If you’re a dog owner, you’ll have lost count of the number of times your dog’s licked you. Maybe you’ve even trained your dog to lick you or give you ‘kisses’ on demand.
But it’s been noticed that Jack Russells in particular are a breed of dog that tends to lick their owners. A lot. And if it’s a behavior that your own dog is displaying, you might wonder why on earth they do it so often, and if you should be worried.
Why do Dogs Lick?
Dogs explore the world with their nose and mouth. Unlike humans, who can touch things to see if they’re interesting or even safe, dogs rely on their powerful sense of smell and taste, as well as their excellent hearing.
But there are other reasons why dogs lick, and it’s not just a way to test if something’s delicious or not. There are interesting and even important reasons that your dog licks you so much. Let’s explore some of these.
They’re Showing Respect
Jack Russells might be tiny dogs, but they pack a lot of character and attitude into that little body. They’re boisterous and energetic, and they have a will of their own that can be hard to tame.
But above all else, they adore their owners. Jack Russells make some of the most loyal and dedicated pets that a human could ask for, and it’s often the case that they lick their owners so much simply because they love them.
More than anything, they’re showing that they still know their owner’s the head of the pack. Licking can be a sign of submission, so if your Jack Russell is continually licking you, they could just be reminding you that even though they might be a little crazy at times and want to go their own way, they still know you’re the boss, and what you say goes.
They Want Attention
Are you noticing that your Jack Russell licks and licks you and then resorts to barking?
These dogs love attention and affection from their owners and it may be that your pup is trying to get you to stroke him, play with him, or talk to him. When the licking doesn’t work, he tries barking instead.
As far as an attention-grabbing tactic goes, it’s a friendly one. Your dog uses his tongue to get you to notice him, but at the same time reminds you that he’s a big softy and will never mean you any harm.
If it’s an attention ploy and it works, then he’ll keep doing it. But if you’re tired of him licking, then stop giving him attention when he does it. Train him to do other things to get you to play with him, such as bringing you a toy, or even tapping you with his paw.
Dogs repeat actions that they know work, so if licking annoys you, find another way to get your dog to communicate his needs.
They’re Anxious and Need Comforting
When we’re anxious, we find things that calm us down and make us relax. If our anxiety gets to be too overwhelming, we might even visit the doctor and ask for some medication to help us with our feelings of panic and fear.
Dogs have only one thing that brings them comfort when they’re scared: you! And while it may be that they have an anxiety disorder that needs canine medication, there’s a chance that they’re licking you excessively because it brings them comfort.
Licking releases endorphins in a dog. That same feeling that we get when someone gives us a deep head massage or scratches our back? Those are the same kinds of feelings that a dog gets when he licks someone he loves.
If your dog is licking you more when there’s a reason to be frightened, for example if there’s a storm outside or he hears fireworks, then you know that the best thing to do is offer comfort but also try and distract him from the fear by playing a game.
Dogs that show high levels of anxiety by constantly licking without let-up may be showing signs that all isn’t well, so get them checked out by the vet.
They Like Your Salty Taste
Dogs don’t sweat like humans do, so bare, salty skin is a real treat for them. Dogs like salty flavors and while you should never salt their food before you serve it to them, they do need natural salts in their diet.
Their dog food contains levels of sodium that are not just safe for them but vital to their diet, but they might feel the need to top up their salt levels by using you as their favorite salt lick.
Jack Russells love to lick their owners at all times of the day, whether you’re back from a gruelling jog or you’re squeaky clean and just out of the shower! They’re not fussy. For them, it’s a salty treat that tastes of you. What could be better?
They Want You to Feed Them
It sounds gross, but in the wild, dogs are fed by their parents regurgitating food for them. Mom and Dad eat on the hunt, then when they come back to the den, their pups lick their faces until they bring up food for their babies to eat.
Your dog might simply be acting on instinct, particularly if he licks your face more than anywhere else. He might just be hungry, but don’t worry, he’ll eat regular dog food, so you don’t have to bring up your breakfast!
Is It Harmful to Let my Dog Lick Me?
We don’t often like to encourage our dogs to lick us because, let’s face it, they have pretty low standards when it comes to the items they like to investigate with their mouths. Whether it’s food from a trash can, water from a toilet bowl, or even their own genitals, dogs like to lick strange things.
They carry bacteria in their mouths, although it’s been suggested that you’re likely to find more bacteria on the washcloth in your kitchen than on your dog’s tongue. That being said, it’s not a great idea to let your dog lick you excessively, especially on the face.
How Can I Stop My Dog from Licking Me?
It’s doubtful that your Jack Russell will ever stop licking you completely, but you can cut down on the number of licks that you get by applying some techniques that can help.
First, don’t respond to the licking. If your Jack Russell wants your attention and licks you constantly, then eventually you’ll give in and see to whatever it is that he wants, so he’ll continue to use licking as a method to get you to interact with him.
Stand up, walk away, and ignore him until he learns that licking doesn’t get him what he wants. If ignoring him doesn’t work, try a short, sharp “no!” which will bring him to attention, and he’ll connect the licking with being told off.
Give your dog more exercise. Jack Russells have incredibly high levels of energy and they don’t just need physical exercise but mental, too. Make sure that your Jack Russell gets plenty of walks, and quality time playing with you.
Redirection is a great way to stop unwanted behaviors in your pet so think about getting an interactive toy or puzzle that dispenses a treat once your pup has worked out the trick. This way, they’re getting the stimulation that they need, and they’re directing their energies into the toy, rather than into your skin.
Take your dog to the vet if you notice that they’re licking you or themselves more than normal. Licking their own bodies to excess is a sign that there’s something wrong, whether they’re in pain, have a skin complaint, or are suffering from allergies.
Licking could easily be a sign that your Jack Russell is missing some vital elements of his diet so your vet will be able to run tests to see if your dog’s suffering from any kind of deficiency, which they can fix with a supplement.
Speak to your own physician if your dog is licking you more than usual. It sounds strange but dogs, particularly Jack Russells, are known to be highly intuitive when it comes to their owners’ health. Dogs have been known to detect such illnesses as epilepsy or cancers in their owners so if all else fails, get a check-up.
Don’t Let Your Dog Stop Loving You!
Jack Russells are incredibly intelligent and they really just want to please you. Even if they like to wander off and do their own thing at times, ultimately they crave your love and approval. Eventually, they’ll find other ways to show you that they love you, but don’t be too mad if they can’t resist giving you the odd lick from time to time!
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