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Q And A: Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I Cry?

Q And A: Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I Cry?

Having a dog is a real commitment, but it’s also a very rewarding experience. Basically, you are everything to your pup – his whole world, his all-time favorite companion, and his best bud. 

Many dog owners believe that the connection with our furry friends goes much deeper than just a pet-owner one, and I totally agree.

No matter what anyone says, I profusely believe that dogs feel with us. They form a strong bond, and are able to tell when we are sad, and thus, comfort us. 

A lot of dog owners have reported that their pups react very uniquely to their tears. “Why does your dog lick you when you cry?”, and “What makes him react in such a way?” are the questions we’ll be trying to answer today.

Let’s enter together the world of canine psychology and find the answers to this adorable canine behavior. 

Hmm, Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face When You Cry?

dog licking crying woman on the couch

Every time I was feeling down, my dog would come up to me with his big puppy eyes, put his paw on me, or start to lick me. I always interpreted that as being his own way of saying that everything is going to be okay. 

“Don’t worry, human. I am here… your best friend to the rescue!” 

Actions speak louder than words, and I am nearly 100% sure he was trying to say exactly that. However, is there a real scientific explanation behind this behavior? Let’s find out.

1. As A Pain Relief

Humans can cry because of many reasons, and being hurt or in pain is one of them. As a child, whenever I fell, scraped my knee, or had an “ouchy”, my mom would say, “let me kiss the pain away” in hopes of easing the pain and making me feel better. 

A dog’s licks are just like kisses. 

When dogs have a wound or an “ouchy”, as I have referred before, they will try to lick it in order to temporarily numb the pain and soothe the discomfort, just like you would by pressing on your own wound. 

Dogs know that licking helps them, so they mimic this kind of behavior when it comes to you being in pain and crying because of it.  

Related: Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs? Attention-grabbing Or Something Else?

2. To Comfort You

My hypothesis from the beginning of the article is indeed true. Dogs do lick you when you cry because they want to comfort you and show their affection. When you’re crying, you’re not only showing it with tears, but also, your whole demeanor and body language changes. 

Read also: Dog Tail Position Chart: A Guide To Dog’s Body Language

Dogs are excellent at reading our body language as it is their primary way of communication. They understand that you are sad, and they will do anything to help you feel better; hence, licking you or your tears. 

Licking your tears can also be interpreted in a more symbolic way. When someone is comforting you, they’ll very likely wipe your tears off in order to make you stop crying and cheer you up. It is very possible that dogs lick our tears because of that same reason. 

3. It’s A Learned Behavior

dog consoles a woman and cuddling with her

Licking in dogs is a very natural and instinctive behavior that is usually passed down to puppies by their mother. When your dog was still a small puppy, his mother was constantly licking him as a way of grooming and comforting him, as well as bonding with him.

The act of licking also releases the hormone, endorphin, which helps calm and soothe the dog. Your pooch learns very early on that licking is essential in many ways, which is why he might lick you a lot, especially when you’re crying. 

4. Loving The Salty Taste

It is said that dogs love the salty taste of our tears, which is why they are tempted to lick them off. While we like to touch things when we are curious, dogs, on the other hand, explore with their mouth. 

For a still unknown reason, most dogs seem to like the salty taste of our sweaty skin and our tears, so you’ll very likely find your dog trying to lick you when you’re either sweating or crying. 

Learn more about salty food and dogs with our informative article. 

5. The Poor Pup Is Stressed 

When you are stressed, your dog is also stressed. Our unbalanced emotions affect our pups very much – after all, we are supposed to be their leaders and pawrents. 

When dogs are stressed and anxious, they tend to lick in order to calm themselves and make both you and them feel better. 

If you notice that your behavior is making your dog feel bad, please try to comfort him, pet him, and show him as much love as possible. 

Related: Stress Colitis In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Do Dogs Have Emotions? 

dog and woman cuddling and comforting each other

According to Stanley Coren, a leading canine researcher and psychologist, and multiple behavioral measures,  the mind of the dog and his mental abilities are roughly equivalent to a human child age 2 to 2.5 years. 

This means that dogs have the ability of experiencing basic emotions, such as joy, love, fear, anger, shyness, distress, and excitement. 

However, on the other hand, it seems, at least according to current research, that dogs cannot experience more complex emotions, such as pride, shame, guilt, and contempt. 

This one and many other studies only confirm that dogs indeed have emotions, and are able to identify with us. Since dogs love us so much, it is highly likely that our furry pooches will experience sadness along with us, the same as feelings of fear and distress. 

No wonder why your dog licks you when you cry… 

What About Crying…?

According to the American Kennel Club, there is no scientific evidence that would prove that dogs can actually produce tears in correlation to what they are feeling. 

They can be empathic and use other ways of expressing their emotions, such as whimpering, whining, or howling, but they don’t cry when they are sad or in pain. 

If it appears that your dog is crying, he is very likely having an allergic reaction, an eye infection, a scratched cornea, or some other kind of inflammation that requires medical assistance. 

Read also: 11 Reasons Why A Dog Keeps Licking Its Lips & Tips How You Can Help

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face? 

little beagle dog licking a woman at home

It certainly is cute that your dog is trying to comfort you and show his affection by licking you when you cry, but is it as harmless as most of us think? 

According to Dr. Leni K. Kaplan, a lecturer at the Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine, a dog’s saliva will highly unlikely pose any threat to a healthy person when in contact with intact human skin. 

However, when your dog licks your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose, zoonotic pathogens like Clostridium, E. Coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter can be absorbed more easily, and thus, cause severe gastrointestinal disease and infections.  

Even though illnesses transmitted like this are pretty rare, a lot of experts suggest not to let your dog lick your face, at least not constantly. 

To Sum Things Up

Our dogs are truly amazing… so much that it makes me often think of what we do to deserve these amazing creatures that love us unconditionally.

When we are sad, they’re here for us. 

When we are in pain, they’re here for us. 

When we are crying, they are, again, here for us. 

Now, you know why your dog licks you when you cry, so the next time it happens to you, give this little pooch some extra love. Show him that you love him just as much, and that you care about him as well. 

Be thankful for your selfless, loyal, and devoted best friend that would do anything in his power to help you and make you feel better. Here’s to less cries and more puppy happiness. 

Read next: Why Are Small Dogs So Aggressive? Don’t Get Angry At The Truth