Lip licking is a subtle body language that dogs can display for a variety of reasons. From the owner’s point of view it is a good idea to be aware of any lip licking from your dog and what this is saying about how your dog is feeling.
Lip licking is often seen when a meal is being prepared. Naturally this is a normal healthy anticipation for some lovely food but lip licking without the presence of food could be signalling something different altogether.
Lip licking shows itself as a rapid movement of the tongue, upwards and over the nose (tongue flick). This can be spasmodic or repeated in quick succession and often missed by the owner of anything of importance but in fact this can be an outward display of anxiety and a stress level indicator. Lip licking can be accompanied by a yawn too.
Stress may be originating from your dog due to feeling threatened by a stimulus or in an environment that your dog feels uncomfortable in. When your dog displays lip licking then it should be removed from the situation or distance given to whatever the perceived threat or trigger may have been.
Lip licking can also be seen from dogs within a training situation whether one to one or in a class environment. A dog can get stressed if it gets tired and frustrated if not understanding what is required of it. If you spot some lip licks happening then pause your training, evaluate and try again another day.
Dental pain, nausea, acid reflux, allergies and possibly more serious medical issues can cause lip licking, so if your dog is displaying this behaviour repeatedly then seek veterinary advice.
Your dog will thank you for noticing this subtle but all important body language and you will understand much better your dog’s emotional state at that time