Dogs certainly like to lick all manner of things for all manner of reasons, and this can range from being adorable to being annoying and possibly unhygienic! Some dogs particularly have a thing about licking around the mouth of other dogs and even people, and if your dog tries to “kiss” you in this way, you should discourage them from doing it for hygiene reasons.
But have you ever wondered why your dog might wish to lick your mouth, or that of other dogs? Licking around someone else’s muzzle can have a variety of meanings, and learning about them can help you to interpret what your dog is saying, either to you, or to another dog. Read on to learn about why some dogs like to lick other dogs or people around the mouth.
Just as dogs will often circle around each other sniffing each other’s butts, so too will some dogs use licking around the muzzle as part of their greeting ritual. If two dogs are licking each other’s mouths, or one dog appears to be grooming the other dog’s muzzle, you can be fairly sure that the dogs are on good terms with each other, and trust each other; or that one of the dogs has the remnants of something tasty on their chin!
If your dog and another dog have just had a minor spat or a disagreement, one of the dogs may seek to offer an apology and appeasement to the other dog by licking around their mouth and muzzle. The same is true if your dog thinks that you are upset with them, or if you are in a bad mood and your dog wants to check if they are still in your good books. While you should discourage your dog from licking your mouth, do not speak sharply to them in this situation, or you may reinforce their belief that they have done something wrong and need to apologise.
Historically, when wolves and wild dogs had to go out hunting for food, the easiest way to carry their catch back safely to the hungry litter at home some way away was to eat the food that they caught or found, and then regurgitate it back into the nest for the litter to eat later! This provides an evolutionary reason behind why dogs of all ages, but particularly puppies, might lick the muzzle of another dog or lick your mouth; they are inviting you to vomit up a convenient meal for them!
Dogs display submission or respect for people or other dogs in a wide variety of ways, and licking around the muzzle is just one of the potential methods by means of which dogs can indicate submission.
If there has been a spat between pack dogs, two dogs have had a fight where a clear victor triumphs, or simply to demonstrate that they are not a threat and yield dominance to another dog or person, your dog might lick around the muzzle or mouth of the other party.
This is your dog’s way of showing that they are not looking for a fight, wish to make peace, and accept that the other dog or person is the boss. Again, while you should discourage your dog from licking your mouth for this reason or for any other, telling your dog off in this situation might indicate to them that you are displeased, and do not accept their submission.
Licking around the mouth is one way that your dog might use to indicate that they accept the control or dominance of the other dog, and is a totally non-aggressive and non-defensive move.
Dogs are very affectionate animals, both with people and with other dogs. Dogs love to display their affection for their favourite pack members, be they canine or human, and they might do this in a huge variety of ways. Showing affection can involve happily eating side by side with another, sharing toys, or cuddling up together, and mutual grooming is another way that dogs use to show their love.
Dogs that live together and get on well can often be seen licking and grooming each other, and not only does this serve to groom the other dog, but to reinforce their bonding by sharing each other’s scents, and acquiring the scent of the other dog on their own bodies by licking.
Licking around the muzzle indicates mutual trust and affection, and that the two dogs in question have bonded with each other and are comfortable together. Again, your dog might be very keen to lick you in affection, including around your mouth to tell you that you are their very favourite person and they are happy to be with you.