Why Do Dogs Lick Your Feet?
Turns out, there's more than meets the eye (or the foot) with this interesting dog behavior
If there’s one dog fact we’re confident about, it’s that they like to lick. They lick their paws, their fur siblings and, yes, they even lick you, their beloved human. Your dog’s licking habit might be something to laugh about at first, but admittedly, this weird dog behavior can get old if it’s excessive. If your pooch licks your feet when you’re doing the dishes, sitting on the couch or trying to do anything without wearing socks, and it’s driving you nuts, don’t worry. We have the reason behind this strange behavior—and how you can thwart it.
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Why do dogs like to lick?
From the moment dogs are born, licking plays a key role in their development. All dogs have an additional organ called the Jacobson’s organ. It connects their nasal cavity to the roof of their mouth, allowing them to taste and smell at the same time. New dog moms lick their puppies to clean them off, help them start breathing and stimulate digestion, and puppies will lick them in return.
As dogs get older they continue to lick people, things or other dogs to show affection, to get attention or as a slobbery (but much loved) greeting.
Why do dogs lick your feet?
If your dog constantly goes after your feet with their tongue, it’s because they love the sweaty and salty taste of your toes and they want attention, says Gary Richter, DVM, veterinary health expert with Rover. Chances are, every time your dog licks your feet, you react by laughing or yelling at them to stop. Even though you might yell in a tone that means trouble, you’re still giving your dog attention every time they do it. Therefore, they associate licking your feet with interaction and will continue to do it when they want something from you. They see it as a game.
There are other reasons dogs lick feet, including:
- They think it’s comforting, especially if they’re experiencing anxiety.
- They’re giving you a sign of affection.
- They want to smell what you’ve been up to (seriously).
Is it okay for dogs to lick your feet?
Assuming you wash your feet regularly, it’s generally okay for dogs to lick your feet. Just make sure the pups don’t lick your feet after you’ve applied creams or ointments that could be toxic to them, or if you have an open cut on your foot. We know where our dogs’ mouths have been—and we don’t want it in open wounds.
How can I get my dog to stop licking my feet?
We get it—even if licking feet isn’t bad for dogs, it can be uncomfortable for humans. Here are some tips from Dr. Richter and celebrity dog trainer Chrissy Joy for how to stop a dog from licking your feet.
1. Cover up your feet
Not a fan of Fido licking your feet? Try covering them up to prevent your pup from having easy access. “If you need to deter them from this behavior, you could be sure to wear socks or have your feet covered during the times that this behavior tends to happen,” Joy explains.
2. Give them a toy
Your dog can’t lick your feet if they’re preoccupied with something fun. Dr. Richter suggests offering your dog something else they like to have in their mouth, such as a toy or treat, every time they go to lick your feet. Joy recommends giving the pup a puzzle toy to redirect their energy into something productive and safe.
3. Establish a special spot for your dog
Another way to redirect feet licking is to set up an extra-special space for your dog in the room where the licking happens. This tactic establishes a positive place for your pup where they still get rewards and feel happy, without having to make tongue-and-foot contact. “For example, if it is the living room during movie night, you can have a comfy bed nearby for the dog to lie on,” Joy explains. “You can pair this with a favorite chew or something they can lick (such as a filled toy of frozen peanut butter and pumpkin).”
4. Ignore the behavior
Remember: Your dog is getting something out of licking your feet. If you laugh, or even tell them to stop, they’re still getting your attention. Instead of reacting, simply ignore the behavior and walk away, showing your dog that the behavior won’t be rewarded.
If your dog can’t seem to keep their tongue in their mouth no matter what you try, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian to see if your dog has any underlying medical conditions. Now that you know the answer to the question, “Why does my dog lick my feet?” learn the answer to another common dog behavior question: Why does my dog follow me everywhere?
About the experts
- Gary Richter, DVM, is an award-winning veterinarian and a veterinary health expert with Rover.com. He has owned and been the medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California, since 2002 and started Holistic Veterinary Care in 2009.
- Chrissy Joy is a celebrity dog trainer, live performer and International Trick Dog Champion who has been featured on PIX11 and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, as well as in USA Today. Her goal is to inspire others to develop their bond with their pup through activities like trick training.