Why do golden retrievers lick so much?

Picture this: you’re walking down the street and suddenly, a furry golden retriever bounds up to you with a wagging tail and an open, slobbering mouth. You bend down to give them a pat on the head, only to be greeted with an onslaught of wet kisses. While some dogs might express their affection through tail-wagging or pawing, golden retrievers seem to have a particular affinity for licking.

As someone who has spent years studying canine behavior, I’ve always been fascinated by the unique traits of different dog breeds. And when it comes to golden retrievers and their love of licking, there’s certainly no shortage of quirks to explore.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the science behind why dogs lick in general, as well as what makes golden retrievers so prone to this behavior. We’ll also take a closer look at how you can tell when your furry friend’s licking is just a sign of affection versus when it might indicate an underlying health issue.

But that’s not all – if you’re a golden retriever owner yourself, I’ll even share some tips on how to manage and redirect your pup’s licking habits. Because while we may love our dogs unconditionally, there are times when we could all use a break from those slobbery kisses.

So whether you’re a lifelong fan of golden retrievers or simply curious about why these lovable pups can’t resist giving everyone they meet a good lick, join me on this journey as we uncover the fascinating reasons behind this quirky canine behavior.

Natural Instincts

Well, there’s a scientific reason behind this adorable behavior, and it all comes down to their natural instincts.

Licking is a common way for dogs to communicate with their pack members, showing respect and affection. In the wild, wolves and other canines lick each other’s faces to signal submission to the pack leader. Similarly, your golden retriever may lick your face as a sign of respect and adoration for you, their beloved owner. So, the next time your furry friend smothers you with kisses, know that they’re just trying to show how much they care.

But that’s not all – licking also serves as a way for dogs to explore their environment. With their heightened sense of smell, dogs can gather information about their surroundings by licking objects and people. Your golden retriever may lick your hands or face to learn more about you, including your scent and taste. It’s their way of understanding and connecting with the world around them.

Lastly, licking has a calming effect on dogs. When they’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, dogs may use licking as a way to self-soothe. If your golden retriever is stressed or feeling anxious, they may lick excessively as a way to calm themselves down. This behavior is particularly common during thunderstorms or when left alone for long periods.

Anxiety and Stress

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Golden retrievers are some of the most lovable and affectionate dogs around, but they can also be prone to anxiety and stress. When faced with triggers such as separation from their owners, changes in routine, loud noises, or unfamiliar surroundings, these furry friends may start licking excessively as a way to self-soothe and calm themselves down.

Unfortunately, excessive licking can cause harm to the dog or their environment. Owners must therefore identify the root causes of their golden retriever’s anxiety and stress to help them feel more calm and relaxed.

Before assuming that the licking behavior is solely due to anxiety or stress, it is essential to rule out any underlying medical issues that might be causing excessive licking. Regular checkups with a veterinarian can help identify any health problems early on.

To help reduce anxiety and stress in golden retrievers, owners can provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Regular walks, playtime, and training sessions can keep them occupied and tire them out physically and mentally.

In addition to exercise, creating a calm environment is also crucial in reducing anxiety and stress. Consistent routines and providing a safe space for your dog to retreat to can also be helpful in reducing excessive licking behavior.

If you notice severe anxiety or stress in your golden retriever, seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or veterinarian may be necessary to address underlying causes.

Medical Issues

While licking is a natural behavior for dogs, excessive licking can be a sign of an underlying medical issue that requires attention.

So, what could be causing your golden retriever to lick excessively? There are several potential medical issues to consider, including allergies, anxiety or stress, and oral health problems.

Allergies are one of the most common culprits of excessive licking in dogs. Much like humans, dogs can develop allergies to various environmental factors like pollen, dust, and even certain foods. When a dog is allergic to something, it can cause them to itch and scratch, leading to excessive licking. If your golden retriever is showing signs of allergies like red or inflamed skin, ear infections, or hair loss, it may be time to schedule a vet visit.

Another potential cause of excessive licking in golden retrievers is anxiety or stress. Just like humans, dogs can experience stress and anxiety in their daily lives. In many cases, excessive licking may be a way for your furry friend to self-soothe. Keep an eye out for other symptoms of anxiety or stress such as pacing, whining, and destructive chewing.

Oral health issues can also lead to excessive licking in golden retrievers. Dogs with dental problems like gum disease or tooth decay may lick excessively as a way to soothe discomfort in their mouth. If your dog has bad breath or bleeding gums, they may be experiencing dental issues that require treatment.

