What is the dog psychology behind licking their humans?
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  • Kindness? Dominance? or ….?

    If there is a dominance side to it, I will stop Kipawa from licking me. At his age (almost 9 months) and still intact, he does test his boundaries often.

    Thanks for your help.

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  • I suspect there are several different types/meanings to the licking. Trog always has to lick the area of us that he chooses to sleep against, he basically licks himself to sleep, I'd say thats comforting, relaxing. Tempest, Gambit and Xander immediately lick our faces when they come out from under the covers in the am. I like to think its a good morning greeting rather than them getting rid of morning tongue.

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  • Buddy likes the salt. He says I'm his margarita. :D

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  • I often wonder this too. Maya has a bit of OCD with licking me and the other dogs. As soon as I get out of the bath she tries to lick me too for some reason!

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  • Pups will lick their dams to stimulate milk production and feeding so I imagine the behavior could be partially a result of that. Plus, grooming seems logical like others have said. My dogs will lick me if I'm wet just like with the other dogs. They can get a little OCD about it sometimes. Patricia McConnell had a term for when they repeat a behavior like that, but it escapes me now.

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  • T

    I get licks from Sober and from Clover, quick somewhat greeting type kiss on the nose when I say hello. However Karma (Kipawa's mom) will spend hours cleaning Kevin's face. We joke she really thinks he is dirty.
    Sober (Kipawa's dad) will suck on the ears of his long time girlfriend Ali or any other girl he is left alone with that will tolerate it, to the point of them being soaking wet and he only does this with girl basenjis.
    Clover does my favorite thing which I always thought was affection, she nibbles. With just her front teeth she will very gently nibble my arm and sometimes even my lip. Her unlce Mojo used to do this too its very sweet and never hurts.
    Therese

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  • I am pretty sure it isn't dominance. I can't think of any situation where a dog controls another's behavior by licking it. It is care giving, and bonding….If you don't like it, or if it becomes excessive, then teach an "enough" command.

    Clay, is the word you are looking for 'sterotypic'? A behavior that originally had a purpose becoming a repetitive, habitual act.

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  • @Therese:

    I get licks from Sober and from Clover, quick somewhat greeting type kiss on the nose when I say hello. However Karma (Kipawa's mom) will spend hours cleaning Kevin's face. We joke she really thinks he is dirty.
    Sober (Kipawa's dad) will suck on the ears of his long time girlfriend Ali or any other girl he is left alone with that will tolerate it, to the point of them being soaking wet and he only does this with girl basenjis.
    Clover does my favorite thing which I always thought was affection, she nibbles. With just her front teeth she will very gently nibble my arm and sometimes even my lip. Her unlce Mojo used to do this too its very sweet and never hurts.
    Therese

    LOL Therese, my OJ and Mickii would lick any human until their tongues would stick to the skin!!! Now Franie and C-Me will give kisses now and again… they both will lick in the mornings when I don't have to go to work and after giving them their breakfast, we go back to bed... and I will be "groomed" by them....

    And Nibbles... that was one of Ken and Marilyn's Zuri Basenji things coming from their Korii.... all her offspring would do that.... And my Franie does it sometimes to me, but usually to her toys or C-Me

    Oh and can't wait to see if Sober wants to "suck" on Franie's or C-Me's ears this weekend!

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  • Apache LOVES to lick my hubby's legs at night. He'll be sitting with his feet up on the ottoman and if he has jeans on Apache will paw his leg until he raises them. Then he lays there licking with his eyes closed, very content looking. Chey will groom someone if given the opportunity, Zuni doesn't bother with grooming but she does give out little kisses.

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    When Duane finishes doing dishes his girl Rogue insists on drying his hands, he cannot leave the sink area until she is finished. kell is not much of a licker, but occasionally I get a flick of his tongue on my nose. Sidhe thinks she is responsible for my ears and the top of Duane's head. Over 35 years of being kissed and licked by Bs.

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  • @Quercus:

    Clay, is the word you are looking for 'sterotypic'? A behavior that originally had a purpose becoming a repetitive, habitual act.

    I think that's it. Thanks!

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  • Watson loves to lick the tip of my nose. Sabe (my BF) on the other hand often gets a full face wash if the opportunity presents itself.

    I know that puppies will lick the at the muzzles of adults in greeting sometimes. In wild dogs this behavior is to get the adults to regurgitate a kill if they were out hunting in order to allow the pups to feed. In domestic dogs it is a greeting behavior.

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  • I think it's a taste thing… Lewie will not lick faces/noses/or lips. But he will lick your ears and he LOVES to clean his daddy's head (he's bald) incessantly. Mike says it feels funny.

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  • First Basenji's

    @Maya:

    I often wonder this too. Maya has a bit of OCD with licking me and the other dogs. As soon as I get out of the bath she tries to lick me too for some reason!

    Too funny! Uzie does this too! We allowed it because it seemed to be a way to help with the bonding in his new home. He still does like to help dry our legs, but when I say enough! He stops, sometimes…! I don't mind it, just wipe off after he leaves the bathroom!

