The Root of the Behavior
Puppies use licking as means of communicating to older and more unfamiliar dogs that they mean the dog no harm, and they will submit to their leadership. It is also not uncommon to see adult dogs licking or "grooming" each other. In this particular action, it is generally a subordinate dog that will groom the face of a dog with a higher position in the pack. So, how does this translate to the way our dogs interact with us? There is definitely a correlation between these early behaviors and how our dogs use them to communicate with us. Dogs have no choice but to use the only language they know to share information with their caretakers. Canine language is incredibly expressive, and we can learn a great deal from observing it.It is entirely possible that when our dogs lick our faces they are expressing to us that they mean us no harm and that they want to safely interact with us. Dogs also communicate to their humans their anticipation of food through licking. Why? It is a learned dog behavior, but it is also an easily discernible means to get the desired result.
Encouraging the Behavior
Licking is also a very soothing behavior for a dog. Many dogs engage in it because it provides great comfort and stress relief for them.You may also have noticed that dogs like to lick wounds. Dog saliva contains properties that promote cleanliness and healing. It is one of the reasons dogs like to lick their own wounds and even groom themselves. They are easily able to wick away dirt and debris from their own skin and to remove troublesome bacteria. It is even possible that your dog thinks you could use a little freshening up, so he is helping you along!
Other Solutions and Considerations
The most important thing to take away from the act of your dog licking you is that your dog is trying to tell you something. Pay attention to the times he licks you and the frequency and intensity he uses when doing so. All of these things are clues to what your dog is looking for from you. Since dogs cannot speak to us, they use the language they have to tell us their needs, and it is our job to listen and provide for them as best we can.