Canine Body Language: lip licks and tongue flicks

Do you speak dog?

tongue flick

lip lick

If you notice a dog licking his lips or flicking his tongue out in a social situation, he’s likely either uncomfortable himself or responding to another dog or person’s discomfort.

Both of these are oral self-soothing behaviors, much like thumb-sucking in toddlers.

When a dog licks his lips or flicks his tongue out, he’s giving you valuable information. If you notice your dog looking at you and giving either of these signals, you can signal back to him by licking your own lips, effectively telling him, “I see that you’re unsure, and don’t intend you any harm.”

What situations cause your dog to lick his lips or flick his tongue out?

20 responses to “Canine Body Language: lip licks and tongue flicks

  1. correction! If she feels I am disappointed in her, she throws her ears back, head down, she wags her whole rear end, and licks her lips. It’s a very effective tactic for getting back in my good graces ;)

    Thank you for the post, I had heard a tidbit about this signal elsewhere but didn’t know what it meant. Can you tell other ways it is useful for the trainer?

    • If dog is licking lips, could also be saying “please” help me with my problem. My dog has dry skin & and this is her way of asking that I rub cream on her problem areas. She then also thanks me with a tongue flick after I am done and She then stays relaxed & still on Her blanket, basking in the relief. Hope this is helpful – Marion

  2. Sometimes my dog yawns. Someone told me it is because he doesn’t understand or is confused about something, but I think he rarely licks his lips.

  3. Yes! Good article, people need to pay attention to what their dogs are telling them. My dog licks her lips a lot when she is nervous, especially around other dogs.

  4. My dog does this ALL the time.

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  7. oh, this was helpful. We just adopted a dog from the local shelter and she’s a total sweetie, but sometimes she’ll just sit up and start flicking her tongue for up to five minutes. I hope she settles after a while and she’s not so nervous. :c

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  10. Licking lips is a sign of submission in horses – it appears also to apply to dogs – depending on the situation

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  14. My dog does this when I’m giving him love and attention, especially if my face is close. He will lick my face and when I move my face away he will lick the air and his own lips compulsively. Does that mean he is uncomfortable with my affection? or can it mean anything else?

  15. Lynda Rohr Howard

    My dog, an older Rottie, does the flick whenever I talk to her (sweetly with higher tone). Or sometimes when I just look at her face/eyes and talk. I am not touching her. Never dreamed could be a stress response.

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