DOGS are our favourite pets but despite millions of Brits enjoying their companionship, their behaviour often leaves us scratching our heads.

Licking is one of a dog’s most distinctive traits, yet the reasons they use their tongues are varied – and often surprising.

Why do dogs lick?

Feet, faces and hands are often a favourite for a dog's tongue to get stcuk into.

Here are the main ones:

1. Affection and attention

Wild dogs often lick each other's faces as an affectionate greeting, so they've carried this characteristic into their domestic lives.

Dogs love attention and while they can’t use their paws to hold your hand, they lick their owners to express their love for them.

They also lick because they want to interact with you.

As pups were licked by their mother they too will show love by licking those who care for them.

They also lick humans as we often respond to this behaviour with lots of affection or our own, so it's their way of saying "hello" and getting our attention.

2. You taste nice

Some dogs simply love the salty taste of human skin.

They might go nuts when their owners have had a sweaty workout.

3. It makes them happy

The action of licking releases endorphins in a dog’s brain giving them a feeling of happiness.

4. To cool down

Dogs often hang their tongues out of their mouths to cool down in the same way humans sweat.

Licking cool water is the equivalent to us mopping our brows with a cold flannel on a hot day.

5. To clean

Female dogs lick their puppies to get them clean while also giving them a sense of security.

As dogs grow older they lick themselves as a way of cleaning themselves, remembering how their mother’s used to groom them as pups.

6. To taste their surroundings

Dogs use their tongues to check out their surroundings.

They can even work out another dog’s sex or if they have been neutered by licking their wee.

7. To go to the toilet

Licking is an instinctive behaviour with female pooches naturally licking their puppies.

Newborn pups need to be licked by their mothers to stimulate blood flow to help them go to the loo.

8. For health reasons or sign of disease

Repetitive licking can be a sign of distress.

Dogs use their tongues like human’s use their hands to rub wounds.

It’s best to check a dog’s skin if they are overly licking a particular area, as it could indicate an injury or rash.

Excessive lip licking could indicate a health problem like dental disease, mouth pain or they might be thirsty.

9. A sign of appeasement

Lip licking is also often referred to as an appeasement gesture.

If you tell a dog off you may see it licking its lips as a sign of non aggression.

Your pooch may also lick their lips as a sign of submission to other hounds.

10. To get food from their mum

Puppies lick their mother’s mouth enthusiastically to encourage her to regurgitate food for them to eat.

Not all pet dogs will regurgitate food for their puppies.

This is why some adult dogs may lick a human's mouth, but beware as they can carry a long list of bacteria which can severely impact human health.

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