You're sitting on your couch, watching TV, when you start to feel gentle licks on your feet. You look down and of course, your dog is there, happily licking away your feet, whether they're clean or dirty.
This is kind of a gross habit, you think. Or perhaps you love it because any attention from your pup is wonderful. Either way, what you're wondering is why does my dog lick my feet? Is there some scientific reason, or is he just bored? Could he be trying to show me love?
Feet licking does have a purpose, and it makes sense why your dog loves to lick yours.
It shows submission
Sometimes, licking in dogs is a submissive behavior. In wild dogs, subordinate members of a pack will lick the more dominant members. This behavior helps the wild dogs maintain pack harmony. While we now know that dogs do not view us as their pack leaders, licking you may still feel like a natural behavior for your dog. Plus, if you give him praise or otherwise react positively when he licks your feet, he's going to keep doing it because he likes the reaction it elicited.
Your dog wants to gather information
Dogs gather information by licking your feet (and other things as well). Your dog uses millions of scent receptors located in his mouth and nose to gather and process information. Yes, your sweaty feet, which contains sweat glands made of salt, waste and water are providing information to your dog about you.
When licking your feet, your dog uses his Jacobson's Organ, a sense of smell receptor that allows him to detect usually undetectable odors, such as what's in your sweat. He'll also use this organ at the dog park when sniffing other pups, or when sniffing the ground to figure out where to pee.
It’s what he learned as a puppy
Mother dogs lick their puppies to groom them, remove placenta and encourage them to breathe, move and go to the bathroom. She also licks them to show them love and affection. When puppies grow up into adult dogs, they take this behavior they learned from their mothers and apply it to their human owners. When your dog is licking your feet, he's tapping into his instincts and demonstrating that same affection.
Licking relieves stress
Do you notice that your dog has a licking habit? Maybe he licks more than just your feet. He may also lick your arms, hands and face, as well as the floor and the walls. Dogs lick as a form of stress relief, since licking releases endorphins and makes them feel better. If your dog is stressed out or anxious, he will likely start licking your feet.
Is it bad for my dog to lick my feet?
It's not inherently bad for your dog to lick your feet sometimes. However, if he is doing it constantly, he may be going through something. He could be anxious and need your help. If you just moved into a new home or brought home another pet, or someone new moved in, your dog may start to get stressed out and lick your feet more often. Over time, he should adjust to the new change, but you can always give him his favorite toys, cuddle with him as much as possible and leave him a comfy crate to sleep in when you're not home to make him feel better.
It's only harmful for your dog to lick your feet if you have some sort of chemicals on your feet from lotion or medicine, for instance. Let's say you got a mosquito bite on your feet and put anti-itch cream on it. The ingredients in it could be bad for dogs. If your dog licks your feet and then starts to vomit or act lethargic or he has diarrhea, then you should take him to the veterinarian right away.
Additionally, you may simply not like it when your dog licks your feet. If this is the case, ignore your dog (or even walk away) when he licks your feet, and reward him with treats and praise when he is near your feet but does not lick them. You can also redirect him by give him something that is appropriate to lick, such as a Kong full of treats or peanut butter. (Just make sure the peanut butter doesn't contain Xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.)
Your dog may lick your feet to gather information, show you love and affection, demonstrate submission, or relief stress. This is a mostly harmless habit and is only a problem if your dog is doing it obsessively or licking toxic lotion or cream off your feet. If you don't like when your dog licks your feet, ignore him when he does it, and reward him when he is near your feet but does not lick them.