Dogs make great pets because they are devoted, loving, and always ecstatic to see you. They are also smart enough to be well trained; listening to and understanding what you tell them. Not to mention, they are always happy to go for a hike or play fetch.
Dogs can also be silly and even weird at times like when they zoom around the house or chase their tails. But that’s part of what we love about them, right? Their silly personality quirks are what make them unique and special to us.
Every dog has individual traits and it is important to know what silly and goofy behavior your dog does because you need to know if something is amiss! Learning why a dog does something goofy can help you understand if the behavior is okay and stop the behavior if necessary.
So, what about licking legs? Why does my dog lick my legs? There are a number of reasons that could cause it, but the top reasons are your dog is:
- Showing affection and respect
- Just saying hi
- Bonding with you
- Trying to get attention
- Tasting your yummy skin
- Has behavior problems
- Showing submission
- Trying to tell you something
- Getting Information
- Eating your crumbs
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Owner’s Legs?
After reading through the list above, you may have had an ‘Aha!’ moment and know exactly what your best friend is up to. If your dog licking your legs is still somewhat of a mystery to you, I’ll go through each item on the list in a little more detail.
When you’re trying to find the reason your dog does anything, it’s important to take the entire situation into context. Just like dogs bark when angry and while playing, you’ll have to observe their body language and the situation before determining your good girl’s intention.
I’ll also look at some specific circumstances that may provoke leg licking, and finally, I’ll talk about successful ways to stop your pooch from doing it all together!
Affection And Respect
Dogs licking their owner’s legs can be a sign of respect and affection. When your dog licks your legs, they could be telling you that you are the leader of the pack, and they respect you.
It is also a way for your dog to show their affection for you. It’s similar to how humans might hug or kiss a loved one to show they care.
When you first walk in the door, does your pup come running to you with a wagging tail and start licking your legs? If so, this is likely just their way of saying hi!
Bonding With You
Have you ever noticed your dog licking your legs more when you’re both relaxing on the couch or taking a nap together? If so, this is likely their way of bonding with you.
Dogs are social creatures and love spending time with their pack (that’s you and your family!).
They might lick your legs as a way to show they feel comfortable and safe around you.
Has your dog been extra needy lately and won’t stop licking your legs? If so, they might be trying to get your attention.
Dogs are smart creatures and quickly learn that certain behaviors will get them the attention they crave.
If you’ve ever given your pup a treat or given her a good ear scratch after she licked your legs, they’ve probably realized that this is a surefire way to get some quality time with you!
Your Skin Tastes Good
Whether it is the salt from your sweat, the sweet smell of your lotion, or the odd smell from your sunscreen, your dog might just think your skin tastes good!
While this might not be the most flattering reason, it is entirely possible that your dog just enjoys the taste of your skin.
Dogs can get anxious for a variety of reasons like being in a new place, being around a new or aggressive dog, or even during a thunderstorm.
When they are feeling anxious, some dogs will start licking their owners. Your legs are likely one of the most convenient parts of you to lick at any given time. So, it makes sense that they’re a good target for your dog’s tongue.
If your dog is excessively licking your legs or any other body part, it could be a sign of behavioral problems.
Excessive licking as well as other behaviors can also be a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior in dogs. It develops in dogs that lack mental stimulation and have become bored. They start doing something weird to keep themselves from overwhelming boredom.
Eventually, that becomes a habit and part of their general behavior even if the boredom problem has been solved. If you think this is the reason your dog has started licking and it isn’t yet fully ingrained in their behavior it can often be fixed by providing more toys, exercise, and attention.
In the wild, dogs lick the alpha dog’s mouth as a sign of submission. Even in domesticated dogs that don’t live in packs, this behavior has remained.
So, if your dog has been licking your legs often, it could be their way of submitting to you and showing you that they know you are the leader of the pack.
Telling You Something
I’ve gone over some specific things your dog might want to tell you (love, respect, submission, and more) but there could also be a one-off bit of info your pup is trying to communicate.
Maybe your good girl did something she knows she shouldn’t have; she might come over and start licking your legs as a way of telling you “I’m sorry”.
