There is nothing quite like being woken up by hot, slobbery, although surely very well-meaning doggy kisses. We have all been there, and while some might enjoy it more than others, a soggy face can leave you questioning his behavior in the first place.
Is he trying to tell me something? Why do dogs always insist on showering you with kisses as soon as you wake up (and sometimes before you even are awake)? So, why does my dog lick me in the morning?
Aside from waking you up and greeting you, a dog will lick you in the morning when he needs something from you. Sometimes the way you respond to the licking can also encourage the behavior. Other times, he is showing his love for you.
Dogs tend to show their emotions through affection (or lack thereof if they are unhappy with you or your actions). So if you are being smothered in doggy kisses every morning, you at least know that you are doing something right and that he feels comfortable using this special form of communication with you.
The truth is, your dog is unable to actually tell you what he is feeling, what he wants, or what he needs, and with those closest to him, licking is the best way to get his point across.
What point is that? Well, there are quite a few interpretations of why your dog feels the need to lick you in the morning.
Why Does My Dog Lick Me In The Morning? (And What He’s Likely Thinking)
5. Alarm Clock – Puppy Style
One of the most common reasons for those morning smoochies is to, quite simply, wake you up. They have already long started their day and think it is time for you to do so as well. They use licking as one of their main forms of ‘language’ and in the morning, he just might be telling you that it is time to start your day. “Rise and shine, hooman.”
4. You Are Needed Or Wanted For Something
“Hey hooman, I really need to (eat, use the potty, etc.)!” As one of the few ways, they can convey the message to you, his bright and early licking sessions could really just be your cue to get up and do his bidding. If you fail to do so, this could very well soon be accompanied by intermittent whimpering, usually followed by puppy-dog eyes and a heavy head in your lap. You both know who’s really in charge.
3. He Is Being Encouraged By Your Reaction
As you may well know, dogs seem to learn best by a sometimes subconscious training technique called classical conditioning, using a cause-and-effect strategy, they will observe your reactions to determine their own actions and then apply what they have learned in future situations. If you respond to his morning time kisses by laughing and being generally happy about it, he is ultimately being conditioned to wake you this way, every single day. “You made me do this”.
2. Even When We’re Sweet, We’re Salty
Human sweat and oils taste incredibly salty, and our skin is absolutely covered in it, especially when we have been sleeping all night. Your dog could very well enjoy this taste and this could cause him to be more incessant with his A.M. licking. “I’ll have mine in hooman flavor, thanks.”
1. I Love You And Want You To Spend Time With Me
And, when it all comes down to it, sometimes, they are simply overcome with their love for you. Dogs are some of the most loyal creatures in the animal world and they truly love unconditionally and with their entire souls. Your spontaneous morning ‘baths’ could very well be the result of his utter excitement of your mere existence. “It’s called love. Now, where’s my treat?”
Does Your Dog Know When You’re Awake?
It is honestly truly incredible how intuitive, and sensitive to their ‘people’, canines can be. They seem to have an almost unnatural ability to sense certain things, and he likely knows that you are awake before you have even realized it.
That’d be why he is already giving you the stink eye before you even have the opportunity to open yours. You are simply taking too long. Dogs are not exactly known for their patience.
Why Is My Dog So Affectionate In The Morning?
You know, we could all probably learn a thing or two about a dog’s amazingly sunny outlook on life. Each new day is a blessing to them, as well as a completely brand-new start.
They never hold onto the past and let the little things slide (dogs tend to live in the now). In addition to the above reasons, canines are generally just very affectionate animals and they use affection to articulate their wants, needs, and intended end goals.
Breaking Bad Habits – Affection Licking
When it comes to ‘affection licking’, meaning licking with no other purpose than to show affection, some dogs can take it to the extreme and the habit might need to be broken, or at the very least somewhat controlled.
If this is the case, the best deterrent would be to ignore him. If he does not receive the reaction (your attention and/or happiness) that he is looking for, he will eventually be ‘conditioned’ against the excessive licking.
Of course, you will want to be sure that there is no other, underlying cause for the behavior, before outright ignoring it!
Since our beloved pups can’t necessarily tell us what they need, at least not in a conventional way, they have to use alternative forms of communication.
Licking dates back to their ‘pack’ ancestry, long before they became domesticated house pets. Lesser members of the pack would show their submissiveness to the leaders by licking them. Licking behaviors within the pack would keep the peace and maintain harmony in the group.
Are we seeing a little bit of a correlation here?
The Benefits Of Morning Doggy Love
While we are sure there are people out there who could come up with plenty of negatives to letting your dog give them wake-up kisses, there are even more benefits to allowing it.
- Science says so: When your pup kisses you, both brains (yours and Fido’s) release a chemical called ‘Oxytocin’. This chemical is known as the ‘feel-good hormone’, and for good reason. The chemical release causes feelings of love and euphoria in both the dog and the human. Dog kisses are literally good for your mental health.
- Cementing the bond: Licking is a communicative tool as well as being their ultimate form of social bonding. Licking helps him feel closer to you and reinforces the relationship.
- It is good for your physical health: Some studies have shown that positive microorganisms in people can be boosted by being exposed to the microbes in their dog’s gut, not unlike eating yogurt. Exposure to doggy germs has also been shown to strengthen our immune systems.
- It’ll give you a glow: Dogs have tongues that are great at cleaning and can do wonders for cleaning your skin of the dirt and dead skin (ew) that you have accumulated throughout the night. Those early morning licks provide excellent dirt (and grossness) removal services.
When Licking Becomes A Liability
Like any other living creature, dogs should be able to express themselves in any way that they see fit. However, there are a few circumstances where licking should not be tolerated or encouraged.
- Babies, Small Children, and the Elderly: Those who might be at risk of becoming sick or injured should not be left unsupervised with an overly lovable dog. He might mean well but could cause unintentional injury or pass along dangerous germs and/or bacteria. If you have an at-risk person living in your home, it may be best to train your dog to refrain from licking people.
- He is constantly licking himself: More often than not, when a dog is continually licking at himself it is likely due to the skin or food allergies. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment (typically prescription antihistamines), these issues usually clear up fairly quickly.
- He gets overly excited and escalates the licking: This is especially important with regard to larger breeds. Some pups REALLY like licking and start getting more and more worked up. It is not their fault, and they mean well, they’re just excited but many dogs nip and/or jump up when they get too enthusiastic, which obviously can cause damage in the right circumstances.
Think of those sweet, loving sunrise kisses as your dog’s own personal term of endearment for you, his very special hooman. It is their way to show their love, gratitude, and appreciation, as well as being one of the principal ways of expressing themselves and relating their wants and needs.
While excessive licking can become a nuisance, and there are several ways of curbing the behavior, keep in mind that there is a fine line, one you’ll want to avoid crossing. Be careful to not deter the act of licking altogether as this can cause major behavioral issues in the long run, eventually leading to them acting out.
Discouraging them from their primary way of expressing themselves is just asking for problems (and obedience training) in the future.
Dogs will be dogs and slobbery kisses really do come with the territory. Pucker up and enjoy the love. Their time with us is never long enough before you know it you will be wishing for just one more of those rise-and-shine kisses.