It’s no secret—dogs use their tongues for all sorts of communication. They don’t have arms to hug us. A big sloppy kiss on the face is a surefire sign your dog is trying to give you affection. Even if you push away their advances, they’re elated to give you a lick to tell you just how much they love you.
But how about your feet? It may seem like odd behavior to humans for our best friends to lick our delicate toes, but it’s actually part of their love language. Learning what your dog is trying to say can help you know one another a lot better.
So, What’s Your Dog Telling You?
Feet licking is a submissive gesture. Your dog thinks you’re the king or queen of the castle, and they want you to know they are totally okay with it. In their eyes, you are their alpha—they are going out of their way to show you that they know where you stand.
Don’t confuse this with fearful submission. It’s not that you are a bully, and they aren’t scared. It’s merely a message that they accept you as their master. Think of it similar to how a child feels about their parents—it’s a natural and straightforward social order where each person is in their place.
Snapping at them for acting this way can bum them out, so make sure you aren’t getting angry. It can make things pretty confusing for them. After all, if you’re trying to compliment someone and they scold you—you’re probably going to feel pretty offended or hurt.
4 Reasons Your Dog May Lick Your Feet
Of course, it may not all be due to submissiveness. Sometimes, licking behavior can be due to other factors. You have to pay attention to the cues to see just how your dog acts when they lick your feet.
If you’re an incredibly ticklish person, or if you loathe having your feet touched, you’re probably very reactive to feet licking. If your dog links the lick to you having a large response, they may just want to get your attention so the two of you can roughhouse.
If they see you flailing around with the giggles, they may feel like you’re engaging in play. Try to be as unresponsive as possible. The less reactive you are, the sooner they’ll look for another way to get you to have a good time.
If they have any obsessive behaviors, feet licking may be among them. If they’re feeling uncertain or uneasy, licking your feet could be a soothing action—kind of like a pacifier. If you notice your dog is anxious, there will likely be other actions that indicate your dog is a sufferer.
Anxiety is usually manageable, but sometimes it requires veterinary attention. Your vet may prescribe your dog an anti-anxiety medication—or otherwise, help you uncover and deal with underlying causes.
3. Comfort Grooming
Your dog is very comfortable with you. Naturally, they see you as part of their pack. Mutual grooming is a sign of affection. You pet your dog, they lick you—same concept, different actions.
Comfort grooming is just another way your dog tries to bond with you. So, it may not be enjoyable, but it’s also kind of cute.
Your dogs love anything that smells like you. Without even realizing, we are continually secreting pheromones and glandular bodily signals. Your dog can smell things that we simply don’t have the nose to detect.
If you’ve been sweating, your dog might enjoy the taste of salt on your skin (gross!).
Fun Fact About Dogs and Human Feet
During training, diabetic service dogs learn to detect influxes in blood sugar by smelling secretions from the feet. Many trainers use the socks of the diabetic person to teach the dogs the scent their body lets off when the sugar is high or low.
The dog learns whether the person is out or range or ready to react. When the dog smells this during a diabetic episode, they alert the person. Isn’t it amazing what dogs can do?
If Feet Licking Makes You Uncomfortable
While your dog certainly means well, you may not enjoy this behavior so much. It may feel funny, cringe-worthy, or overwhelmingly ticklish. But no matter how you feel about the foot-licking, it’s important not to be mean to your dog or respond aggressively.
They are just trying to display their feelings in their own way since they can’t just tell you how they feel. If you punish your dog, you’re going to hurt their feelings and not accomplish much else.
Also, if you immediately react, this could turn into a way to get attention. If you aren’t giving them the response they want, a lap of a tongue across your sole will stir you up—and they’ll know it. Instead of letting the feet licking turn into a habit, try to redirect their attention.
It’s far more likely that this probably won’t turn into a problem. Occasionally, your dog may take the opportunity to lick your feet, but it’s very likely to be an infrequent act.
Counteract the behavior with positive reinforcement or divert their attention. Distracting or not reacting can make your dog forget all about your toes.
Beware of Paw Licking
Human feet licking may be annoying, but licking paws can be the sign of an issue. Occasionally grooming the paws is okay, but licking excessively is abnormal. There can be several underlying causes, and getting to the root cause can be tricky.
Working alongside your veterinarian can determine the reason your dog is licking their paws. A change in diet or an antibiotic may be in order.
But as long as their foot licks are just happening with you, you shouldn’t worry much about this.
If your dog doesn’t stop licking your feet, hopefully, you have a better idea of what may be causing this behavior. Remember, your dog sees you as their pack-leader, and they love you very much. That may be all they’re trying to say.
Or maybe old Fido is just trying to get a response so that you’ll throw the ball or feed them a treat. In any regard, tuck away those tootsies when you see them coming.
Featured Image: KAZLOVA IRYNA, Shutterstock