Dog behavior makes people laugh all the time. Which is great, unless we’re talking about the involuntarily laughter that spills out when your dog is licking your feet. For many ticklish dog owners, the slippery slobbering sensation of getting a foot bath from Fido is an exquisite form of torture.
The question is, why do dogs like to lick feet so much? Dog experts have plenty of theories, including submissive signaling, information gathering, and attention seeking. Overall, the consensus is that it’s a benign behavior that shouldn’t trouble dog owners.
Well, get ready to be troubled. Here are five reasons why your dog’s foot licking might not be as innocuous as it seems. These explanations, while not endorsed by any animal behaviorist, are all more-or-less plausible – if slightly tongue-in-cheek.
1. Your feet are meat
If there’s one thing we can say about dogs, it’s that they’re constantly looking for something to eat. Perhaps it’s crossed your dog’s mind that your fleshy, salty feet are like large, ambulatory chicken breasts (bone-in). Or maybe if you have hard, calloused feet, they give off more of a rawhide chew vibe. The dog likely knows that chowing down on Mom or Dad isn’t going to go over well. So they take their gustatory probing as far as they can – they lick.
2. Your feet are nasty
Dogs love gross stuff. They like to roll on dead things, rummage in garbage, root around in mud, and even eat poop. The more disgusting something is to a human, the more irresistible it is to a dog. Now think about what it means that your dog is obsessed with your feet. Maybe it’s time to take care of that fungus problem, or get some more breathable shoes so your feet don’t get so sweaty at the end of a long day.
3. Your feet are at their mercy
Dogs may lick feet for the exact same reasons they lick faces. The difference is, it’s harder for you to defend yourself from unwanted advances toward your toes (at least without kicking your best friend). This strategy might be particularly attractive to shorter dogs, who have to get their licks in whenever and wherever they can.
4. They have a problem
There’s a difference between an occasional toe taster and a full-time foot freak. If your dog falls into the latter category, you may be looking at compulsive behavior that’s being used as a coping mechanism. If that’s the case, the real reason for the licking could be some sort of stress in the dog’s life – a change in routine, an underlying health issue, or something else along those lines.
5. You LIKE it
Dogs are adept at reading people, and eager to please. Your laughter – even if it’s the involuntary kind – could be a signal to your dog that he’s doing something right. More disturbingly, maybe on a subconscious level, you actually do like it. Maybe your dog is picking up something about you that you won’t admit to yourself. After all, if you really hated having your toes licked, there’s a simple solution – wear socks. Just something to chew on.