Dogs lick food bowls, other dogs and even themselves, but why do they lick our feet? Before you decide to eliminate this behavior, you should know why your dog is doing it first.
One of the main reasons a dog will lick a persons feet is to indicate their submissiveness to their master. More importantly it indicates their happiness in this role. By displaying this act of domesticity and submission, the dog may ensure its place in the family by accepting the social order of the home.
Licking as Attention Seeking
Your dogs attempts at licking you are a way of telling you that they love you and want your attention and approval. You may have missed the hard stare, the nose tap or even batted away their attempts to lick your hand. Being pushed away after all of these attempts at affection may make them try harder, thinking that they were too subtle the first time. In the case of short dogs, height-wise it may be the only way they can get your attention regarding an issue they have e.g. empty water bowl.
To Gather Information
Another reason dogs lick human feet is to gather information. A dog is able to use the millions of scent receptor cells in its nose and mouth to process information. As a human body secretes, the sweat released relays information regarding the individual that the dog can process. Sweat glands release moisture that contains salt, water and waste products. Sebaceous glands release sebum and are located near hair follicles. The sweat can mix with these secretions to provide an even more complex message for the dog regarding the human they just licked.
Sometimes it can be as simple as the fact that there is a little bit of food on your foot that you don’t even register. To a dog this can be like a lighthouse in the fog and prove irresistible. The salt in our sweat is also tasty to dogs.
It is thought that licking can act as a self-soothing behavior that releases endorphins. Your dog can lick your feet (or themselves) just because it is a soothing way to pass the time.
When Should I Begin To Worry ?
When the dogs licking becomes repetitive to the point of obsession. This can indicate a problem. Constant licking can quickly become a learned mechanism for dealing with stress. When it has reached this stage, it is the opposite of stress reducing and may require behavior modification and possibly medical intervention.