The sight of your dog licking a fellow canine may seem like a pure sign of affection, and while it often is a tender and loving gesture, it also carries various other possible meanings and intentions. The licking of another dog can often even be a sign of social status.
Friendly Behavior and Lip Licking
If you notice your pooch licking another doggie on his lips, then he's probably cu trying to learn more about the other guy -- in a friendly and jovial way. It may be your pet's way of communicating something like, "Hey, I'd like to get to know you better. You seem pretty great."
A dog who licks another dog on the face probably doesn't feel like he is in the power position when deciding who'll get first dibs on a certain resource (a toy, food, etc) at a given moment. Dogs frequently lick the faces of other canines that they perceive to be stronger than they are, but also higher on the totem pole socially. By licking another dog, your pooch may be saying, "I'm not trying to compete with you. I just want there to be peace between us."
If your dog is a mother and licks on the fur balls in her litter, then she is engaging in the classic maternal act of grooming them to squeaky cleanliness. Mother dogs also frequently lick their youngsters as a way of getting their bodies to urinate and pass stools, as young puppies do not yet have control over those processes. Licking of puppies also is a sign of caring and love between mama dogs and the little ones. If a pup licks his mom on the face, it also may be his way of saying hello to her and getting her attention -- and perhaps even requesting some food.
When a dog licks a sibling, his intention is often to helpfully groom. However, the purpose of the grooming frequently goes further than that. In interactions between littermates, mutual grooming is also a way in which to establish cozy and reliable emotional connections to each other. Licking amidst siblings is a way in which they become closer. This type of friendly licking isn't in any way restricted to littermates, however. If your dog has a good rapport and trust with another pooch in your household, you may also observe social grooming behaviors -- definitely a positive sign for their relationship.
By Naomi Millburn
ASPCA: Canine Body Language
Michigan Humane Society: Thinking About Adopting a Second Dog?
Caring Hands Humane Society: Body Language of Dogs
DogChannel.com: Dog Licking Behaviors
ASPCA: Reading Canine Body Postures
Dog Care & Training; Carina Beth MacDonald
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.