Dogs sometimes do things that we don’t like and licking our feet is just one such thing. Dogs are indeed designed to communicate just by actions and not with any words. Trying to communicate with dogs is similar to learning a foreign language, in fact, harder than that because we don’t know any familiar letters here. Always understanding what your dog is up to is always very important in creating that bond with him and developing a good friendship. After all, dogs are the best friends humans can have.
A study in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology says that any intimate behavior like licking, preening, etc indicates this action is meant to enhance relationships. A dog’s tongue travels to a lot of unsavory places in a day but that certainly will not stop them from kissing or licking their owner. Licking is a sign of a multipurpose behavior and there is no specific reason to point out for doing this.
Feelings When Dog is Licking
A major reason for a dog licking its owner’s feet could be its submissiveness to its master. It is an important way for your dog to show its happiness in its submission. This act is one way of showing the acceptance of the rules set by the family. If your dog does not feel comfortable with you then it would never show such kind of feelings towards you.
Licking, in the animal world, is a sign of grooming one another. Studies say that the hormone oxytocin is released during such acts. This hormone is known as the love and trust hormone. This could be the reason your dog displays his love for you by licking your feet. Puppies learn to lick from their mother and so for them licking could be an act of showing love.
Dogs lick to show respect and honor too. They know that you love them and they are your pet. They just love this role and are very contented in your companionship. They also like you as this habit brings them enjoyment.
Your pet loves you the utmost and will always want your attention. They try to lick your feet to show that they love you and want your attention. Sometimes you may have missed out on its hard stare, nose tap or you may have pushed him away when he tried to lick your hand. They may feel offended after such attempts in trying to make you notice him and hence they will push themselves more to try to capture your attention. For short heightened dogs licking your feet will be the only way as they cannot reach up to your hands. Your pet could also be doing this to show you that you are missing out on something for example his empty water bowl.
When your dog licks your feet you respond immediately. You may laugh at him or move towards him, talk to him so this could make him feel that this is a nice way to get your attention. Sometimes you may yell at him when he licks your feet but your tone will show that it does not mean danger to him and he would feel happy that he managed to get your attention. He may also lick your feet just to get that extra scratch from you behind his ear. So all this will make him feel that it is a game of interaction. Licking your feet will make him take it very playfully.
Gain Information About Your Dog
When your dog tries to lick your feet it could also mean that he is trying to gain some information about you. Dogs have millions of sense receptors in both their nose and mouth. These receptors will send signals to their sensory nerve thus collecting information. Human sweat glands release salt, water, and waste products. This salt gets combined with oils secreted by the sebaceous gland. Dogs on licking such a mixture can garner a lot of information about the person. Because of their very good sensory receptors by licking our feet they can sense our mood, where we have been and with whom and what we have been in contact with.
Reason to Encourage Licking Behaviour
If your pet has the habit of licking then it is better to first find out why he is doing it. He could be licking your feet out of desire, seeking attention, or when he needs something. If so then it is better that you allow him to lick your feet and encourage him sometimes for doing this.
Licking is one way of communicating for animals and is not harmful at all. If your dog is licking you for natural or positive reasons then do allow him to do so. Sometimes by licking you they could be trying to soothe themselves. Your feet display the smell of you. By licking you he may be able to soothe himself of any anxiety or negative emotions he may be having.
If your pet is licking you out of compulsive behavior or is getting into the habit of being attached to your feet then find other ways to help him overcome this. Even after trying other ways if he still does not manage to get rid of this then it is better to take your vet’s help. This way your dog can be helped to get rid of this problem up to some extent. Licking could thus be balanced.
Why your dog could be licking your feet
There could be various reasons why your dog got into the habit of licking your feet. Some of them could be :
- First what happened: If your pet did not have this habit earlier then you have to think about what had happened when he first licking your feet. Maybe some incident had occurred when he first licked your feet that makes him think that it is okay to do so. If he has started it suddenly then it could be because you rewarded him when he did it the first time. Maybe you do not give him the much-needed attention of late so he feels by licking your feet he could seek your attention.
