Why Does My Dog Lick My Hands in the Morning?

Have you ever wondered why your dog insists on giving you an early morning hand bath? While it may seem like a questionable habit, there are actually several reasons why dogs engage in this behavior. In this article, we will explore the different factors that contribute to your furry friend’s morning licks and how you can better understand and respond to this unique form of affection.

A Form of Communication

Have you ever thought that your pup’s hand licking might be more than a gross habit? Believe it or not, when your furry friend wakes you up with a slobbery slurp, they’re trying to tell you something. This innocent display of affection often serves as a language of its own—a form of communication. Let’s dive into what your dog may be trying to convey with those morning hand-licks.

1.1 Expressing Love and Affection

One of the primary reasons your furry friend might be saying “Good morning!” with a lick is to show their love. It’s their version of a morning hug or kiss and is actually quite sweet when you think about it.

In the dog world, licking each other’s faces is a common form of communication that expresses trust and affection. Your dog picking up this habit could mean they consider you as part of their pack. They see you as someone they can trust and feel affection for, so they’re just extending their heartfelt ‘hello.’

So, every time you receive a morning slurp session, you ought to see it as your morning dose of love from your pet!

1.2 Marking Territory

You’ve probably noticed that your dog spends a lot of time smelling every little thing around. Here’s why. Dogs have a far more sensitive sense of smell than humans. They use it as a tool to understand the world around them. One of the ways they do this is by leaving their scent on things they consider theirs, and that can include you!

When your furry friend lavishes you with morning licks, they may also be marking their territory. This might seem strange, but in your dog’s world, it’s very natural. They are simply leaving their scent on you to let others know that you are part of their pack. It’s a sweet gesture that again shows how much they care for you.

So, next time your dog licks you first thing in the morning, remember they’re not just giving you a good morning kiss. They may be expressing, in their special doggy way, that you are important to them, and they consider you part of their territory!

1.3 Making Requests

Licking can be a polite way for your pet to get your attention. Your dog might use it to let you know they’re hungry or eager for a walk. It’s a silent plea for some quality time with their favorite human.

Imagine waking up to your dog’s wet nose and warm tongue. It’s their way of saying, ”Hey, it’s breakfast time; let’s get moving!” So take a moment and observe if their licking comes with any accompanying behavior. This way, you can identify their needs and react accordingly.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Hands in the Morning 2024

Sensory Stimulation

Just like humans, dogs, too, interpret their world through their senses. One key sense they heavily use is taste. Your furry friend may lick your hands in the morning as a way to gather information about you and your environment. Let’s delve into this sensory stimulation and take a closer look at why your pooch finds your morning hands so enticing.

2.1 Tasting and Exploring

Our furry friends have a keen sense of taste and smell. These senses are often significantly stronger than our own. Licking your hands in the morning is a way for them to discover the flavor of your skin. Whether you’ve just applied a moisturizer or prepared some breakfast, your hands carry a range of smells and tastes that your pup finds intriguing.

Also, dogs use licking as a method of exploration. They can pick up a lot about their surroundings using their tongues. By giving your hands a thorough lick, they gather information about where you’ve been, what you’ve touched, and what you’ve eaten. It’s their version of a morning update! So, while it may leave you a bit slobbery, this behavior is just part of your dog’s inquisitive nature.

2.2 Recognizing Familiar Scents

Dogs are known for their impressive sense of smell. In fact, their sense of smell is anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times more accurate than humans, as reported by the PBS documentary, (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/dogs-sense-of-smell/). If you’ve wondered, “Why Does My Dog Lick My Hands in the Morning?”, scent could be a significant factor.

Your furry friend engages in a morning licking routine as a way to familiarize itself with your scent. Dogs feel closer to you when they recognize your unique smell. It adds a layer of comfort and security, making them feel at home. This scent-based recognition process represents a profound emotional bond between you and your furry friend; it’s their way of saying they recognize and cherish being part of your ‘pack.’

2.3 Seeking Comfort and Security

Have you noticed that your canine friend seems extra clingy in the early hours? Dogs, like humans, often seek out comfort and security. When your dog licks your hands in the morning, it could be their way of feeling safe and secure.

It’s their gentle way of saying, ”You’re here; everything’s okay. I have my person with me.” This sense of attachment can be especially strong in the mornings after an entire night of being apart. The licking disburses feel-good chemicals in your dog’s brain, making them feel happy and secure. Make sure to reciprocate this affection and show your pet that you’re there for them.

Instinctual Behavior

Diving deeper into our exploration, we’ll now unveil the role of deep-seated instincts in shaping your pup’s morning ritual. Instinctual behavior is hardwired into the canine DNA, driving their mysterious habits, including the early morning licking. Let’s unmask the different aspects of these instinctual manners and their significance below.

