Our dogs do a lot of stuff we may find strange, be it barking in the middle of the night or running away from practically nothing. This time we’re going to look at one of the other frequent questions pet owners ask which is “Why does my dog lick my legs?”
If you’ve ever asked yourself the question of “Why does my dog lick my legs?”, then you’ve no doubt experienced the warm licks of your furry friend going after your calves or thighs, depending on his size.
Worry not though, it’s not him trying to get to the bone behind the meat nor is he trying to get the meat itself.
The cause is much more harmless, if a little endearing, depending on the circumstance in which the behavior is occurring in. It’s most often a sign of affection.
The “worst” part can be if you’re ticklish and he goes after your bare feet, in which case you’re going to be cramping up with laughter as he’s not likely to cease any time soon.
However, if it happens often, and it becomes more intrusive than fun, it may be time to put a stop to it.
To find out why dogs do this in the first place and how to stop it if it starts becoming a problem as well as find out some of the more commonly asked questions related to the topic, be sure to read on.
So, Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs?
There are a couple of reasons as to this type of dog behavior, some less weird, some a bit more so.
Here are some of the most common reasons:
1. It’s A Form Of Attention-Seeking
The first, and main reason is that it’s a form of attention-seeking.
Your dog may be feeling lonely or neglected, or he simply wants to play or go out for a walk, and every dog has his way of making the dog owner aware of this.
Some of them may simply bark, or nuzzle into their hand, or jump uncontrollably.
Meanwhile, some others use their tongue to get your attention, licking away at your legs or feet briefly, long enough for you to feel his slobber and devote some of your time to him.
It’s also a somewhat less invasive and less rude way of grabbing your attention as opposed to barking which may catch you off-guard, startle you or even put you in a worse mood, which will worsen your dog’s chances of getting what he wants.
No no, dogs are smart creatures and they’ll always choose the most favorable option in a given situation if they’ve been learned as such.
But what may they want when they get your attention?
Well, that’s easy enough to figure out as he’s likely to come along with the relevant item or point to it at least, be it a leash, a ball or his favorite chew toy.
Alternatively, he could just be in the mood for some cuddles, in which case he’ll just nuzzle up next to you after he gets your attention and adjust himself in the perfect position for a tummy rub or otherwise.
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2. It’s A Form Of Comfort
Dogs may be our brave protectors, but there are times when they’re also our little scaredy cats.
As I’ve mentioned briefly at the start, they can be afraid of any small thing, even what is seemingly nothing to us, but could perhaps be an imperceptible sound frequency.
Regardless of what it is, it can terrify the dogs, which will lead them to seek some form of comfort with their alpha, which, in this case, is you.
So they’ll come to you to try and get your attention, and may lick your legs or feet as a form of subservience and respect to get your attention rather than directly jump at you to do so.
And should he get it (which he should, let’s face it), he’ll be ever thankful.
It’s the same when some form of anxiety or stress hits your dog over some recent worry, separation anxiety being one of the most common factors.
Maybe you’ve just returned from your 8 hour shift and you’ve sat down and put your legs up to relax only for your precious pooch to come and give your feet a nice long lick?
They’re there to seek some quality time being around you.
Those eight hours may not seem like much to you, but we’re talking dog years here, that was over 50 hours of not being around you if there’s nobody else in the house at the time from family members and the like.
It only makes sense for your dog to want to touch you to ease this separation anxiety of his.
The fact that the act of licking itself provides comfort for your dog stands too and it itself could be a form of therapy as it releases endorphins into his system and makes him more at ease and more content overall.
This is especially evident in young dogs who’ve experienced licking as a form of relief at a young age, meaning they could’ve been trained into it, not to mention their moms have been doing it to them since they were pups.
3. It Could Be A Warning Sign
If your dog licking your feet is followed by some whining or the dog nudging you to get up, he could also be warning you of potential danger.
Be it an earthquake or some other similar natural disaster that he preemptively sensed, he wants to warn you about it so you can both get to safety.
4. He Loves The Salty Taste
This may seem a bit ridiculous, but one of the reasons dogs lick your legs is because of your sweat.
While initially it may have been for another reason, now they’re doing it because they’re treating your legs like a salt lick just to get some of it in their mouth.
It’s by no means a fetish to them, just a nutritional need at that point.