- Is something different when he does it: Check out if there is any specific time he tries to lick your feet. If your pet tries to do it more whenever you return home, then it could be more likely because of the excitement of seeing you back home. Then it is better to ignore it and later reward him for not licking you.
- Grooming: Dogs have the habit of grooming by licking on their own body. They will also try to groom others just like how a mother dog licks her puppies.
- Boredom: Maybe your dog is bored and is trying to encourage himself to be active. This could mostly happen if he is not getting enough exercise. So he should get his daily dose of exercise.
- Natural behavior: Puppies always tend to explore the world by licking or smelling at things. So this habit may develop and become unmanageable as he grows older.
- Anxiety: Sometimes when your dog licks your feet it could mean he is sending out a signal over some anxiety or any underlying health problem.
How to stop him from Licking your feet
In the beginning, when your dog licks your feet excessively you may just laugh it off. But if he continues with this habit of licking your feet or anybody else’s feet constantly then he should be taught to stop it.
- The best way to stop this is not by punishing him or shouting at him. Simply ignoring this habit will only help in encouraging him to do this more. Instead, he should be taught to do something else which is acceptable to you and reward him every time he stops from the tendency to lick your feet.
- Chewing toys are available for dogs in the market. So keep one handy with you. The next time he comes and licks your feet throw the toy at a little distance away from you. When he runs after it and grabs praise him for doing it. You could also use a puzzle toy with treats in it as an alternative for rewarding him. Do this often as only then your pet will realize that you will reward and praise him only when he chews at the toy rather than licking your feet.
- When your dog tries to lick your feet try to stand up and walk away from the room so that he does not get a chance to lick. Wait for some time and then return to the room to check if he still tries to lick your feet. If so give him some attention and then again walk away from the room. Keep repeating this so that he knows that licking your feet is not acceptable to you even though you give him attention.
- Try to give your pet the attention he requires. Do this throughout the day so that it does not give him a chance to come and lick your feet to get your attention. But even after several attempts if your dog still licks your feet then definitely talk to your vet. He may require anti-anxiety medicines only for a short time until you teach him to change his behavior. Remember never to give your pet any medicines without prior checking with your vet. You could also consult a canine behavioral specialist if any individual recommendations are required.
Problems you or your dog could face because of Licking of your feet
Licking your feet gives you a very tickling feeling. There is nothing wrong if your pet is licking your feet and is a very normal behavior of dogs. But try to keep your feet always clean if your dog has the habit of licking. If your feet are dirty then the bacteria from your feet will get into your pet during licking and make him sick.
Dogs carry bacteria in their mouth. So licking your feet can cause infection. In a rare case in Isreal, a woman got infected on her feet with Streptococcus canis a rare infection transmitted from dogs to humans. It was found that she got this infection from the innocent licks of her puppy. Even though this has not been proved as her pets were not tested but still, a risk always stands for you for an infection.
Also if your feet have any wound, ringworm, or fungus then there is a chance that you will land up with infection by his licking.
There is a positive part also to dogs licking your feet. It is found that those with an athlete’s foot get some relief when their feet are licked by a dog. This is could because of the antifungal property in the dog’s saliva. Even though no case has been reported of a dog being infected because of this, but it is still better to go for alternate solutions to treat an athlete’s foot.
Dogs or humans, we always tend to feel wanted, collected, and loved. For dogs, licking is a way to achieve whatever they want as well as to communicate with their outside world. Dogs need love and attention and when they get this they will always thank you by wagging their tail or licking your feet, etc. If you support them, love them, and take care of all their needs then this can only help you and your pets to stay more connected.
We may never really figure out what our dog is thinking when he is spending a little time just enjoying licking our feet. But as long as he is healthy and fine and does not overdo the licking, it is better to let him enjoy it. It is just a fascination with you that makes him get fascinated with your feet as well maybe because you happen to be his favorite person. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy his unconditional love!