Dogs love their humans. But unfortunately their communication style is a lot different from ours. So, to express their love, these little four-legged angels often indulge in specific behaviors that although seem bizarre to us, but are outright sweet declarations of love.
One of these adoring behaviors include licking your legs. When a pup licks your legs, this means that they like you and want you to know. Additionally, some dogs will also lick their pawrents leg if they want affection, rubs, bootie scratches, food or water. It is their way of exhibiting their need and therefore pet parents should monitor their behavior to know what the little canine is saying. However, extreme licking of legs is often a problem and can have various underlying causes which we will be discussing in the later sections of this blog.
Why do Dogs lick human legs?
Well, if you have been a pet parent for long, by now you must have witnessed innumerable accounts where your fur baby tries to sneak a lick attack. These episodes are often described as ‘pure love’ moments by their human counterparts, however extreme instances surely are problematic.
Most dogs love to cuddle with their owners. And hence if your pup seems to can’t get enough of you, then he/she is likely to exhibit such weird behaviors. Licking and cuddling is a love language for dogs and thus if everytime you sit down, your pup seems to start their lick attack, then it might just mean they are showing adoration.
Generally found in puppies, the little ones lick legs because it is the easiest place to reach. Unlike getting up on the bed or couch and then licking your hands or face, a puppy may choose to rest near your feet and lick everything that is accessible. This could be your toes, back of legs or even your ankles.
Greeting or Respecting
Just like showing love, a dog will also lick their owner’s legs as a form of greeting or appeasement. Predominantly found in shy or anxious pups, when they lick your legs their heads naturally go down, exposing their neck. Such a position is quite vulnerable and hence if your canine displays such stances, it could mean they are respecting you as the ‘Leader’ of the pack.
Apart from that, this could also mean that they are simply greeting you after a long day at work. The pup is simply too excited about your arrival and thus doing what a majority of dogs do when they are super excited.
Licking your sweat
Dogs are weird, no doubt. But some can be even weirder. For instance, if you have ever witnessed your canine getting extra clingy when you are all sweaty or haven’t bathed for long, then it could be a sign that the fur baby might be attracted to your sweat’s smell and taste.
Although it can seem pretty weird, this is a normal occurrence and usually has nothing to be worried about. But if the frequency is getting out of hand, then distracting the pooch or going for a bath is the best choice. This way the canine will not be at risk of ingesting any deadly microbes that might be on your skin and fall ill.
A Grooming Behavior
A rare but explainable behavior, some dogs love grooming their owners as they like to groom themselves. These pups will often try to lick you clean after they are done with themselves and are not restricted to a single place. When grooming, the dog is very likely to lick every accessible part of your body, that may be your face, neck, arms, and legs.
Rooted to their ancient characteristics, grooming each other is a practice that a pack of dogs perform. This is generally how dogs interact with each other and gather data about their immediate surroundings. So, by grooming you, it might mean that either the dog is trying to communicate with you or simply wants to keep you clean.
Contrary to what many of us believe, dogs are really smart creatures. They will do everything that seems to be getting your attention and then act innocent once you look at them, and one of such acts include licking your legs.
So, if you giggle or flinch whenever the pup licks your body, there is a high chance that the pup will perform the same behavior everytime they want something from you. This is one of the many silly things our pets do for our affection and attention, and therefore not being harsh is the least of things we could do for them.
While most dogs love human company, some could get anxious or overly stressed at times. As a result they will start showing several stress signs that could include whining, tucking their tails, hiding or overly licking their owner’s legs. These behaviors are usually coupled together and hence if you see any of the above-said signs, it is better to shift the canine to a safer surrounding.
This way they will not be a liability to both their and others’ safety and also get enough time to calm down eventually.
When does a dog licking legs become a problem?
Leg licking becomes a problem when the dog:
- Seems overly stressed and frantic of its surroundings
- Doesn’t leave your legs alone at all
- Is obsessive about your sweaty or dirty legs
- Has a previous medical history of separation anxiety, depression, and other psychological ailments
- Tries to lick your wounds or nibs at your dirty socks
- Exhibits behavioral problems (like snapping, growling or trying to bite) when distracted or denied access to your legs
Extremes of anything are never good. So, no matter whatever the reason might be, if the leg licking doesn’t seem to subside, medical or behavioral correction procedures will be necessary.
How do I correct my Dog’s Leg Licking behavior?
There are a few tricks that work well when trying to rectify your dog’s leg licking behavior. However the catch to their efficiency lies with the regularity of the practice and your patience as a pet parent.
Marking the subtle behavioral changes
Like every other behavior, your dog is likely to exhibit certain distinguishing factors before commencing with their lick attack. These little changes in their body behavior can go a long way in predicting their next step, and hence marking them can come handy.
The little staring, trying to get close to your legs, gentle nibbing at your pants, etc are all indication factors and should be carefully monitored.
Distracting them at the right time
Next even though you miss the behavioral changes, you can distract your canine from the action. This can be achieved through the use of toys, treats, or using verbal commands, such as ‘no/sit/lie down/leave it’, etc.
When done at the right time, this will aid divert the dog’s attention to other things and therefore curb the behavior. Make sure to repeat this positive reinforcement training every time the pup makes advances towards your legs. When done regularly, soon enough the canine will show all desirable behavioral changes and therefore be the good boy/girl they previously were.
Seek Medical attention
However, if unfortunately the case doesn’t seem to be improving, it is advised to have the pup checked by an experienced and qualified veterinarian. Sometimes the underlying reasons could be health related and thus feigning ignorance in such cases can prove to be quite detrimental on the canine.
Stress, anxiety, and depression can escalate rapidly into many fatal circumstances, causing the dog to behave abnormally and therefore seeking a professional’s aid is a better bet.
If the issues are related to psychological, emotional or physical ailments, the vet will prescribe a proper treatment method which may include medications or behavioral courses for their transformation.
Ensuring their entertainment
A majority of dogs will start licking the legs of their owners if they are bored. Hence, before leaving for your work, it is highly essential to properly and efficiently stimulate your dogs both physically and mentally. Letting them run freely within the yards, taking them on long walks, going on nature treks, playing frisbee with them, or even offering canine-safe puzzle games can come handy.
When a dog is stimulated enough, they won’t turn towards bizarre behavioral changes and therefore may stop licking your legs completely. However during this time make sure not to be harsh on them. Shouting or punishing the pup will do no good and may actually worsen their behavior.
Leg licking is usually no source of worry. Rather most pet parents as well as their dogs find it relaxing or calming at any given point of time. But if the same starts feeling uncomfortable, done excessively or is accompanied by other secondary behaviors, that is when special attention is needed.
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