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Why Does My Dog Like to Lick My Legs? 6 Reasons for This Behavior

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

puppy licking owner's leg

Our dogs love to keep our minds reeling, wondering what they’re thinking or why they behave the ways they do. If your dog seems to lap at your legs with their slobbery tongues, you might wonder why in the world they’re doing it.

Like many other actions, this could happen for several reasons. Dogs like to lick legs mostly because they are giving affection. You will have to pay attention to other non-verbal cues to spot when they do it and what might trigger it. Let’s explore some of the reasons you might be getting a leg bath every time you sit down.

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The 6 Common Reasons Dogs Lick Human Legs

1. Showing Affection

Some dogs can’t get enough of you. It could be that they are just trying to show you affection, especially if you’re sitting on the couch and sitting on the floor in front of you. Licking is one of the love languages of our beloved canines.

Our cute, furry pals learned to give “kisses” from their mama. When puppies are born, mothers clean and show affection to their babies by licking them. If they want to show you the same, licking your bare legs seems like a pretty good way of communicating how much they love you.

2. Showing Respect & Submission

Dogs are going to submit to the masters, showing this in different ways. If your dog is licking your legs, it could be a sign of their devotion to you.

black small puppy licking her mouth
Image Credit: Alexandra Macskasy, Shutterstock

Submission is a real thing. Some dogs will challenge you when their “alpha” mentality takes over. With basic training concepts, they can recognize their roles in the hierarchy.

If your dog has accepted that you are the head of the household, leg licking could be a sign that they know their place.

3. Attention-Seeking

If you flinch or giggle if your dog licks your legs, they could look at it as an excellent way to get attention. After all, if you react to their advances, it will encourage the behavior. They might think you’re ready to play with them, making them even more excited.

Even if it’s unwanted, you shouldn’t react negatively to your dog when they do this. That could be not very clear to them, especially if it seemed like you were having a good time at first. Instead, try not to react and redirect the attention to a favorite toy or activity.

4. Your Dog Is Grooming You

Just like dogs like to groom each other, they want to groom their humans, too. If you have bare legs, this could be their way of helping you take a shower. If your leg is uncovered, it’s pretty fair game for a bath session.

Dogs that groom your legs might also lick your arms or face—or any exposed part of you because they think they’re helping you. Grooming is a profoundly social activity that dogs do with one another to interact with those they love.

It’s a pack-mentality thing, and you’re in the club. Consider yourself lucky.

a dog licking woman's feet
Image Credit: IKO-studio, Shutterstock

5. Anxiety & Other Behavioral Disorders

Sometimes, your dog might get uncomfortable in certain situations. If your dog is feeling a little bit unsure or restless, they might lick your legs as a way to exhibit anxiety. Consider this your dog’s way of communicating how they feel. Notice what’s going on around you when the dog acts this way.

You might also notice that they don’t just stop at leg licking. These behaviors might lead to excessive grooming or lapping at other objects, like blankets or fabrics. It might be a self-stimulatory behavior triggered by underlying anxiety and behavioral issues.

Addressing the cause might be essential in curbing the behavior in these cases.

6. Salty Sweat on Your Skin

Dogs tend to impress us with their impeccable olfactory senses. Their sense of smell is tremendously more advanced than ours, having over 300 million olfactory senses compared to our measly 6 million. That boils down to a dog’s sense of smell being roughly 40 times greater than humans.

Whether you know it or not, your body is constantly secreting pheromones. Humans can’t pick up any of these smells, but dogs certainly can. If you’re sweating, your dog might be licking the salty scent from your skin.

So, even if you aren’t aware that you’re actively sweating or have dried sweat on your legs, your dog can smell and taste it. Many dogs are simply attracted to this, and it isn’t abnormal at all. Dogs just enjoy the taste of your skin.

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Should You Stop Dogs From Licking Your Feet?

yorkshire terrier with owner
Image By: StockSnap, Pixabay

There is really nothing to worry about when it comes to the actual action of your dog licking your legs. But if you think it’s due to stress or anxiety, you might want to uncover the root cause. You don’t want your dog feeling insecure or out of sorts, after all.

If you think your dog might have an anxiety-related issue, you can work with your vet to determine why. There will be options to help your dog, including medication if the situation merits.

Also, it’s important to note that excessive licking, in general, can signal:

  • Anxiousness
  • Pain
  • Allergies
  • Underlying health conditions

So, while leg licking can simply be a product of the reasons we discussed in this article, you need to keep an eye on other visual cues.

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Final Thoughts

If you find good ol’ Fido licking your legs, it is probably totally normal behavior. There is usually no negative reason unless it is accompanied by other behaviors that cause concern. If you believe the excessive licking could be because of an underlying health issue, never wait. Always consult your vet for further guidance or advice.

Featured Image Credit: Alby83, Shutterstock

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