There’s also the chance that you forgot to let your dog outside to potty, or she just hasn’t figured out a reliable way to tell you she needs to go. So, your dog might also lick you as a way to let you know that they need to go outside to use the restroom.
If your pup starts licking your legs and then goes and sits by the door, it’s a pretty clear sign that they need to take a potty break!
Have you ever noticed that your dog likes to lick your feet or legs when you first get home from work or after being gone for a while?
If so, they might just be trying to get information about where you’ve been.
Dogs have an amazing sense of smell and can often tell where you’ve been and who you’ve been around just by smelling you. They can do the same with the information they get from giving you a good lick.
So, if your dog starts licking your legs when you get home, they are probably just trying to figure out where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to!
I know, I know. You pride yourself on cleanliness. Yet, even the best of us gets a little lazy a messy sometimes. If your lunch break was cut short and you ate your chips and sandwich as fast as possible. Or some other reason caused you to get crumbs on yourself, don’t doubt that your dog can’t smell them.
And when she smells them, she’s going to want to taste them! If you ended up with some crumbs on your legs, or maybe a little kid with something good on their hands touched your legs, and your dog ends up licking your legs, they are likely after that yummy human food!
Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs After I Shower?
It might be the most annoying thing a dog can do. You get cleaned up and dressed up and your dog is right there to lick you, get hair on your fancy clothes, or in some other way make you feel dirty again.
Don’t worry, your dog isn’t trying to sabotage your big date. There are reasons your dog might lick your legs as soon as you get out of the shower.
The Scent Of Your Soap
Your dog might lick your legs after you shower because the soap you used smells interesting to them. Soap usually has a sweet, floral, or savory scent to it, and dogs can smell it very well.
And what’s better than smelling something interesting? Tasting it!
Your Natural Smell Is Different
When you shower you wash away your natural smell. The smell of soap might be interesting to your dog, but the lack of your usual scent might be confusing.
Dogs often lick familiar things that suddenly smell different as a way to figure out what is going on.
Learning Your New Scent
If you recently got your dog or recently changed soaps and lotions, your dog might just be trying to learn your new scent.
When you first bring home a puppy, they will spend a lot of time sniffing you to figure out who you are and what your smell is. If you’ve recently changed soaps or lotions, your dog might just be trying to learn the new scent.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Pants?
To dogs, pants don’t just cover your legs they tell a story. And that story is told through scents and tastes.
New Laundry Detergent Scent
Have you recently changed laundry detergents or fabric softeners? If so, your dog is probably just trying to figure out the new scent.
Learn Where You’ve Been
Similar to when dogs lick your legs to gather information, your good girl might lick your pants to discover where you’ve been. The more interesting, the better. I recently took my kids to a farm petting zoo.
While it was fun being there, you can imagine the different odors we smelled of. My dogs, with their much keener sense of smell, picked those scents up on my clothes when I came home.
They weren’t just doing their normal excited to see you greetings. They also were licking and sniffing my pants as they came up to say hi. I’m sure that it was the scents from the various animals that had pressed against me all afternoon that made my dogs go crazy.
Is It Okay For My Dog To Lick My Legs?
As long as your dong isn’t licking your legs nonstop, being aggressive, or in some other way being destructive or dangerous then it is okay for your dog to lick your legs.
However, whether you like it and think it is okay is a different story. If your dog is getting hair on your clothes, if you think their breath smells, or you just think it is gross then you might not appreciate the attention.
Which leads to the next question.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Licking My Legs?
Fortunately, dogs are very trainable which means when they are doing something you don’t like there are usually a few things you can do to encourage their behavior to change.
If you read more than a few articles I’ve written, you’ll see I mention this a lot. It’s because, in my opinion, one of the best ways to train a dog is through positive reinforcement.
This means rewarding them when they do something you want and ignoring them or not rewarding them when they do something you don’t want.
So, if your goal is to stop your dog from licking your legs then don’t give them any attention when they start to lick.
This includes talking to them and looking at them. Any type of attention that isn’t punishment, is the attention they want in their eyes and will only encourage the licking behavior.
