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Why Do Golden Retrievers Lick So Much?

People have enough of a hard time reading each other’s emotions. So, we often assume that a dog can’t read our feelings either. Over the last several years, scientists and veterinarians studied canines and their reactions to emotions. The results were astounding and showed that dogs can sense a person’s feelings.

Dogs know how we’re feeling based on our body language and the sound of our voices. These are tell-tale signs for them. But there’s an interesting caveat to man’s relationship with canines: they also communicate with us. And communication for dogs comes in different forms.

When your dog barks, holds its tail in a specific position, or licks you, they’re trying to share something. The challenge is figuring out what your dog is trying to tell you. Understanding your furry friend’s language is the first step toward giving them the care and affection they crave, or, in dire circumstances, the attention they need.

So, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide detailing why your Golden Retriever licks so much. By the end of this article, you’ll learn why Golden Retrievers lick their owners and what to do if you want it to stop.

The Many Reasons a Dog Licks

When it comes to common dog behaviors, licking tops the list of things dog owners either love or hate. Some owners love it when their dog greets them with kisses, but others are put off by the idea of dog saliva. Regardless of which camp you fall under, you must understand dog licking.

As humans, we can easily share how we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, and what we want to do by simply talking to each other — and, often, we do so in a shared language. But dogs can’t speak — at least, not directly to humans — so they have to find different ways to communicate with us.

Dogs use body language, their tails, and licking to communicate with the world around them. Since licking is one of their three main ways of communication, let’s talk about why you might receive a dog lick.

A dog licks when they:

  • Want to show affection
  • Are happy
  • Want attention
  • Are relaxed
  • Are grooming themself
  • Are stressed
  • Have an injury
  • Think we taste good
  • Are hungry
  • Are bored

There are many reasons why a dog would lick you or themself. And even though the action—licking—is the same, the circumstances and environment help you determine what your dog is trying to say. Overall, the reasons for licking fall into two categories: behavior and health.

Behavior-based licks are when your dog is licking due to external stimuli. They lick you or a toy because they want to show affection and happiness or they want attention. Additionally, they might lick for food or water, out of boredom, or because we taste good.

Health-based licking is when a dog doesn’t feel well — and this usually looks like licking itself because of injury, stress, or an upset stomach. Continue reading to better understand the details of behavior-based and health-specific reasons for licking.

Behavior-Based Licks

As previously mentioned, behavior-based licks are a dog’s response to external stimulation — something is happening near or on the dog that makes them want to lick.

Here’s a detailed look into each specific reason and how you can improve your communication with your friendly canine.


One of the biggest reasons a dog will lick you is to show affection. Just like how we pet our dogs to show appreciation, they lick us back to show they love us. Remember, dogs interact with the world through their mouths, so expect interactions like this.

When a dog is licking you to show affection, their body language is most likely in the form of submission.

Dog being petted

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Your dog is relaxed and happy to be in your presence in moments like these. When your Golden does this, they tell you that you’re the boss, and they’re just looking for love and affection.

Keep in mind that dogs are pack animals, so they will automatically show affection and submission to the alpha.


When a dog is happy, it can show emotion in a few different ways — barking, running around, or licking you.

Licking is a form of happiness because it’s one of the dog’s ways to communicate and let you know they’re happy to see you. Like affection, happy licking is a behavioral response to external stimuli — whether you or a toy.

Although your Golden Retriever might lick you a lot, they probably also lick their toys, especially if you periodically hide toys to make them more special when they come back out.


Dogs are like children, and they crave attention when you’ve avoided or ignored them for long periods. One of the ways a dog will attempt to redirect your attention to them is by licking you. Since licking is an affectionate action, dogs will use it to show that they want you to pet them or play with them.

So the next time you’re working from home, or you’ve gone all day and your dog starts licking you when you get home, they may be seeking attention. 

Additionally, some dogs are needier than others. If your dog sees you watching a movie, reading a book, or playing on your phone, they may come up to you and lick you to distract you from what you’re doing. This action is their way of saying that they want you to pay attention to them.


Licking is a tell-tale sign that your Golden is relaxing. The kind of licking happening here is slow, calm, and inconsistent. These details are a crucial distinction between stress and boredom, where the licking might be more aggressive and quick.

When your dog is constantly licking you while relaxing, it’s similar to affection—they feel safe around you. But, this kind of licking can also display the grooming habits of a dog.

Most dogs groom themselves when they feel safe and relaxed or just want to clean themselves. Your beautiful dog will focus on its paws during these moments, especially if they just came inside. They will want to rid their paws of dirt, grass, and other scents.

Although grooming is routine, it’s wise to pay attention to the frequency. Sometimes, overgrooming is a sign of other problems, like gland excretion or other medical concerns.

