Like many other Chihuahua owners, I enjoy carrying my little pooch in my arms. When I pet her or give her a head scratch, she would respond by licking my arm. But why does my dog lick my arm, and if my dog licks my arm so much, does that become a problem? Here’s the short answer.
Why does my dog lick my arm? Your dogs lick your arm for many reasons including showing you their love and affection, displaying behavior of submission, or even grooming you. While occasional licking is completely normal, licking your arm constantly could be a sign of health issues.
We’ve read tons of comments from dog behaviorists and some explain that it’s simply the dog’s way of getting attention or it could be OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). Whether your dog likes to lick your arm or likes to lick the floor, be sure to monitor him closely. Now, let’s find out why your dog licks your arm so much.
Why do dogs lick your arm when you pet them?
As we pointed out above, licking is perfectly normal behavior for our canine friends. It’s an instinctual behavior that allows them to survive after being born.
For instance, you’ll notice the mother dog spending a lot of time licking each and every one of her puppies after giving birth to them. This act of licking her puppies is crucial because it helps clean up the mess and nurture her puppies at the same time.
Just like a nurse would advise a mother to put her baby on her chest to establish that skin-to-skin contact and build the bond between the mother and baby, the same applies to the mother dog and her puppies.
When a mother dog licks her puppies, she’s creating that bond. Since puppies can’t eat right after they are born, they heavily rely on their mother dog. They will try to find their mother’s mouth and lick it to get some food.
Sometimes, you’ll find puppies licking their mother’s body and this is a way to keep them warm.
As we can see, licking is not only for survival during puppyhood but also a way to create that special bond between the puppy and the mother dog.
As the puppy grows older, that licking behavior stays with him. If you have other pets in the house, your dog may also lick the other dog. Licking is one of the ways they communicate with each other.
If your dog suspects the other dog is dominant or dangerous, he may lick the other dog’s snout to show submission or deference. This is a behavior that dogs learn in order to communicate with each other.
Similarly, your furry friend may lick your arm to communicate with you, to show that he loves you and appreciate you, or to show submission. But are there are reasons why dogs lick your arm? Let’s find out next.
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Why do dogs lick your arms?
If your dog likes to lick your arms so much, you’re probably wondering, “what does it mean when a dog licks your arm?” There are actually many reasons why dogs lick your arms and hands. Here, we will discuss 6 reasons why.
1. Dog licking my arm to show affection and love
You’ve probably received many wet, drooly, and slobbery licks from your dogs, and assume that your canine friends are giving you kisses. This is true! Your K9 pals are showing you their love and affection.
If you’ve been gone for most of the day, you’ll be greeted by your pup’s wet kisses because it’s their way of telling you that they missed you so much. When dogs lick you, they can get a chance of where you have been. That’s because they have powerful noses and can smell if you’ve been with other dogs.
Last summer, I visited my mother’s good friend who has a White Pitbull. When I came home a few hours later, my Chihuahua walked up to me with her tails between her legs because she could smell the Pitbull’s scent on me. Every time I went to pet my Chihuahua, Lily, she would bark at me like there’s no tomorrow.
I tend to hold my Chihuahua in my arms since she is small enough to carry and she would lick my arms every now and then. This is my Chihuahua’s way of expressing her love and affection towards me. Without a second thought, I immediately shower her with more love too. I would scratch her head and behind her ears.
In return, my Chihuahua licks my arms and hands and anywhere she can reach. This cycle of giving each other affection never ends between the dog and its owner. I believe my precious pooch is trying to thank me for giving her love and happiness.
After doing this a couple of times, it dawned on me that I was unintentionally encouraging her to lick my arms every time she wanted either head or ear scratches.
2. Dog licking my arm to get my attention
The next time your dog licks your arm, observe carefully the timing of this behavior. If your precious pooch starts licking your arm after you’ve been away for an extended period of time, then he or she is trying to get your attention.
Your dog wants to have some playtime with you. I love to bake and I’ll sometimes sit down on the kitchen floor to watch how the pie is doing inside the oven. When I sit down, my Chihuahua would quickly run over and lick my arm.
My Chi is probably telling me that I’m spending more time and attention on my pie and should be paying attention to her. So I would sit with her, play a little tug of war, and give her a cuddle while we both wait for the pie.
3. Dog licking my arm because he likes the taste
You’re probably aware that dogs sniff anything and everything around them to explore the environment they’re in. Licking is another way that they explore the world around them.
When puppies are first born, they can’t see or hear yet. So they rely heavily on their nose and tongue. You can expect puppies to lick anything and everything they come across, including human arms, hands, legs, feet, and faces. This natural instinct only remains as the dog grows older.
Dogs that give you a pointed small lick on the arm mean that they are trying to explore and enjoy the taste they’re receiving. Our arms and skin generally have natural sweat on them whether we are aware of it or not. Your dogs probably know this and enjoy licking your arms because they enjoy the salty taste from your arm.
If your pooch is licking your mouth, then she is trying to taste the food you’ve just eaten.
4. Dog licking my arm to show empathy
If you’re crying or feeling sad, your dog may lick your arm to show empathy or to try to change your mood for the better. There are many studies that show that dogs can sense when their owners are feeling down and upset.
Dogs will lick their owners’ arms or hands to try to distract their owners or to try to lighten up their owners’ mood.