Encourage alternate behaviors
In some cases, there are certain situations that trigger your dog’s desire to start licking your legs. If that is the case, try to encourage alternate behaviors.
For example, if they only start licking when you come home from work then have them sit or lay down as soon as you come in and give them a treat. This will help create a new association with coming home and hopefully discourage the leg licking behavior.
Use A Deterrent
If your dog is persistent in their leg licking, then you might have to turn to a deterrent.
Find something that your dog doesn’t like (but is humane!) and when they start to lick, use the deterrent.
This is one of my least preferred methods for all but the most serious behavior issues. There are usually easier, more effective, and more humane ways of teaching your dog to do what you want her to do.
One of the best commands you can teach your dog to understand is ‘No’. It’s a very powerful command that can be used in all sorts of situations.
When your dog starts to lick your legs, say ‘No’ in a firm voice.
The key is to be consistent with using the ‘No’ command. Every time your dog starts to lick your legs, say ‘No’.
If you only do it sometimes, or if you say it in a weak voice then they won’t understand that you really mean for them to stop.
Distract Your Dog
One method of changing your dog’s behavior that can be effective is to distract her when she is tempted to do the undesired behavior.
So, if your dog only licks your legs when you are sitting down then try and get up and move around before she has a chance to start licking.
This won’t work in every situation but it’s an easy thing to try that can sometimes be effective.
Mental and physical exercise is important for all dogs but can be especially helpful for those that tend to have behavior issues.
Dogs that are bored or don’t get enough exercise are more likely to start acting out in undesirable ways. So, if your dog is licking your legs too much, try and make sure she is getting enough exercise.
Take her for walks or play fetch for physical exercise. For mental exercise consider getting some fun toys that make noise. For dogs that are really smart and bored, there are even puzzle games available!
Is It Normal For Your Dog To Lick Your Legs?
To some degree yes. I’m sure nearly every dog, especially as a puppy, at least tried to lick its owner’s legs. Many dogs continue to sneak a leg lick here and there even if they know better.
The behavior becomes abnormal when your dog is doing it excessively or when it becomes a nuisance. If your dog is constantly licking your legs and you can’t seem to get her to stop then it’s probably time to take some steps to change the behavior.
Do People Like When Dogs Lick Their Legs?
Some people don’t mind or maybe even find comfort in their dog licking their legs. Others of course think even licks from their own dogs are a bit gross. What nearly everyone agrees on is that licks on the leg from someone else’s dog are gross and not wanted.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs When I Come Home?
I talked a bit about dogs gathering information by licking you when you come home. Of course, this lets dogs know if you’ve been to work or the petting zoo but there are also other reasons dogs might lick you when you come home.
They could have separation anxiety issues. Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety get very anxious when their owner leaves and are relieved when they come back home. This can manifest in lots of different ways including excessive leg licking.
Other dogs are overwhelmed with joy when their owner comes back home. We have a long driveway. One of my dogs spends the entire time it takes to drive down our driveway running in circles in the yard with a huge smile on her face.
Since I’m not a fan of my legs being licked by my dogs, I’m glad that is how she expresses her happiness. Other dogs will lick out of excitement as soon as you arrive home.
Final Thoughts: Why Do Dogs Lick Your Legs?
As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why your dog might start licking your legs. It is important to take into account the context in which the leg licking is happening as well as your dog’s overall body language.
One possibility is that they are trying to tell you something. Dogs communicate through body language. Additionally, some research suggests that licking is a sign of anxiety.
Another possibility is that your dog is trying to get attention. Dogs are very smart, and they know that we respond to their licking. If your dog licks your legs when you are trying to do something else, they might be trying to get some of those amazing ear scratches.
Other possibilities include that your dog is bored, curious, or has separation issues.
If your dog’s leg licking is becoming excessive, there are a few things you can do to try and change the behavior. Two methods of changing your dog’s behavior that are particularly effective when used together are the ‘No Command’ and positive reinforcement.
These of course won’t always work but will likely be the easiest, fastest, and most humane ways to help shape your sweet dog’s behavior.