Many of the things your dog does are absolutely adorable. Some of them are a little on the gross side. Depending on your outlook, some behaviors fall somewhere in between. As much as you love spending time with your dog, you probably think it’s a little weird when they unceremoniously begin licking your feet.
Here’s what you need to understand about this surprisingly common behavior and how to get your dog to stop if you’re finding it a bit uncomfortable.
Why Do Dogs Lick?
Dogs can’t communicate or learn the same way people do. They rely on the enhanced intensity of their senses to learn about the world through experience and from each other. They also use their senses to learn about you. Licking and sniffing are valuable ways for your dog to obtain information.
In some cases, licking is an act of affection. It’s your dog’s equivalent of giving you a kiss. If your dog licks you a lot, this is grooming behavior. It’s your dog’s way of expressing appreciation to you. Your dog knows you take care of them, and the act of grooming you is a way to return that gesture of care.
Some dogs lick when they’re bored or distressed. Licking the carpet or the furniture could be a cry for help. Your dog may be feeling uneasy about the thunderstorm outside. They might be telling you that they miss you and they want to spend more time together.
Learning to read your pets based on their behavior patterns will help you determine why your dog is licking inanimate objects or furniture.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Feet?
Many people feel that feet are inherently kind of dirty. They sweat a lot, and they move across the ground or the floor all day. Your feet do get dirty easily, and that’s exactly why your curious dog takes an interest in them.
For the Taste of Your Sweat
Dogs like the salty taste of sweat. They find it very interesting. If your dog tends to lick you after you’ve exercised or you’ve been out in the hot sun, it's because the flavor of your sweat is appealing. When your feet are sweaty, they’re even more interesting to your dog.
To Conduct an Investigation
If you usually wear open-toed shoes or if you’ve been walking around barefoot, your feet are covered in information. Your dog’s extremely sensitive nose and taste buds can essentially gather information from your feet. They know where you’ve gone and what you’ve done simply by the smells and flavors they detect.
This is also the same reason why dogs may take an interest in your shoes. If your dog likes to sniff, lick, steal, or chew your shoes, it could be a part of the same sensory exploration they experience when they lick your feet.
There may be other reasons why your dog steals or destroys your shoes. It could be a very clear message that your dog doesn’t want you to leave. Your dog is smart enough to know that when you put your shoes on, you’re about to leave.
If the interest in your shoes is equivalent to the interest in your feet, it’s likely that your dog is simply interested in learning about your travels.
To Get a Rise Out of You
Some people, particularly children, have very ticklish feet. If your dog licks your feet or your child’s feet and is greeted with laughter, your dog will interpret that as positive attention. This creates a positive feedback loop. If your dog wants someone to play with them, they’ve learned that licking feet is a great way to get attention.
Is It Bad To Let My Dog Lick My Feet?
Now that you understand why your dog is licking your feet, it’s time to ask the most important question. Should you let your dog lick your feet?
It’s hard to deny that this behavior can be kind of gross to some people. It’s not unusual that you’d like to put a stop to this behavior, but you aren’t putting yourself or your dog at risk if your pup decides to investigate your feet.
If you don’t have any open wounds, lotions, medicines, salves, or creams on your feet, both you and your dog are safe. If you’re willing to tolerate it for a minute to appease your dog, there’s no harm in doing so. Your dog will appreciate the opportunity and develop a better understanding of what you do all day.
If you don’t want your dog to lick your feet, you can take steps to dissuade them.
How To Keep Your Dog from Licking Your Feet
If you’ve decided that you’re not willing to indulge in your dog’s curiosity, here’s what you can do to minimize or eliminate foot licking behavior.
Make Your Feet Hard To Access
If you wear house slippers, your dog won’t have access to your feet. They may sniff your slippers or attempt to lick them, but sliding your foot out of your slipper will remove your feet from the situation. You can do the same thing with socks.
Wash Your Feet Thoroughly
Your dog is licking your feet for the sweat, smells, and information. If you wash it all away, your dog won’t have any reason to lick your feet. All they’ll get is the taste and smell of soap, and that won’t be rewarding.
Use a Licking Deterrent
You can use bitter apple spray on anything you don’t want your dog to lick, including your feet. Bitter apple spray is completely natural. It’s an extract from bitter apples that tastes very bad to dogs. It doesn’t harm your pets, your family, or your home. It just makes things unappealing.
You can spray bitter apple spray on your feet for a few days. Every time your dog attempts to lick your feet, they’ll encounter an unpleasant aroma and change their mind. After a few failed attempts, your dog may come to the conclusion that your feet aren’t worth licking and stop trying.
Ignore Your Dog
Try completely ignoring your dog when they attempt to lick your feet. Stay still and silent like a statue. Your lack of interest in the process will take the fun out of the experience for your dog.
If it still doesn’t deter your dog, get up and walk away. Don’t scold or praise your dog around this time. Remain completely stoic. If your dog gets no attention, they’ll realize that licking your feet isn’t an effective way to go about interacting with you.
What To Do When Your Dog Licks Everything
If your dog is habitually licking things, take them to the vet. Let a professional rule out any medical or significant psychological reasons why your dog may engage in excessive licking behavior. If your vet has recommendations, act accordingly.
Most of the time, licking behavior is normal. It may seem like a lot, but it’s important to remember that licking and sniffing are the two most valuable tools your dog has for exploring and understanding.
If your dog is licking out of boredom or temporary distress, solutions like puzzle toys for distraction or CBD for its calming effects may become useful parts of keeping your dog happy and healthy.