It may not even just be the saltiness of your sweat or skin oils, but it could also be something that had permeated all the way to the soles of your feet.
It may sound disgusting to us, but dogs do it because they found something that may have smelled or tasted amazing down there, even if you wash your feet often, and have made it their mission to get as much of it as they can.
Of course, be prepared to be tickled to high heaven in this process if you allow your dog to continue doing it as he won’t stop until he gets it all down.
It could be something you potentially stepped in, maybe it’s a little bit of lunch, just a few drops that landed on your legs or a few drops of oil from a fast food place.
It won’t matter to the dog, he’ll go after it regardless.
5. It’s Your Pheromones
That’s right, pheromones.
While we humans may not necessarily be able to smell them, our dogs certainly can and your precious pooch is no exception.
It’s all thanks to their Jacobson’s organ which allows them to smell said pheromones and discern them from others they might get a whiff of. Think of it like a personal ID tag.
A dog may often lick his owners’ legs if they’re bonded closely and the dog has gotten used to their pheromones as a sign that someone good is coming.
If your dog is doing this, then it may simply be a sign that he loves you a whole lot.
6. Your Dog Is Showing Submission
This one ties into the stress part a little bit as your dog may be fearful of you to a degree.
Not because you’re being mean to him or anything, but because he may have done something bad recently that you or someone else has scolded him for and he’s coming here to “pay tribute” in a sense.
It could also be something that he has done that he thinks is wrong due to whatever dog training he has received.
In any case, you may find him licking your legs for this reason exactly.
There’s a reason the kissing of feet was a sign of submission in history and clearly our dogs have kept that in mind over the years and are doing it themselves in their own way.
Is it a good thing? It depends on your view, but your dog is simply trying to say that he’s genuinely sorry for anything that may have upset you or a member of your household, and hopes that you can forgive him.
I imagine it’ll be hard not to, especially when he gives you those puppy dog eyes.
7. Putting Scented Lotions On
One other reason that could answer the question of why dogs lick your legs is that you may be using some sort of moisturizer or skin hydrating lotion that has some sort of smell to it.
A smell that your dog finds pleasant and wants to get a little bit of into his mouth.
Though this one you should be careful of. Make sure the lotion isn’t toxic or else he may get a bit of a stomach ache.
8. He’s Trying To Groom You
Another possibility, albeit a less likely one, is that he’s simply trying to groom you. Learning once again from his mother’s side, your dog may think of himself as your caretaker and may start cleaning you with his own tongue.
Or well, at least he thinks he’s doing the cleaning.
In a way, it’s his own way of giving back for all the times you’ve taken care of him.
9. Your Dog Has Some Medical Condition That He Wants To Bring To Your Attention
When you ask “why is my dog licking my legs?” that may not end up being the main concern, or rather, your dog isn’t doing it intentionally.
He could be trying to draw attention to himself and trying to tell you that there’s something wrong with him that may need to be taken care of.
Think of it like a child pulling on your pants and calling for you because he feels his tummy hurts.
This can be difficult to discern as to whether or not your dog has some issue, but the usual telltale sign is if he seems to be lacking energy or is lethargic in any way.
You can always look for obvious signs of injury too or something else that’s readily apparent.
If you’re unsure and it continues, you can always give your vet a call to perform a check-up just in case.
10. He’s Trying To Get An Idea Of Your Emotional State
We all know that dogs are man’s best friend for a reason. Several reasons in fact, and knowing how you’re feeling is just one of them.
Your dear doggie may just be licking you to find out exactly that.
Dogs get a lot of information over their sense of taste and smell, be it with humans or other animals.
While they won’t exactly go around sniffing your butt while you’re firmly seated, they will try to sniff and lick you to get an idea about your emotional state. Whether you’re sad, angry, upset, happy or otherwise and react accordingly.
Surprisingly enough, dogs can, in fact, sense how you’re feeling just through your sweat alone given how advanced these two senses are.
So, your dog isn’t trying to annoy you or do anything harmful, he’s just trying to be a good boy and keep you happy as best he can.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Feet And My Legs Specifically?
Most times, there’s no real specific reason for the feet focus aside from the submission one.
The rest is simply because they’re the easiest part of you to reach that also sweats and gets dirty often given how often it’s used.