Imagine this: You’re crying or feeling sad about something. Your four-legged friend starts licking your arm. Immediately, you’re distracted from your thoughts and you feel comforted that your pooch is there for you. You both look at each other and the oxytocin hormone is released, which makes both of you feel good and happy again.
As we can see, this is your pup’s way of expressing their empathy and sympathy. It’s also their way of providing comfort and support to try to help reduce your stress if you’re feeling stressed out, anxious, worried, or nervous.
You might also like: Why Does My Dog Lay On Top Of Me?
5. Dog licking my arm to show submission
For generations, your dog’s ancestor survived in wild wolf packs. To show that the leader was the alpha, other wolves in the pack had to lick the leader’s snout to show submission, deference, and obedience.
If there was one dog that haven’t been with the pack for a while and comes back and join the pack, he would be greeted with licks as a sign of welcoming him back into the pack.
Similarly, if your dog licks your arm or hand, then it’s a sign that he is being submissive and that he missed you.
6. Dog licking my arm to show signs of grooming
A mother dog will often lick her puppies in order to groom them. You’ll also notice dogs licking themselves to groom too. Since this is a learned behavior, your dog may simply lick your arm for no apparent reason at all or just for the fun of it.
If your dog is licking your arm with noisy long licks, then he is trying to groom you.
Some dogs have a habit of licking their owners’ arms before they fall asleep. This behavior may come from their puppyhood years when they were in the litter.
Should you let your dog lick you?
As long as your dog likes to lick your arms or hands and not anywhere near your face (such as your eye or mouth), then their licking habit isn’t really harmful to humans.
It’s important to note that you should take safety precautions after touching or handling your pooch. You should clean your face and arms thoroughly after the following interaction with your furry friends:
- Your dogs lick you.
- You’ve provided them with nice long pets, scratches, and belly rubs.
- After you’ve given them a bath.
- After playing catch or a game of fetch.
Hopefully, this is something you’re already doing.
If you have a cut or an open wound on your arm, try to keep it away from your dog’s face. If your dog licks the open wound, the bacteria from their saliva or anything they’ve licked recently can cause easily and quickly cause a serious infection.
When I was younger, I heard this old saying, “a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s” and this is unfortunately not true.
There are many studies that prove how dangerous a dog’s saliva can be. In fact, studies show that there are hundreds of different bacterias in the dog’s saliva, thus their mouth is definitely not cleaner than humans’ mouths.
Our dog’s veterinarians and doctors advised not to let our dogs lick or kiss our mouths. If you are immunocompromised, we highly advise that you do not let your pups lick anywhere near your face because you may be at a higher risk of contracting harmful bacteria from your dogs.
The same goes for dogs that are sick. If you know your dog is not feeling well, avoid letting him lick your arm, hands, or face (eyes, nose, and lips).
If your pooch licks you while he is sick, you’ll want to clean the area thoroughly. Try to get into the habit of washing off as best as you can after handling your dog.
Excessive licking in dogs: can this be a problem?
It’s relatively normal for dogs to lick your arms when they feel happy, excited, or trying to show you their love and affection.
However, if you, a member of your family, or a friend you’ve invited over does not like this behavior, then here’s what you can do to try to get your dog to stop licking you, your family member, or friend:
- Get up and walk away from your pooch when they lick your arm, hand, or face.
- Deny your dog’s attention.
- Once your dog stops licking you, reward him for this behavior so he learns not to lick you and that not licking you is the right behavior.
Be observant of your dog’s behavior at all times. If your fur babies lick your arm or hand occasionally, then that’s perfectly fine. However, if you notice your dogs licking the floor excessively or licking themselves a lot, then it could be a sign of allergies, pain, or anxiety.
For instance, dogs that lick their paws a lot may tell you that there may be a fungal infection in their paws. Their paws are constantly itchy so they resort to licking their paws a lot and the itchiness could be due to parasite infection.
If your pooch has sore muscles or joint pain, he may lick these areas to try to soothe that pain since licking releases a chemical messenger in the body called endorphins which triggers a positive feeling that your dog is seeking.
Excessive licking that causes hair loss or skin damage is harmful to dogs. We highly recommend that you consult with your vet and inform the vet when this licking behavior started and what your dog would lick. Your vet will perform a full-body exam and find out why your dog is licking excessively.
When dogs lick your arm occasionally, it is pretty normal and harmless. It’s one of the ways that dogs communicate with their owners. Your four-legged friends are simply trying to show you their love and affection, their submissive and obedient behavior, or trying to get your attention. It’s a learned behavior from when they were puppies.
Sometimes your pups may be curious about that salty taste from your arm and will lick your arm a few more times to figure out that taste.
Be mindful of how you react when your dog licks your arm. If he gets rewarded with a belly rub, head scratches, or a treat for licking your arm and your face, then he will continue to lick you again and again.
If you do not like this licking behavior, then there are ways to teach your dogs not to lick you.
Some owners enjoy this and welcome the licking (I sure do!) as it’s a great way to bond and get some of that oxytocin hormones released.
Remember to wash your arms and hands after your dog licks them to prevent any bacterial infection, especially if you have an open wound. And make sure they don’t like your mouth after they’ve gone outside to potty.
While they’re simply trying to show us their love and affection, being safe and responsible is key and it’s up to us as owners to enforce that.
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I’m a pet lover who has years of pet sitting and grooming experience. I thought it would be a great idea to share my experience with all pet owners so they can also keep their canine companions healthy, happy, and clean!