Every morning when I wake up, one of my dogs, Georgia, greets me with a happy, wet, pink tongue. As soon as I begin to stir just a little, she very gingerly walks across to my side of the bed. I can spy her with one eye barely open moving ever so carefully toward me. Pretty soon, she is right in my face and the nose-licking begins!
But why she loves to lick my nose, I can only guess!
If your dog licks your nose in the morning you may also wonder why. Apparently, it is not that uncommon. Many people on internet forums have commented that their dogs love to lick their noses and face. But why do they do this? There are probably a few reasons. Licking is an instinctive behavior that puppies learn. It is a form of communication, affection, or getting a need met. It is also a way of getting food from their mother.
Why Dogs Lick in General
Puppies learn about licking when they are born. Their mother will lick her puppies as a way of grooming them and also getting them to eat when she wants them to nurse or take food from her mouth. She will nuzzle them until they understand it is time to eat. Her pups quickly pick up on this cue and will soon begin licking their mother’s mouth to search for food. Grooming by licking one another is an intimate behavior shared by dogs in the same litter or pack as well as a sign of affection.
In the wild, mothers will nurse and later feed their growing puppies from the food they have foraged or hunted. When the mother comes back to the den, she will either have some food left in her mouth or she will regurgitate food for her pups. They learn early on to lick their mother’s nose and lips to try to find food when she comes home.
With humans, dogs may sometimes lick your face or lips to taste what you have just eaten. Perhaps the instinct to get food is still there.
Affection And Grooming
Licking is often a sign of affection. Grooming one another as pups or part of a pack is something dogs learn from their mothers and it is a very intimate act. Therefore, licking and grooming are actions between dogs who feel safe with one another. Since you and your dog are now part of the same “pack”, your dog may try to lick you as a form of affection.
Exploration of Their World
My dog, Georgia loves to lick and taste just about everything! Every morning she runs out into the back patio with her tongue out ready to explore! Dogs experience their world in very physical ways using their basic senses of hearing, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting. Tasting and licking seem to be key ways the check out their environment. See my post A Dog’s Newspaper for more on this.
Dogs have antiseptic qualities in their saliva which can help kill germs. That is why you often see a dog trying to heal a wound by licking. Dogs will also lick their paws and feet a lot if they have allergies or pick up a burr or other object that has irritated their paws. Ironically, dogs also lick themselves to get dry after a bath! I assume they are trying to wick off the extra moisture.
An Act of Deference
Licking another dog on the nose or face can be an act of deference. This may also be true when they lick their owners. They may be trying to groom you, show affection, and be submissive. This is your dog’s way of demonstrating trust, intimacy, and a sense of well-being and security.
Something Tastes Really Good!
Lastly, dogs like to lick things because it tastes good! They may want to lick your lips to taste what you just ate. Or you may taste a little salty, a taste that dogs seem to like. I have noticed on a few occasions that my dogs both started licking me like crazy after I had been working in the garden. When the sun is out, I can work up a sweat pretty quickly. When we all come back inside, they will both lick my forehead, necks face, and arms until I squirm away!
What is Unique about Nose Licking?
But what is it about dogs who like to lick your nose? When my dog wants to taste what I have eaten, she will try to lick my lips or cheeks. When she licks my nose, it really feels like she is trying to be affectionate and also get me to pay attention to her. She has other ways of getting my attention, like jumping on my back when I have turned away from her. This usually means she either wants dinner or it is time for a walk! But when we are sitting on the couch at night and she reaches over to lick my nose, it truly feels like a sweet, affectionate way of telling me to pet her or give her some attention.
Because this nose-licking has become such an early morning routine, it seems to happen because she has woken up and wants me up as well. Again, it seems like a gentle way to connect with me and get my attention. And, let us not forget, that it is also her breakfast time! Be sure to read my amusing post of how I ultimately gave in to my dog’s insistence about sleeping in my bed. See The Argument–Sleeping in the Doggie Bed or Mom’s Bed for a few laughs.
Is Nose Licking like Doggie Kisses?
Since doggie licks on the nose seem to mostly arise from acts of grooming and intimacy, they certainly seem like kisses! Most owners seem to think getting licked on the nose means your dog loves you. She probably wants to give and get some attention. See this sweet video from The Dodo Foster Diaries about an Oregon man who adopted a timid brown lab from a shelter. It will bring tears of joy to your eyes.
Other Ways Dogs Show Affection
In addition to licking your nose and face, dogs have other ways of showing affection. Here are some of them:
- Lean on you
- Snuggle up close next to you
- Sleep nearby or in your bed
- Put their paws on you
- Jump up to greet you (even though this may be a no-no in your house)
- Wag their tails when they see you
- Follow you around
- Bring their favorite toys to you
See more at the CanineCampus.us post about 25 ways that dogs can show affection including rolling over and wagging their whole body when you come home!
Why dogs lick your nose seems to be about dog kisses, affection, getting and giving attention, and just plain fun! Hopefully, you will think of it as fun too! If it gets to be a little too much, you can always distract your dog with belly rubs and then go get her that breakfast!