Why does a dog lick its owner's face: the reason is very simple

Yulia PoteriankoLife
Dogs behave throughout their lives like puppies and greet their humans as they once greeted their mother

While some people appreciate the habit of dogs licking their faces and hands, others find it annoying, but everyone wonders why they do it. The simplest analogy drawn is kissing as an expression of feelings. But what does science have to say about this?

According to Science Focus, no one has been able to explain the reasons for this behavior, but there are plausible theories. Researchers suggest that it's a way for dogs to greet and attract attention. Emily Blackwell, a lecturer in animal behavior at the University of Bristol, explains: "It's essentially a social behavior that stems from their evolutionary history. It's a greeting and can be taken as a compliment."

She sees the reasons for dogs using this gesture in the way their mothers raised them. "Puppies have generally learned to lick their mothers to greet them and also to encourage them to eat. The mother then regurgitates material that the puppy can eat," Blackwell says.

As a dog gets older, it no longer expects to be regurgitated. Yet, this pattern remains in the animal's social behavior as a manifestation of the joy of meeting.

At the same time, dogs don't practice this greeting with each other - it's rare to see an adult dog licking the face of another dog. This puppy behavior is demonstrated only in relation to people. Researchers in canine psychology believe that by becoming a lifelong guardian of a dog, we encourage it to behave like a puppy for the rest of its life.

Another manifestation of puppy-like behavior that can be seen in dogs is the habit of barking and whining a lot. Domesticated dogs vocalize about as much as puppies do - much more than non-domesticated representatives of the species.

This preservation of youthful behavior in adult life has even received a name among experts: neoteny. And it's characteristic not only of dogs but also of other domesticated animals, such as cats.

There's currently no consensus on whether it's good to encourage childlike behavior in our pets or not. However, according to Blackwell, we should at least be aware of how human behavior affects pets, especially when we're not around. "We have high expectations of our dogs: we expect them to be quiet and silent and leave us alone while we're away. However, the default setting for any puppy (and therefore most pet adult dogs) is to scream horribly if they are separated from their social group. In fact, up to 80% of domestic dogs react negatively to being left alone," the expert said.

However, she noted that this negative trait can be eliminated by teaching the dog from an early age that it's normal to be left alone. A good way is to gradually increase the amount of time a dog spends alone at home in a relaxed and familiar environment.

Blackwell also urged not to punish dogs for trying to lick your face or hand. "Imagine if you tried to shake someone's hand and they hit you. It would be very unpleasant," she explained.

She advises those who want to wean an animal from such displays of emotion to use positive reinforcement to introduce alternative ways of greeting it. "Cover their face with your hand, and they will lick your hand - give them a reward for this behavior, and next time, they will most likely target the same area," the expert suggested. Repeat the reward every time the dog behaves correctly, and soon it will do everything you want and feel happy.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL told you why dogs sometimes tremble and how to react to it.

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