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Why Do Dogs Lick Each Other’s Eyes? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Kit Copson

By Kit Copson

siberian husky licking his partner

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Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs instinctively lick other dogs, and this is very normal behavior. That said, they sometimes go for areas you wouldn’t expect—like the eyes. If you’re witnessing this for the first time, it can leave you perplexed and wondering why in the world a dog would want to lick another dog’s eye. Does it taste good? Are they seeking attention? Trying to bond with the other dog?

There are a few reasons why a dog may lick another dog’s eye, and, in this post, we’ll explore each potential reason in more depth.

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The 5 Likely Reasons Dogs Lick Each Other’s Eyes

1. Submission and Deference

One of the ways in which adult dogs communicate is by licking each other’s faces. A dog may show submission to other dogs by licking areas on the face—this could include the muzzle, chin, and even the eyes. Basically, this is a way of letting the other dog know that they pose no threat and are submitting to their authority. It’s also a way of appeasing other dogs. It’s possible that this is one of the reasons why your dog licks your face!

friendly dog licking other dog's face
Image By: Stickler, Shutterstock

2. Greeting and Affection

Another possible reason for a dog licking another dog’s eyes is that they’re extending them a friendly greeting or are simply being affectionate because licking is a way for dogs to bond with one another and with humans. According to studies, licking releases neurotransmitters called endorphins, and these help dogs feel more relaxed.1

3. Grooming

It isn’t easy for dogs to clean their own faces and eyes, so, if you have multiple dogs and spot them licking each other’s faces and eyes, they may be engaging in grooming behavior—giving each other a helping hand, so to speak.

The licking dog might be trying to help their “pack-mate” get rid of any eye discharge or excess tears in and around the eyes or simply giving them a standard “going over.” If one of your dogs is under treatment for an eye, ear, or skin infection, it is important to avoid such behavior! Remember to check your dogs’ eyes regularly for signs of infection like redness, swelling, or watery or thick, smelly discharge.2

brown dog licking the other dog
Image By: MikaM, Shutterstock

4. Puppy Grooming

You might spot a female dog licking her puppies’ eyes and faces. This is a way of grooming and cleaning them as well as bonding with and comforting them. In turn, puppies often lick their mother’s mouth to get her to regurgitate food and therefore feed them. We know, we know, it sounds gross—but this is just natural dog behavior.

5. Taste

Believe it or not, it’s possible that some dogs lick other dogs’ eyes simply because they like the “salty” taste of tears or discharge around the eye. The other dog may find this annoying or conversely not mind it in the slightest.

two cute pug and pekingese dogs lying together with one licking the ears of the other
Image Credit: GoodFocused, Shutterstock

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My Dog Constantly Licks — Is Something Wrong?

Licking is a normal social behavior for dogs and is usually nothing to worry about. However, if you have a dog that is obsessively licking themself, you, an object, or another dog, they might be a compulsive licker.

Compulsive licking in dogs is often a result of stress, anxiety, boredom, and, in some cases, being in pain or discomfort. If you suspect that your dog might be a compulsive licker, we recommend scheduling a visit with your vet who can let you know if the issue is behavioral or if there’s an underlying medical condition (i.e. allergies, skin conditions, nausea) going on.

If your vet determines that the issue is of a behavioral nature, they may recommend redirection techniques like offering a mentally stimulating toy (i.e. puzzle feeders) to focus the dog’s attention on something other than licking.

Another tip is to make sure your compulsive licker gets plenty of exercise every day to alleviate boredom and anxiety from taking hold. In addition to daily walks, provide anxiety-reducing and mentally stimulating toys like chew toys and puzzle feeders to help keep your dog’s mind off the urge to excessively lick.

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In conclusion, there are a variety of likely reasons for dogs licking each other’s eyes, including attempting to bond with another dog, greet them, groom them, or show deference to them. In some cases, a dog may simply enjoy the taste of another dog’s tears or eye discharge! It’s also natural for mother dogs and puppies to lick one another.

This behavior is usually nothing to worry about as long as it’s not compulsive or the other dog is in discomfort. If you have concerns about your dog’s licking behavior, please consult your vet.

Featured Image Credit: Elfangor, Shutterstock

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