Why do dogs lick your feet?
The short answer is that licking is part of their evolutionary development. It helps them make sense of their environment.
But is there any other reason behind this behavior?
Why Do Dogs Lick?
Dr. Elizabeth Stelow, Chief of Animal Behavior Services at the University of California, Davis, has a simple and honest answer:
“Each dog probably has his own reason.”
Vets say it is instinctive and natural in many animals. Dogs are social animals and need to communicate with their owners. So licking your feet is a form of bonding to know what you have been doing.
Dogs rely heavily on their sense of taste and smell to gather information about their environment. They use their tongue and nose to identify possible dangers, find food, and locate places and people.
What the Fact! A dog’s sense of smell is more advanced than a human’s. Dogs have more than 300 million olfactory sensors, while humans have only 6 million. That’s 40 times greater than us! The information they receive from their nose tells them so much more than what they see.
Once they smell something interesting, dogs will lick it to check if it’s anything they could eat or play with. But there could be other reasons, too.
It could be hunger, curiosity, or just wanting to express their affection.
Why the Feet?
So licking is normal, but why do dogs lick your feet?
Your feet contain a lot of sweat glands which produce salty sweat throughout the day. So if your pet loves licking your sweat to show their affection for you, then your feet are an easy target.
“If your dog constantly goes after your feet with their tongue it’s because they love the sweaty salty taste of your toes (gross) and they want attention”, says Dr. Gary Richter.
The behavior does not pose any danger to your dog or you, but there’s nothing wrong if you don’t want your dog to do it.
If you’re the type of dog parent who wants to stop your dog from getting sick or infected in case your feet harbor unseen bacteria or viruses, that’s okay. But overall, licking your feet poses no harm to them.
“If you are averse to the behavior, then it might be considered a bad thing, but it is unlikely that licking your feet will ever be bad, or dangerous”, explains Dr. Zay Satchu, Chief Veterinary Officer at Bond Vet.
Then again, what if you’ve had your dog for quite some time and you suddenly find yourself wondering, why is my dog obsessed with my feet lately?
Feet-Licking Happens For Different Reasons
These are the most probable:
They Want Attention
Though they exhibit different characteristics, all dogs crave attention from their humans and other dogs.
They will lick your feet particularly when they have not seen you all day or if you’ve been too busy to spend time with them.
Did you know? Dogs use licking to welcome other dogs and people into their pack or family.
They Might Be Anxious
Dogs will also lick your feet when they feel uncomfortable. It could be a call for help, or merely an expression of discomfort.
Dogs in distress often seek comfort and solace from their owners. So, if they lick your feet a whole lot more than usual or unexpectedly, check if it’s a symptom of an underlying health condition.
If you suspect something’s wrong because feet-licking is not normal behavior for your pet, contact a vet immediately. The Vet Chat Online of the Emergency Vet Fund is a great channel where you can ask for help.
They Are Trying to Groom You
Licking for most mammals is a sign of self-grooming.
Just like their feline counterparts, dogs lick themselves as a part of their hygiene routine. You see this when they use their tongue to clean their puppies.
It’s the same when they lick your feet. They’re grooming you because they think of you as one of their own! (Or maybe it is their subtle way of reminding you it’s time to head to the shower.)
A dog’s sense of smell is very sharp, and it can easily smell the pheromones you emit from your body, including your feet.
Pheromones are chemicals secreted by a wide range of living organisms which affect their behavior and interpersonal relationships. Their scents send signals for mating, feeding, social interaction, or attracting prey.
Sometimes dogs smell the pheromones coming from your feet, and they respond to it by licking. Are you perhaps unconsciously communicating your love for them? Then you need to fear not — your dog is only bonding with you!
Your Feet Smell Different
Are you trying a new foot scrub? Do you have an infection or wound on your big toe? Did you go somewhere or eat something unfamiliar?
With a sense of smell between 10,000 better than ours, your dog can read your feet like a book, telling them what you’ve been eating, what you’re feeling, where you’ve been, and what you’ve been up to.
It might seem uncanny, but also adorable, how your pet can be ultra-sensitive to your habits, emotions, aches, and pains.
They are Underfed
When some owners ask, “why does my dog constantly lick my legs and feet,” a possible reason behind the behavior is that the dog is underfed.