If you notice your golden retriever is licking excessively, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet may recommend allergy testing or prescribe medication for anxiety or stress. They may also recommend dental cleanings or extractions if necessary.

How to Prevent Excessive Licking

Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent it. Here are five tips to help your furry friend kick the habit and live their best life.

Address any underlying medical issues

Excessive licking can be a symptom of skin irritations or allergies, so it’s important to schedule a vet visit to rule out any medical issues that may be causing discomfort for your dog. Once you have addressed any medical concerns, you can focus on addressing the behavior.

Provide mental and physical stimulation

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Boredom is often a major cause of excessive licking in golden retrievers. Providing your furry friend with plenty of mental and physical stimulation such as daily walks, playtime, and training sessions will keep them engaged and less likely to engage in excessive licking.

Teach them a “quiet” command

Dogs often lick excessively due to anxiety or stress. Teaching your furry friend a “quiet” command can help redirect their attention and reduce anxiety. Whenever they start to lick excessively, give the command and reward them for following it.

Use positive reinforcement

Rewarding your golden retriever for good behavior is an effective tool to discourage excessive licking behavior. Whenever they redirect their attention away from excessive licking, reward them with a toy or treat to reinforce the positive behavior.

Consider professional training

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If all else fails, seeking the help of a professional trainer or animal behaviorist may be necessary. They can help identify the root cause of the behavior and provide tailored solutions for your furry friend.

Exercise and Mental Stimulation

These furry friends need to stay physically fit and mentally engaged to avoid unwanted behaviors such as excessive licking.

A lack of exercise can lead to boredom, anxiety, and even destructive behavior in golden retrievers. Therefore, daily walks or runs, playing fetch or other games that require physical exertion are great ways to keep them active and prevent excessive licking behavior.

Moreover, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for these intelligent dogs. Puzzle toys, obedience training, and scent work are excellent ways to provide them with mental challenges that keep their minds engaged and prevent boredom.

By providing plenty of physical activity and mental challenges, owners can help reduce stress and anxiety in their furry friends, which are common triggers for excessive licking. As a result, golden retrievers can live happier, healthier lives while enjoying their playful nature.

The Benefits of Licking

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While some may find it excessive or annoying, licking is a natural way for these affectionate dogs to communicate and show their love.

Puppies especially use licking as a way to bond and communicate with their mothers. But licking isn’t just about affection. A golden retriever’s saliva contains enzymes that aid in digestion, making it easier for them to break down food particles. Additionally, licking helps to clean their fur and skin by removing dirt and debris that may cause irritation or infection.

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Licking also has a calming effect on both the dog and their owner. When a golden retriever licks their owner’s face or hands, it releases endorphins in both parties, reducing stress levels and creating a sense of comfort.

However, excessive licking can be a sign of anxiety or boredom in golden retrievers. If your furry friend is constantly licking themselves or objects for extended periods of time, it may indicate they need more exercise or mental stimulation. Providing them with playtime and exercise can prevent destructive behaviors from developing.


In conclusion, we can all agree that golden retrievers are the kings and queens of slobbery kisses. As a canine behavior expert, I have delved into the reasons behind why these lovable dogs lick so much. It turns out that licking is a natural way for dogs to communicate with their pack members, show respect, explore their environment, and self-soothe when feeling overwhelmed or anxious. However, excessive licking can be a red flag for underlying medical issues such as allergies or oral health problems that require attention.

Golden retrievers are prone to anxiety and stress triggers such as separation from their owners or changes in routine that may cause them to start licking excessively. The good news is that there are ways to help our furry friends feel more relaxed. Identifying the root causes of their anxiety and stress is crucial. Providing plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, consistent routines, and a safe space for your dog to retreat can reduce anxiety and stress.

To prevent excessive licking behavior in golden retrievers, addressing any underlying medical issues is essential. Providing mental and physical stimulation, teaching them a “quiet” command using positive reinforcement techniques can also be helpful in curbing this behavior. Lastly, ensuring they get enough exercise and mental challenges can keep them happy and healthy.

While excessive licking may be annoying at times, it’s important to remember that licking is how golden retrievers show love and affection towards us humans. With proper care and attention from their owners, these lovable dogs can continue to give us those slobbery kisses while living happier and healthier lives.

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