Cute? Strange? Concerning? We answer the most common questions about why dogs lick your feet.
Life with a dog is full of wonderfully weird discoveries. From their love of squeaky toys to their tendency to howl at passing sirens, there are elements of dog behavior that consistently perplex even the most seasoned of dog parents. Chief among these is the compulsion some dogs have to lick human feet.
So, what’s the deal? Is a dog licking your feet something to be concerned about or a sign that something else is going on? Or is it just one of those things you sign up for on the wild ride of dog parenting? There are two big things going on when a dog licks your feet and understanding these will help you better interact with your pup.
Dogs learn from licking
Dogs physiology includes something called a vomeronasal organ, which is also often referred to as a Jacobson's organ. This organ sits at the bottom of the nasal passage and essentially connects the nasal cavity to the roof of a dog’s mouth, allowing dogs to taste and smell simultaneously. The presence of this organ - which humans do not possess - is a big part of why dogs have a sense of smell 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than humans.
Think of licking like your dog doing research: Because of their powerful olfactory system, licking allows your pup access to a world of biological, hormonal, and environmental information far beyond the human eye. Though it might weird us out, the combination of sweat and pheromones on our feet act as a library for dogs and offer them knowledge about our feelings, activities, and even our diets!
Dogs communicate through licking
Until technology is able to make us all into Dr. Dolittle, dogs only have non-verbal means of communicating with us. When a dog licks a human’s feet, they may be trying to get your attention or communicate their care towards you. When dogs are puppies, their mothers lick them to clean them and help digestion so they learn that licking = comfort and safety. The fact that many of us respond to this by laughing or giggling from the ticklish sensation may also reinforce for our pups that this is a thing we like.
So, is your dog licking your feet normal?
Is a dog licking your feet normal? Absolutely. Dogs lick our feet to learn about us, the world we inhabit, and to communicate with us as best they can. Can this behavior still feel weird? Totally. If you’re not thrilled about your dog licking your feet, positive and consistent redirection is a highly effective training tactic to help control a pup’s focus on feet. As always, check in with your vet if you feel like your dog is licking in excess or obsessively as it might be a sign of stress or anxiety issues.