Hungry and Thirsty

When your Golden Retriever is out of food or water, they will look to eat or lick other things, like melted ice cubes, a sink faucet, or water in the toilet bowl. This licking behavior forms terrible habits if you don’t immediately address them.

Addressing this licking habit is super easy–keep the water bowl full and feed your dog on a schedule. When you do these two things, your dog learns what to expect at certain times of day and can always find water in its bowl.


Sometimes a dog will lick itself when bored. Boredom is one of the leading causes of excessive licking that leads to necessary medical care.

When a dog excessively licks their paws or legs, the obsessive licking creates sores and removes hair. Sores like these are cause for concern, and you should address them immediately. 

Golden retrievers are energetic breeds and need mental and physical stimulation. If they don’t get the exercise and interaction they need daily, they can resort to licking furniture. This behavior can lead to damage to furniture as the dog seeks out mental stimulation.

We Taste Good

Believe it or not, dogs find us tasty. When we sweat, put lotion and creams on, or get food on our hands we emit scents and salt that our dogs find enjoyable.

Pay special attention to your dog’s behavior the next time you eat a meal or come home from working out. Does your Golden start to lick your hands, legs, and face? If so, they find the sweat and chemicals you’ve released or the crumbs left on your fingers delicious.

Health-Based Licking

All the reasons mentioned above focused on external stimuli. Something was causing the dog to lick. Whether the dog suffered from a lack of attention or wanted to show you how much they loved you, there was a reason for the licking.

But dogs lick for more than behavior. All dogs lick for health-based reasons, including health concerns like licking for grooming, stress, and injury.


For Golden Retriever owners, it’s no surprise that dogs groom themselves. Grooming is innate and necessary for a dog to stay clean and healthy.

Although we give our dogs regular baths, your Golden Retriever will naturally groom itself, especially if they spend significant time outside.

When your dog was a puppy, their mother licked them. She was showing affection, but she also groomed her pups. So your dog is used to this behavior and will do it when necessary.


We all respond differently when we’re stressed out. Some people isolate themselves while others may lash out. But for dogs, licking is a very natural and typical stress response. Like people, dogs want to soothe and calm themselves when stressed — and licking releases endorphins that help dogs calm down after a stressful encounter.

This behavior is also how dogs respond to anxiety, which is closely related to stress.


Another reason why dogs might lick themselves is after suffering an injury. An injury can be anything from bumping into a table to cutting a paw on some thorns or post-surgery. Licking is the number one way for dogs to soothe their wounds and help them heal.

A dog’s mouth has necessary antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to fight germs and disease. In other words, your dog’s saliva heals the open wound and helps prevent infection.

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Licking Excessively

There are many reasons why a dog will lick themself, you, or other things. Although licking is a natural part of a dog’s life, many people don’t want a dog to lick their face. If you want to keep your Golden Retriever from licking you or objects around your home, reward good behavior, ignore the bad behavior, and redirect their attention.

Reward Good Behavior

As many dog owners know, dogs love positive reinforcement because they want to please you. So if they learn that certain behaviors make you happy, they’ll repeat those actions.

When you find your Golden Retriever licking a toy or only licking a specific part of your body, like your hands, reward the dog with treats and affection.

Ignore Bad Behavior

One of the best ways to keep your dog from licking you is to ignore their behavior. When your pup learns that you don’t positively react to your dog’s licking, they will stop and find a new way to show you affection.

Ignoring lousy behavior only works when they’re licking you — if a dog licks a toy or couch, ignoring them won’t teach them what not to do.

Redirect Attention

When your dog licks you or a piece of furniture and you want to change this behavior, redirect your dog’s attention. Redirecting is not yelling and hitting your dog — it is giving your dog something else to do that helps them achieve their goal.

For example, if you don’t want your dog to lick you, give them a toy or a lick mat to focus their attention on. Licking is an innate canine behavior, so you can’t eradicate it, but redirection can help your dog learn what and when they can lick.


When you bring a Golden Retriever home, there’s a lot of new training and behavior to learn over the next several months. During your puppy’s time at home, you’ll see they love to lick everything.

Although puppies lick for more reasons than adult dogs, learning the main reasons for licking is how you’ll better understand your dog. Since a dog communicates with licking, the quicker you know what they’re telling you, the better and happier you’ll be.

Whether you like kisses from your pup or not, Snowy Pines has the perfect Golden Retriever for you. Contact us today to learn about available English Cream Golden puppies!

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About the Author


Tom Massey

Tom Massey has owned and operated Snowy Pines Labradors for over a decade. They have become the leaders in English Labradors in the US. He and his team serve customers all over the US and Europe. They house their "dog family" in a state of the art facility on a large farm in the Ozark Mountains. With an obsession for genetics and temperament they raise and train dogs known across the globe for health and personality. Tom serves the pet industry in many forms campaigning for ethical breeding, training, and pet ownership.


Calm Tempered, AKC Purebred, and Certified Genetics.