Many dogs love to lick. Some may do so excessively while some rarely lick at all. What is the origin and what is its significance?
Puppies experience the first bond with their mothers as their first natural guide and leader. It is an extremely positive experience as the mother gently licks her newborn
puppies to groom, promote circulation, feed, guide and nurture. Next, they experience the process of licking from their littermates, socially, as affection is shared. Although innate in nature, licking is also continually positively reinforced in a learned way throughout life as a form of affection. Dogs also lick in regard to healing in either themselves or others which also extends as a way of expressing devotion and loyalty to humans.
Sometimes, sadly, many dogs are taken from their mothers too soon and can be tentative and unsure; they may have been conditioned to stay away and are apprehensive to lick as affection. This is not uncommon. Never punish a dog for that. Such dogs show affection in other ways such as nuzzling or staying by your side and should be rewarded and encouraged. Sometimes a dog may simply have an aversion to licking due to scent, taste or texture.
Excessive licking, however, can be a sign of fear, insecurity, stress or tension (once a medical issue is ruled out) and most likely have other issues surrounding their fear or anxiety. When this happens continually and out of context, it should be gently discouraged by redirecting your dog to focus on you on a command such as “sit” instead. These dogs need more guidance and direction, and encouragement from you on a daily basis.