Why Do Dogs Lick Each Other On the Mouth?

For many an animal enthusiast, attempting to figure out the intentions behind a dog's actions can inspire intrigue and wonderment. Body language and context are key factors in determining a dog's behavior. One dog licking the mouth of another is a gesture that could have multiple meanings.

To Say "Hello"

The Arizona Humane Society notes that when a dog prods another dog's mouth and muzzle region with his tongue, he may simply be giving out an enthusiastic and happy "hello." Breathe easy if you spot your beloved Yorkie licking your Chihuahua's mouth, for example. It's a pretty strong indication that the little guys are on good terms -- at least for the time being. It also may mean that the "licker" thinks that the other dog is his superior. Signs of hostility are usually pretty overt, from growling to loud barking and snarling.

To Make Peace

In certain cases, the licking of another dog's mouth may point to peacemaking and pacifism, according to the ASPCA. If conflict is bubbling between a fluffy duo for whatever reason, one dog may approach the other and lick his mouth as a way of extending an olive branch of sorts. The doggie has absolutely no desire to fight and wants to smooth things over and make things "normal" again. One smart, furry cookie, for sure.

Sign of Subordination

The licking of another dog's mouth may be a sign of subordination, according to the Rancho Coastal Humane Society. When a dog feels defeated and vulnerable, he may lick another dog's mouth to show the other he admits inferiority. This essentially is a way to acknowledge the canine preeminence of the other. This, too, is an example of a dog that isn't in fighting mode by any means.

Sign of Affection

A dog might lick a companion canine's mouth as a pure sign of affection, nothing more, nothing less. It basically is a kind of kiss, although perhaps a little bit sloppier. The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA indicates that, in some instances, licking another dog's mouth may be an invitation to play together -- aww. When a dog licks a human's face, the motive is quite often very similar, too. In any event, mouth licking usually isn't a hostile act. In fact, usually quite the opposite.

By Naomi Millburn

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References
Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA: Dog-Dog Introductions
ASPCA: Reading Canine Body Postures
Michigan Humane Society: Thinking About Adopting a Second Dog?
Toledo Area Humane Society: Canine Rivalry
Caring Hands Humane Society: Body Language of Dogs
Rancho Coastal Humane Society: Jumping Dogs Lie
Arizona Humane Society: Understanding Canine Body Language

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.