They’d go for your armpits if they could, or your arms, but they’re a bit harder to access.
Your legs, however, as I said, often get used and are about at your dog’s level, so those end up getting licked.
And one of the main reasons is the sweat they generate or anything else that may have fallen on them that has some sort of taste.
It could also be some sort of lotion that you’ve recently put on that may have a tasty smell to it that your dog wants to get one lick of, or a dozen.
Not to mention, they’re also the biggest target surface that’s usually left uncovered, and it’s more likely to happen during the Summer than it would be in Winter given the shorter clothes and the hotter days.
Is There Anything Bad About A Dog Doing This?
It can be, to a degree. Aside from potential poisoning from the lotions, your dog licking your legs could also mean that he has some sort of underlying medical condition that he wants to bring to your attention.
While that can be hard to figure out on your own, if your dog seems overly lethargic and sluggish in his movements, lacking energy to do much, then it may be worth taking him to the vet for a check-up, just in case there’s something wrong with him.
Also, if he seems to not want to stop after you acknowledge his presence initially, and lead to some excessive licking, then that too may be a sign that something is not okay and could mean that there are some underlying health issues about.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Doing This?
Well, thankfully this part is incredibly easy for the most part, only really difficult if you have a particularly stubborn pet.
But, leg licking behavior has many different methods of resolution. Here are some of the more common ones.
1. Finding Other Forms Of Entertainment
If you find something to occupy your dog’s time with other than your legs, chances are he’s less likely to continue this behavior and will instead focus on his new source of enjoyment.
Think things like chew toys or a favorite cuddle toy. These will help with the anxiety and stress part that may cause this leg licking behavior, but won’t work as well with some others.
Naturally, there’s no definitive cure-all to these so you’ll have to pick the ones that correspond to your particular issue.
But chew toys and cuddle toys are usually pretty great in helping your dog fill time while you and the rest of your family are away.
Not only will it help curb his separation anxiety to a degree by providing something to fill the time with, but the cuddle toy is a solid substitute friend in a sense so he won’t be feeling as lonely.
The occasional snack can also be a decent distraction, albeit one that shouldn’t be exercised regularly as it may lead to a very chubby doggo and then you have a whole load of other problems to worry about.
But giving him some of his favorite dog food every now and then won’t hurt, or getting him a nice treat. Plenty of options on Amazon or Chewy to choose from at least, so he’ll be spoilt for choice.
Naturally, you can always resort to the treats readily available at home, like peanut butter, that way he can have something else to lick instead of your feet.
2. Teach Him Other Ways To Grab Your Attention
Perhaps one of the best ways to get your dog to stop licking your legs is to teach your dog some other form of grabbing your attention, regardless of what you’re doing at the moment.
Some sort of trick will do the trick usually, something that he won’t regularly do.
Think some simple begging move or a specific bark sound, maybe even placing a paw on your thigh, all of them will feel less wet than leg licking would.
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This one should help in any situation and isn’t reserved for a specific leg licking reason.
He can even use this move if he wants to go out to poop so he doesn’t end up having to do his business in the house.
3. Overall Behavior Modification
While this may sound mean at first, it’s just a fancy word for “get your dog some training”.
Just like you could get him potty trained, to do specific tricks or to simply behave while on walks, you can also teach him that licking your legs is bad if it bothers you that much.
You can either do it alone or you can get a professional dog trainer to do the job for you.
While doing it alone is a more pleasurable and overall rewarding experience, it does take up a lot of your time and it may not produce the desired results.
This is mostly due to the fact that we as pet owners usually aren’t the greatest at following through with disciplinary action when our pet needs to be kept in line. Or well, at least I’m not, my heart melts with any pet.
If you’re inclined to do it yourself, the best method of going about it is positive reinforcement.
Reward your dog whenever he stops licking your legs or doesn’t do it at all, either through giving him some treats or through simple praise.
Over time, your dog will register it as a good thing to not lick your legs and will have it ingrained that he should find some other way to grab your attention instead.
4. An Alternate Behavior Method
You can also choose to go down a different route, ignoring your dog’s attempts at grabbing your attention through licking by not reacting whatsoever to it.
This one is a bit riskier as your dog may take it as a sign that you may not actually like him, however, in most cases, it’ll simply be a sign to him that this method isn’t working, and that he should give up on it and try something else instead.