    Since B's are so fastidious in cleaning, I just figure it is bonding, not dominance- If anything, it may be more submission in a canine manner. In a pack, the lower ranks always lick the mouth of the higher rank. But just enjoy it! If one suspects compulsive behavior, give alternative stuff to do...or get help....;)

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  • @Quercus:

    I am pretty sure it isn't dominance. I can't think of any situation where a dog controls another's behavior by licking it. It is care giving, and bonding….If you don't like it, or if it becomes excessive, then teach an "enough" command.

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I feel better now. And yes, if it gets too obsessive I will teach him 'enough'.

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  • Sayblee would lick me, but she also dive bombed my hair in frantic behaviors if it was wet. Arwen licks ONLY if I ask for a kiss OR if I have lotion or am wet. She also does the rear/rub/insane over wet hair thing.
    Cara licks a lot. She also holds some part of my hand or arm in her mouth and will rub her tongue back and forth in almost nursing behavior as she goes to sleep sometimes… occasionally other times. My poor daughter is a germaphobe and it grosses her out but she still lets her do it, lol.

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  • @DebraDownSouth:

    She also holds some part of my hand or arm in her mouth and will rub her tongue back and forth in almost nursing behavior as she goes to sleep sometimes… occasionally other times.

    Blaze does the same thing. Although he'll sometime fall asleep while he's doing it, it more of a "Hi, I missed you" type of thing since he usually does it first thing in the morning after being let out of his crate and after we've returned from somewhere.

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  • The National Geographic special on dogs a few years back said that when dogs lick each other faces, it cause them to regurgitate food. So they actual want you to vomit so they can have dinner when they give you kisses.

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  • @Barklessdog:

    The National Geographic special on dogs a few years back said that when dogs lick each other faces, it cause them to regurgitate food. So they actual want you to vomit so they can have dinner when they give you kisses.

    LOL!!! Let's hope that's not why they do it.:p Not only Basenjis lick their owners (and others) - sometimes it's the salt, sometimes they are "kissing" you, sometimes it's just a habit - our B's lick themselves to keep themselves clean, and maybe even sometimes that's a reason - not something to worry about unless it escalates to the OCD stage; then I think I'd just stop it past a few light licks.

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  • I have never seen domesticated dogs throw up from face licking… it is grooming and bonding with domesticated dogs. It may well be hold over instinct in some way, but having had dogs, litters with moms, if licking caused puking, I am sure I'd have seen it.
    But I went looking, and while I couldn't find it on NGeo site I found the following. But he is full of it. Even in the wild, dogs lick to GROOM, bond, etc also:

    http://www.4vetclinics.com/articles/dog-licks-face.php

    In the wild, there’s only one reason why dogs lick, and that is because they want more food. Take the wolf for example; when a mother returns from the wild after searching for food, she will be greeted by constant licking from her young. This is because a lot of canine animals in the wild have a regurgitation reflex that is triggered when their face is licked. This means that the young know that they will have access to food when they lick their mother, as they will just be feeding on her vomit. While this may seem quite sneaky on their part, the mother also knows this and decides to go along as it’s easier for her to carry the food in her stomach.

    Well, before we continue, it’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of pet dogs don’t have this regurgitation reflex so won’t be constantly vomiting!

    BUT found this one on wild dogs :)
    http://www.umich.edu/~esupdate/library/97.01-02/mamakos.html

    Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is now one of the African continent's most endangered animals. It is believed that fewer than 5,000 wild dogs currently exist in the wild, and their range has declined from 33 to 15 countries. The largest populations exist in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The initial population reduction came during the early part of the century as a result of a very successful extermination campaign led by ranchers who feared the loss of livestock. Today, the effects of diseases (e.g., rabies, canine distemper, and parvovirus) spread by domestic dogs are having an even more devastating effect on wild dog numbers. Of additional concern is inbreeding due to the formation of genetically distinct groups of dogs in the southern and eastern regions of their current range.

    Wild dogs are about the size of a German shepherd, have long legs, large ears and mottled fur of browns, black and white. They live in tightly bonded social groups or packs of 2 to 30 individuals led by a dominant male and female. Pack members exhibit well-defined greeting behaviors, the most obvious being affectionate face licking.

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  • @DebraDownSouth:

    I have never seen domesticated dogs throw up from face licking… it is grooming and bonding with domesticated dogs. It may well be hold over instinct in some way, but having had dogs, litters with moms, if licking caused puking, I am sure I'd have seen it.
    But I went looking, and while I couldn't find it on NGeo site I found the following. But he is full of it. Even in the wild, dogs lick to GROOM, bond, etc also:

    http://www.4vetclinics.com/articles/dog-licks-face.php

    BUT found this one on wild dogs :)
    http://www.umich.edu/~esupdate/library/97.01-02/mamakos.html

    I've heard a number of accounts of basenjis regurgitating food around young puppies, even those not related to them (and even males). Not sure if licking by puppies was involved there or not, I don't remember it being mentioned.

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