Already have an account?
Get back to the
Animals

Why Does My Dog Lick My Feet? Vets Share the Reasons Behind the Quirky Behavior

Reasons including communication, grooming, and affection could be why your dog is licking your feet 

Tags:

Ahh! After a long day you like to come home and put your feet up — and lately you’ve noticed your furry pal loves to come over and give your feet a few good licks. As with all sorts of other quirky behaviors your dog engages in — like sleeping on his back, shaking his head or constantly staring at you — you’re likely wondering, “Why does my dog lick my feet?” Rest assured, the vets we spoke to say it’s totally normal. Scroll on to find out more. 

Why does my dog lick my feet?

As it turns out, licking is a natural behavior in dogs that can be a form of communication or even a means of gathering information about their environment. “Dogs lick their owners’ feet for various reasons ranging from showing affection to seeking attention or even just because they like the salty taste of human skin,” says Sabrina Kong, DVM, advisor at WeLoveDoodles.com. We asked vets to break down the reasons dogs might engage in foot-licking behavior. Here, a few of the most common: 

Related: Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I Pet Her? Animal Experts Share the Surprising Reasons

Attention-seeking could explain why your dog licks your feet

When they’re seeking attention from their owners, dogs tend to lick. Vets say that to a dog, any type of interaction is attention. So for example, even if you dislike the licking and go to push your pal away, you are still engaging with her. In fact, she might view you pushing her away as she continues to try to lick as a game — and as encouragement to keep licking. 

Why does my dog lick my feet? They’re showing affection

Obviously our pups can’t give hugs the way we humans do to show affection, but they can give ‘kisses’ a.k.a. licks — and this type of licking may be your sweetie pie’s way of showing her adoration. “The reasons dogs lick the people they care about comes right from their years of early evolution all those eons ago,” says Sean McCormack, DVM, head vet at Tails.com. “Puppies would lick their mothers, and vice versa — it’s very good for bonding and social strengthening, and this sort of licking is a very clear sign that your pal loves you.”

Anxiety could be the reason why your dog is licking your feet

Obsessive licking can be a sign of stress or anxiety. The tell-tale signs of anxious licking is that it’s rapid, constant and forceful. This repetitive action is self-soothing to dogs, and it helps release endorphins that make them feel comforted, explains Dr. Kong. “Think of it much like how we act when stressed — biting nails or how a child might suck their thumb when feeling anxious.” 

Why does my dog lick my feet? It’s their way of communicating

Perhaps the answer to ‘Why does my dog lick my feet?’ could be that they are trying to tell you something. This licking could be a form of relaying a message to you — basically your little rascal’s way of showing she is submissive to you, says Dr. Kong. In the animal world canines often lick the faces of other dogs to signify submission or that they recognize the alpha. So dogs sometimes express this behavior when they interact with humans as well. 

Exploration is one reason why your dog is licking your feet

For dogs licking is one of the best ways for them to gather information about their environment. “The saltiness of sweat on human feet may attract dogs due to their keen sense of smell,” says Gladan. This might be especially true if you’ve been out and about wearing sandals or other shoes where your feet have been exposed and could have picked up all sorts of odors along the way. Your pal licking your feet is her way of finding out where you’ve been. “In this case, licking your feet is a way for your pet to gather information through scent and taste, as dogs have susceptible taste buds and receptors,” says Dr. Kong   “And your feet might also have interesting smells or tastes.” 

Why does my dog lick my feet? They’re grooming

In much the same way pups give themselves a ‘bath’ by licking, your pal could be doing the same for you if you come home with all sorts of new odors on your feet. In this case licking is a sign your beloved pal sees you as part of her pack — and is acting much like a mother dog who grooms their pups and themselves by licking.

Watch this funny TikTok video of a golden retriever licking his mom’s feet!

Is dog foot licking ever a cause for concern? 

“So while this behavior can be quite normal and may stem from various reasons such as seeking attention, showing affection or even as a form of grooming, it becomes a concern when the licking becomes obsessive or is accompanied by other signs of distress,” says Robert Gonzalez, DVM, regional medical director for Small Door Veterinary. If the answer to ‘Why does my dog lick my feet?’ is related to a medical issue, other signs to look out for could include changes in appetite, lethargy or skin irritation, which may indicate an underlying issue that is making your sweet pooch uncomfortable. 

“If you notice redness, swelling or wounds on your dog’s feet or other bare spots where she’s been licking, or if other unusual behaviors accompany the licking, like whining while licking or scratching,” says Dr. Kong. “It’s time to make an appointment to see your vet.” Your veterinarian can help rule out any medical conditions and address the underlying cause. 

Related: Why Does My Dog Sleep on His Back? 4 Surprising Reasons, According to Pet Pros

These are some of the issues that might lead to excessive licking 

  • Allergies: If foot-licking is related to food allergies you might notice your pal itching more, flakes on her skin or redness and swelling in her ears. What’s more, food-related allergies can still pop up even if your sweet girl has eaten the same food for years. The reason: she can become allergic to ingredients the food is made of like dairy, beef, chicken, eggs and more. Your vet will most likely suggest changing your dog’s diet. 
  • Anxiousness: This type of anxiety-related obsessive skin licking often results in skin damage, says Kathryn Dench, MA VetMB, a holistic and integrative veterinarian, and Chief Scientific Advisor at Paw Origins. In most cases your vet might suggest more exercise or other mental stimulation and enrichment, in some severe causes medication might be prescribed. 
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Humans emit a lot of salt through their feet when they sweat, which tastes good to a dog. Licking the salt from their owner’s feet might be due to an upset tummy. If your pal is also licking the air or gulping — these are signs your pal’s stomach is upset. This licking might also be paired with lethargy or loss of appetite. Your vet can usually prescribe medicine if stomach upset is severe. 

How can you stop your dog from licking your feet?

If it turns out that your pal’s liking isn’t due to a medical reason, and you’d like to discourage foot licking, the vets we talked to say it’s possible to curb this behavior. First and foremost: Ensure your dog has plenty of mental and physical stimulation. “Engage them in activities that redirect their focus, like playing with toys or walking,” says Dr. Kong. “Consistently discourage the behavior by gently withdrawing your foot and diverting their attention elsewhere whenever they start licking.”

Woman playing ball with her dog
Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty

“To discourage this behavior, you can redirect your dog’s attention to more appropriate activities,” adds Dr. Gonzalez. “You can do things such as providing interactive toys or engaging in regular exercise to fulfill their mental and physical needs.”

As a last resort, if you have consistently redirected their attention with toys or treats and kept Muffin mentally stimulated and physically active — and she still continues the licking, you could also consider using a bitter-tasting spray. One to try: Anti-Chew Bitter Apple Spray. “Dogs dislike the bitter taste of these sprays,” says Dr. Dench. So using a little on your feet a few times will taste terrible, and so your sweet girl will stop this behavior.

So when it comes down to it, the answer to ‘Why does my dog lick my feet?’ is most likely for one very simple reason. As Dr. McCormack says, “While not everyone is a fan of that great slobbery tongue greeting us when we return to the house, dog owners are not only used to it, but most know it for what it truly is — a sign of love and affection.”


Click through to learn more about different dog behaviors!

Why Does My Dog Stare at Me? Veterinarian Explains What They’re Trying to Tell You

Why Do Dogs Put Their Paw on You? Experts Explain What Your Pup Is Trying to Tell You

Why Does My Dog Nibble On Me? Vets Reveal What Those Little Love Bites Mean

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.