Why Does My Dog Lick My Other Dog’s Back? Understanding Canine Behavior

Dog owners frequently observe many behaviors in their pets, some of which might appear odd or mystifying. One such behavior is when one dog licks another dog’s back. Why does this happen? Let’s dive into the world of canine behavior to shed some light on this intriguing topic.

1. Social Bonding and Affection

One of the most common reasons dogs lick each other is to reinforce social bonds. Just as humans might hug or hold hands to show affection, dogs use licking as a means of expressing warmth and closeness. It’s a way of saying, “You’re important to me.”

Licking can also be a soothing action, something puppies experience from the moment they’re born. A mother will lick her pups to clean and comfort them. As these puppies grow up and interact with other dogs, they might use licking as a way of displaying friendship and comfort.

2. Submissive Behavior

In the realm of canine interaction, licking another dog’s back can indicate a submissive gesture. By doing so, the licker is communicating that they acknowledge the other dog’s higher status or are trying to appease and prevent any aggression. This is a deeply ingrained behavior, harking back to when dogs lived in packs and had a defined social hierarchy.

3. Tastes and Smells

Dogs have a heightened sense of smell and taste. Sometimes they’re drawn to certain scents or flavors on another dog’s skin or fur. It could be traces of food, something the dog rolled in, or even the natural taste of the dog’s skin. If your dog is licking the same spot repeatedly, it might be worth checking that area to see if there’s something enticing or even a potential skin problem.

4. Grooming Behavior

In some cases, dogs will lick each other as a grooming ritual. Dogs are naturally clean animals, and mutual grooming can help them reach areas that are difficult for them to clean on their own. It’s not just about cleanliness, though; this act further strengthens their bond.

5. Health Concerns

There are times when consistent licking can indicate underlying health issues. If a dog is continuously licking another dog’s back or any other area, it could mean:

  • Skin Problems: Issues like infections, allergies, or parasites could be causing discomfort, leading the other dog to lick in an attempt to provide relief.
  • Pain or Discomfort: Licking can be a soothing behavior. If one dog detects that another is in pain, they might lick them to offer comfort.
  • Behavioral Issues: Obsessive-compulsive disorders can manifest as excessive licking in some dogs. If one of your dogs is continuously licking the other, and there seems to be no obvious reason, it might be worth discussing with a veterinarian.

6. Seeking Information

Dogs use their mouths to explore the world, much like human babies. Licking another dog can provide a wealth of information. From understanding where the other dog has been to what they’ve eaten, it’s a way of gaining insight into their environment and experiences.

7. Encouraging Play

Sometimes, a gentle lick can be an invitation to play. It’s as if one dog is saying to the other, “Hey, let’s have some fun!” Watch their body language closely. If the licking is followed by playful bows, wagging tails, and energetic behavior, you’ve got two dogs ready for some playtime!


While it may initially seem perplexing to see one dog licking another’s back, understanding the motivations behind this behavior makes it less mysterious. Whether it’s an act of affection, submission, or simply the intrigue of a new taste or smell, it’s all a part of the complex and fascinating world of canine communication.

If you’re ever concerned about any behavior your dog is displaying, always reach out to a veterinarian or canine behavior specialist. They can provide insights tailored to your pet’s unique situation, ensuring a happy and healthy life for your furry friends.

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