3.1 Cleaning Rituals

Your furry friend’s morning routine may remind you of a mother dog’s interaction with her pups. In the animal kingdom, mothers often start their day by licking their young ones clean.

This nurturing habit is more than just about cleanliness. It’s an intuitive gesture of care and protection. So when your four-legged pal gives you that early morning ‘bath,’ it’s an ancient instinct at work.

This daily ritual can have a calming effect on dogs. It also strengthens the emotional bond between the pup and its ‘parent.’ You are part of your pet’s family, after all.

3.2 Social Bonding

There’s a significant link between dogs’ licking habits and their need for social bonding. This is not too surprising, given that dogs are pack animals. By licking your hands in the morning, your dog is engaging in a natural social behavior designed to reinforce bonds and express trust.

Think of this as your pet’s way of saying, “You’re a part of my pack, and I trust you.” It’s an intimate form of communication that strengthens your bond. It also allows your furry friend to feel safer and more secure within their group, which, in this case, is your family.

3.3 Recognizing Hierarchy

In the canine world, Hierarchy is key. Dogs have a pack mentality and often see their owners as the pack leaders. Licking is a natural behavior dogs use to recognize their place in the pack hierarchy.

As such, when your four-legged friend spends their morning licking your hands, they may be acknowledging your status as the pack leader. It’s not just an endearing display of affection but also a sign of respect and submission. So, every morning, by licking your hands, your pet may be saying: “You’re the boss, and I respect you”.

Addressing Excessive Licking

If your pup’s morning licks seem to be too much, it’s important to take a closer look. While some level of licking is normal and healthy, excessive licking can sometimes indicate other issues. These could be health concerns, underlying anxiety and stress, or it could simply mean that your dog needs some guidance in social training. Let’s explore these potential factors more closely.

4.1 Health Concerns

Sometimes, a dog’s sudden interest in licking your hands can be a sign of health issues. Your hands might have residue of food or sweat smelling like something they recognize. Alternatively, they might sniff a change in your scent, possibly indicating illness.

Dogs have an extraordinary ability to detect changes in human body odor. This change can sometimes signify a change in your health. Research shows that canines can even detect diseases like cancer and diabetes by just smelling you. Veterinarians suggest paying attention to any distinctive change in behavior, like an increase in licking.

Your pet’s health might also be a concern. Certain diseases can alter a dog’s behavior or induce habits like excessive licking. For instance, dogs suffering from cognitive dysfunction have shown an uptick in licking behavior.

So, the next time your dog won’t stop licking (especially in the morning), remember it could be a matter of health. An occasional lick is normal and should not worry you. But if your dog’s licking is constant or seems obsessive, it may be time to seek professional help.

”It’s always smart to have your vet check out any new behavior in your pet.” — Dr. Shelly Zacharias, veterinarian and vice president of medical affairs at Gallant.

4.2 Anxiety and Stress

Does your dog lick your hands excessively? This might be a sign of anxiety or stress. Dogs sometimes use licking as a way to self-soothe and deal with nervousness or tension – it can be their version of biting fingernails.

Just like humans, dogs also experience stress. This can stem from various sources, including changes in their environment, separation from loved ones, or loud noises. Licking your hands can provide a sense of calm and familiarity, helping to alleviate their stress.

However, remember it’s important to identify and address the underlying causes of stress, as these can have long-term impacts on your dog’s well-being. Notice excessive licking alongside other signs of distress, such as panting, loss of appetite, or destructive behavior. It might be time to consult with a vet or professional behaviorist.

4.3 Training and Redirecting

Training your dog is crucial for curbing unnecessary licking. Using positive reinforcement techniques can be particularly effective. When your dog licks your hands less or stops the behavior, applaud them verbally or with a reward, but remember to be consistent with this method.

Redirecting is another effective strategy. When your dog starts to lick, try redirecting their attention with a favorite toy or a simple command. You could say ”sit” or ”stay” to distract them from their licking spree. Involving your dog in an exciting activity during the mornings can reduce their instances of licking: this way, your dog associates morning time with a fun activity rather than hand-licking.

Remember, patience is key. It may take time before your dog fully understands these new rules. The goal isn’t to eliminate licking entirely but to keep it within acceptable limits.


So, the next time your dog enthusiastically greets you with a slobbery morning kiss, remember that there are various reasons behind this behavior. From communication and sensory stimulation to instinctual behavior, licking your hands is your dog’s way of expressing love, marking territory, and seeking comfort. However, if the licking becomes excessive or distressing, it is crucial to address any underlying health concerns or anxiety. By understanding your furry friend’s motivation, you can embrace these morning licks as a unique display of affection and enhance your bond with your beloved pet.

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