That said, ignoring him while he does this is pretty hard if you’re ticklish.
Make sure to guard the soles of your feet with slippers or something similar if you’re gonna go with this method as showing a reflex when his tongue drags over your sole is going to undermine all the effort you put into trying to stave him off leg licking.
5. Spend More Time With Your Dog
Most times, when a dog licks your legs, it’s just a cry for attention, the dog’s desire for you to spend some more time with him, especially if that’s been lacking in some regard.
If you can, then give him what he wants, but not just because he’s licking you, do it so he can feel happy and won’t need to resort to leg licking behavior just to remind you of it.
Take him out for longer walks, play with him more if possible, but you don’t even need to go that far.
Just a simple back rub or pat on the back, or a nice scratch on the underside of his neck, or a simple kind word to him whenever you pass by him will be more than enough to keep him happy.
Try finding ways where you can sprinkle in some of that attention during your daily routine and you’ll see the licking frequency drop drastically.
6. Take Him To The Vet
The final answer relates to the obvious cause. If your dog is doing this because he’s feeling unwell or out of energy in any way, taking him to the vet is going to resolve the issue, at least if that’s the only time your dog licks your legs.
But, even then, you should ask your vet about the issue. He should be able to more precisely determine the cause of the behavior and will be able to give you better options in helping resolve your dog’s specific case of leg licking behavior.
Do Dogs Lick Everyone Like This? Should I Be Concerned?
Normally, the licking to this degree is only reserved for the people that your dog knows well and he won’t resort to that sort of behavior around complete strangers.
Partly due to the training that you’ve put him under, if any, and partly because they’re not important enough to your dog for him to care about how they’re feeling nor will he go to them for comfort or his own personal needs.
There should rarely be any need for concern, unless he’s known to be exceptionally friendly or lively, in which case you’re gonna want to keep him away from them, otherwise the people may interpret this act as a breach of their privacy or similar.
After all, he is your responsibility, and anything he does will reflect both on him and you.
When Does The Dog’s Leg Licking Behavior Start Becoming A Problem?
That’s a question with pretty subjective answers, but usually it’s when they start doing it to other people, as mentioned earlier.
Others may see it as either an invasion of privacy or a potentially aggressive action, or even both, and they’re likely to react poorly.
The other answer is dependent on you. When do you feel like his licking is starting to become a nuisance to you, if at all?
If you’re not too bothered by it happening every now and then, then you can let it continue.
Of course, if it keeps happening, try some of the methods mentioned above like giving your dog a bit more attention and love as he may be stressed which won’t do anything good for his health.
Speaking of health, if he continues doing this even when you try to stop him and he’s showing signs of illness or a lack of energy, then it’s also a problem.
Well, the licking itself isn’t, but it’s an indicator that there is an underlying health issue that your dog is trying to allude to.
The question of “why does my dog lick my legs” is commonly asked, or at least considered among many dog owners worldwide.
It’s by no mean an uncommon phenomenon, but it still comes off as weird when first encountered.
As you can see though, in most cases, it’s nothing but a harmless attempt at grabbing your attention, whether it’s to indicate that the dog is hungry, stressed, sick, submissive or that he simply misses you.
He’d try other means, but when he finds you lounging about or doing something else, the easiest access point are your legs.
The ‘worst’ part of it is the sticky slobber, but even that isn’t all that bad. If, however, it does bother you, there are several ways of solving the whole dilemma.
Standard training works, regardless if it’s done by you or a professional dog trainer, visits to the vet and even things that help distract him from bothering you like chew toys or dog food.
The best way to help mitigate this, however, is to be a bit more attentive with him, show him some positive reinforcement when he doesn’t lick your legs and to teach him an alternative way of grabbing your attention that’s a bit less wet.
Once you have that done, the problem should’ve solved itself.
And you’re not just doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for your dog’s sake too as this sort of behavior, when done to strangers, won’t be as tolerated as it would’ve been when done to you.
You don’t want to scare people or have them react with malicious intent toward your canine companion after all.
In any case, whether leg licking is an issue or not is entirely up to you, and I believe that you’re fully able to discern this based on your circumstance and make the best decision for both you and your precious pooch. Until next time.
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