Note that the operative word here is “constantly”, which indicates that it happens often or on a regular basis.
Since dogs find the salty taste of sweat appealing, licking your feet could be an indication that they’re hungry.
To rule out other possibilities, check if their meals are complete and enough for their weight, size, and age. Try to feed them snacks in between as well.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Feet?
If you’re comfortable with the act, why not!
However, some dogs may also want to lick a particular part of your body to clean an injury or wound. While it is normal and not dangerous, that’s something you must avoid!
What the Fact! Dogs and humans have similar numbers of bacteria in their mouths. So, chances of getting sick from a dog’s licks is very low. However, it’s still possible to catch diseases from dog licks if either the dog or the human has a disease or an infection.
Dogs may smell an infection you are not aware of, and in this case, its licking means more than just alerting you.
“He’s trying to heal you—it won’t”, dog owner, rescuer, and trainer Debra Tully explains, “Do not let him do this unless you want a sick dog, vet bill, and spreading of your infection.”
If you have any fungal infection, psoriasis, or an open wound on your feet, you shouldn’t allow your dog to lick it.
This is easier said than done, though. What tactic should you apply?
How to Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Feet
Chances are, some of you may find this quirk a rather unpleasant one, much like dog owner Francesca M. Austin of Oakland, CA.
“I would call this an annoying habit best broken quickly—unless the owner enjoys being licked for some reason, just say NO to your dog”, she advises.
Saying no can take the form of ignoring your dog when it licks your feet. Alternatively, you could offer something else, like a bone or a chew toy, for it to lick or chew on instead.
Try Dog Poop Training Sprays
This product is often used to teach dogs where to urinate or poop, but it could also stop them from licking your feet. A spray with a strong smell that dogs wouldn’t find appealing, such as pepper, could work like a charm!
Apply it on your shoes or socks so the smell will stick to your skin.
Your dog will dislike the strong scent, and will eventually cease its feet-licking.
What If Your Dog Licks Its Paws Instead Of Your Feet?
It’s a different thing entirely!
Dogs may sometimes lick their paws for grooming, but overdoing it could indicate some underlying health condition.
They could be suffering from any of these issues:
- Skin infection
- Physical injury
- Allergic reaction
- Parasites (ticks and fleas)
- Paw pad pain
Dr. Stelow agrees: “From a medical perspective, a high percentage of dogs that lick things have primary gastrointestinal issues. Some suggest that some dogs may be trying to replace a missing mineral nutrient.”
You need to talk to your dog’s vet if this is the case.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Stop My Dog from Licking My Feet?
You don’t have to if you accept the behavior as a positive one. Many dog parents consider it as their pets being affectionate.
Some owners even see it as a way to bond with them. As sous chef and dog owner Cynthia Starnes explains, “I always allow her this indulgence, and as she allows me to brush, poke at, and examine her, I think it’s only fair! (Granted, my ideas may be anthropomorphic!) This exchange between us has proven to be possibly one of my greatest comforts. Her acceptance is pure, as is her heart. It’s a dog thing. This purity.”
What Should I Do If My Dog Licks My Feet Too Much?
If your dog’s feet-licking behavior becomes unbearable, you could train it to stop by withholding attention or affection during the action.
Don’t give any positive or negative reaction. Keep it neutral because your pet may simply be trying to bond with you. Simply move away the moment it starts licking your feet.
Moving away or lifting your leg tells your dog that there are other ways of showing affection. It will try to bond with you in another way that is acceptable to you.
Why Does My Dog Lick Their Own Feet So Much?
Dogs lick their feet as part of natural grooming behavior.
But skin problems, parasites, food allergies, injuries, and even anxiety, could manifest as excessive paw-licking in dogs.
Always check with a vet if you think your dog is excessively licking its own feet.
Why Do Dogs Like To Lick?
Mainly because their sense of taste and smell is how they understand the world. It’s also their way to bond with other dogs and you, so they will lick you to show affection.
But sometimes, they will lick when anxious, ill, or uncomfortable.
Always take note of when your dog excessively licks you or anything in their environment. It could be a manifestation of a serious illness or nutrition deficiency.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Feet When I Get Out The Shower?
It likes the combination of the salty taste of your skin and the water droplets! Maybe they’re appreciating your hygiene or even further grooming you by drying you up.