompanied by various sniffs as your dog investigates you.
8. As A Sign Of Submission
Wild dogs survive in wild packs with different dogs and often showcase their submission to older leaders in their packs with licks. This usually involves licking older dogs’ snouts.
Today, domesticated dogs retain some of those instincts and may lick your arms and face as a show of submission or togetherness as a part of your pack.
9. To Copy Other Dogs Or Animals
If your dog has seen other animals perform licking behavior, it will likely copy those actions without really thinking much about it.
The learned behavior can therefore be performed just for fun, as part of a bonding activity while your dog snuggles with you.
How To Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Arm Too Much
The best way to stop a dog from excessive licking is the same way you’d try to train away any unwanted behavior: positive reinforcement.
When your dog starts to lick your arm, immediately stop giving it any attention, then stand up and walk away or stand and hide your arms behind your back.
Your dog will likely be confused at first. Wait a few seconds for them to settle, then return to sitting down and petting your dog as normal, praising your dog with gentle rewards. You can use a small, simple treat as a reward, but this is not necessary.
When your dog inevitably licks your arm again, repeat standing up and getting your arms out of reach.
Keep doing this again and again until your dog learns that licking your arm will mean you stop giving it affection until it stops licking so it can get your praise.
You may also try to redirect your dog’s attention to a toy whenever it begins licking your arm, but this is not necessary and may cause a false association between play and licking.
Should I Be Concerned About My Dog Licking My Arm With Lotion/Oil/Perfume On It?
It’s usually okay to let your dog lick your arm if perfume, oil, or lotion has already had time to sit on your skin for a while and either absorb or dry.
However, if you have just put on these products, it’s best to keep your dog away until they dissipate into the skin or air a little bit.
This prevents your dog from consuming potentially toxic chemicals.
It’s more important to stop your dog from licking you when you have an open wound. The pathogens in dog saliva can lead to a pretty nasty infection if your wounds and cuts haven’t healed or clotted yet.
Dogs can lick your arm for so many different reasons, and this isn’t usually a cause for concern. Keep your dog away from your arm if you have open wounds or have just applied some sort of lotion or perfume product, and you can always opt to train the behavior away with positive reinforcement if needed!