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Dr Scott Nimmo
Dr Scott Nimmo, Small Animal Veterinarian.
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 20128
Experience:  BVMS, MRCVS. { Glasgow UK }
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My lab is always licking me on the face, hands, legs, anywhere

Resolved Question:

My lab is always licking me on the face, hands, legs, anywhere there is skin. He does it to everyone - is that a trait of a lab? Why do they do that.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr Scott Nimmo replied 8 years ago.
Thanks for the question.

I think this is a Labrador trait, I can visualise generations of them running into my consulting room and jumping up on me while trying to lick! They are just such a friendly family orientated sort of dog.

Now why do they lick? :

1. They lick a person to whom they wish to signal deference. Dogs are pack animals, and in the pack situation those that are the lower order wild dogs will licking the alpha dog's face as an act of submission. So when he does it to you it is a sign that you are higher in the pecking order.

2. In the wild pups will lick their mothers lips when she returns to the den as they want her to regurgitate food for them. They will also generally make a fuss of her and that is the stimulus for her to vomit up the food in her stomach for them. It could be that your Labrador regards XXXXX XXXXX her mum and so makes this fuss when she sees you for the first time each day.

3. It could be a form of attention seeking and most people will react to the situation and the dog will learn from this and so be manipulative.

4. The dog may lick simply because it relishes the taste of salt from the sweat on a persons face and bare arms.

Of course dog's cannot talk and tell you why they do this but the above is my personal theory.

So how would you stop him doing it?

1. Do not turn it into a game, when he does it turn round, stand stock still and ignore him. Then walk away and ignore him, on the other hand praise him if he is calmer, this way the dog is not getting the response he is looking for if he is attention seeking.

2. An alternative is to have a small rape alarm or perhaps a coke can full of stones ready. When he comes at you shout NO! and either sound the rape alarm or throw the coke can close to him so it makes a noise and startles him. Keep doing this and then ignore him, again if he is calm praise him and perhaps give him a small treat.

3. It may be possible to hold him on an extension lead and if he jumps up at other people to lick you can pull him back and shout NO!. Again praise him if he is good.

No one method would work with any dog but the basis of all dog training is the carrot and the stick. Ignoring him and not turning it into a game may be the core of this method. Try and not lose your temper with him as this achieves little and physical punishment may just cause confusion.

If I have not covered your question fully enough or you would like to ask more please do not hesitate to get back in touch with me, I will be at your disposal

Scott Nimmo BVMS
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