Why Do Dogs Lick Each Other’s Teeth? (5 Reasons)

by Stuart | Last Updated:   October 19, 2021

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Dogs licking each others’ teeth is completely normal behavior. When dogs lick each other’s teeth or face, they’re not exactly kissing. Licking is the opposite of aggressive behavior.

If you’re a dog parent or a dog lover, you probably know that dogs love to lick. They lick a lot of things, including licking the faces and teeth of other dogs. What compels them to do this?

There are various reasons dogs can do this. It’s sometimes a sign of affection, playtime, submission, or hunger. It’s a behavior that comes from early puppyhood when puppies used to lick their mother’s lips.

Two dogs face to face licking each others teeth

Related Reading: Why Do Dogs Lick My Legs After A Shower?

Common Reasons Why Dogs Will Lick Each Others Teeth

1. Playtime

Your dog may also lick another dog’s teeth to show that they are ready to play. It may do this with dogs it’s meeting for the first time, and dogs it already knows and likes. 

If your dog is looking for playtime, it might lick the other dog’s teeth in addition to getting into play bow with their butt in the air and front legs on the ground. Coupling play bow with face licking is your dog’s way of saying “ Hey! I’m friendly, let’s play!” If the other dog is not interested, just pull the licking dog away to avoid any conflict. 

2. Sign of affection

Licking helps dogs relax and bond. Dogs sometimes lick each other’s teeth just to show affection. Licking releases endorphin hormones that feel pleasurable to both dogs. 

3. Submission

For submission, licking other dogs’ teeth to show subordination. If a dog meets another dog it highly respects, it might lick that dog’s face to show submission. It also might roll over onto its back to express submissiveness. This behavior is common to maintain pack harmony in the wild.

Social order is important in dog life. A dog licking another dog’s teeth shows that it is below the other dog in the hierarchy, especially when the dog doing the licking does so under the chin. 

In other words, it wants to say “you’re in charge here and I mean you no harm.” The other dogs say “it’s ok” by licking back. Keep an eye on this as the dominant dog might get snappy or get overexuberant and growl or snap at the submissive one.

4. I’m sorry

Dogs can get frustrated or baffled by each other, especially if one is more highly energetic. The offending dog can say it’s sorry with a gentle face or teeth lick. 

The dog usually comes in from below and licks the other dog’s mouth or teeth. It might also raise a paw slightly. When the other dogs lick back, all is forgiven.

5. Hunger

Puppies seem to stay hungry all the time. They grow fast and need lots of nourishment. One way they tell their mother dogs how they’re feeling is by licking them on the mouth and teeth. 

Instinctively, a puppy thinks it’s the mother dog’s job to find food and bring it back for it to eat. They lick their mother’s face and teeth when they are hungry. You can use this as a sign of when to feed the puppy. 

Pet parent tip: Supervising the interactions of your dog with other dogs is always important. You must ensure that the licking dog doesn’t get too carried away. Some dogs can engage in aggressive behaviors that might lead to serious fights.

Why Do Puppies Lick Their Mother’s Face and Teeth?

If a puppy licks their mother’s face or teeth, it’s usually a signal that they want to be fed. Their instinct is to lick their mother’s face when they are hungry. 

In the wild, puppies lick their mother’s lips and teeth when the mother returns from a hunt in hopes of getting some leftover fresh meat. The lick signals the mother to regurgitate some of the pre-digested food for her hungry puppies. 

Domesticated puppies display the same licking behavior, with the same results. The puppy’s lick is a subordinate behavior that means “please take care of me.”

Possible Medical Issues

Dogs have been known for being capable of detecting diseases as serious as diabetes and cancer in humans. When dogs develop a sudden interest in certain body parts, it may be worthy to see the vet to rule out any possible medical problems. Dogs can often know when someone is ill through their scent. 

Many dogs are prone to gum and dental issues. There might be a dental issue that is causing odours in the mouths or the gums are inflamed. Also, there might be a piece of bone lodged in between teeth.

How to Stop a Dog From Licking Other Dogs’ Teeth

So your dog is a persistent licker, and you want to put a stop to this behavior? Here are some general tips.

  • Watch for signals from the dog being licked such as; turning the head, moving away, growl, or yawning may be signs that the other pooch is getting annoyed. Remember that some dogs may go straight to just biting. 
  • Redirect the licking behaviour to an alternate behaviour. For instance, tell your fur buddy “leave it” as soon as you notice its intent and redirect him to an alternate behavior. Make sure to praise and reward. Alternatively, you can try to redirect to a chew toy or any other interactive toy. 
  • Keep the dogs separated with a pet barrier or pet gate when you cannot monitor and redirect. 
  • Consult with a dog behaviourist or vet if things seem to be getting out of hand.

Final Thoughts 

Until dogs can talk, we can only make educated guesses as to what the behavior means and where it comes from. It’s better to look at how the behaviour presents, the context in which it happens, and the accompanying body language.

If your dog likes to lick other dog’s teeth, don’t worry. It may seem weird to us, but your fur buddy is doing it to show friendliness, hunger, affection, or submission. Whichever reason is behind his dog-on-dog teeth licking, it’s never a bad thing.

Stuart loves blogging about his hobbies and passions. Sir Doggie is a place for him to share what he learns while being a pet parent. Click here to read more.
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