It is a common scene at the park, your dog runs up to a new dog to greet it and immediately shoves their face into the other dog’s private parts and licks. We know that our dogs can be weird, but it is embarrassing to have to haul your dog’s face out of a stranger’s dog’s behind.
However, for the rest of this article, leave the human idea of private parts behind. Specifically the word “private” in private parts. Dogs do not have that concept of privacy when it comes to their nether regions. Instead, it is just another normal body part as well as a source of lots of information.
So if that is the case, why do dogs lick other dogs’ private parts?
Dogs that lick other dogs’ privates are showing normal dog communication. It’s a healthy form of socialization for dogs and they can learn information by licking each other’s private parts. By grooming another dog’s privates, a dog can gain information from hormones and smells on top of properly greeting and showing affection.
So let’s take a look at how a dog’s nose leads them to lick and explore each other’s privates, and what factors might cause dogs to show this behavior more than others.
Why Do Dogs Lick Other Dogs’ Private Parts?
The main reason that dogs lick other dogs’ private parts has to do with their nose and their incredible sense of smell.
Dogs have a powerful olfactory sense that not only causes them to lick other dogs’ privates but other strange things like other dogs’ ears or their owner’s legs. This is how they gain information about the world and other dogs.
With a sense of smell over 10,000 times more powerful than humans, dogs can learn a lot from licking another dog’s private parts. There are pheromones and hormones and other interesting smells. Licking and grooming also show affection when two dogs get along very well.
So what exactly is that information telling your dog and why do they keep licking other dog’s privates?
Reason 1. Your Dog Is Gathering Information
Dogs can learn a lot from exploring the world around them by sniffing and licking. A dog’s of smell sense is one of their most important tools for gathering information, and they can be trained to sniff out cadavers, drugs, and even cancer like the dog in the video below.
Whether a dog is sniffing their own bum or licking other dogs’ private parts, they are using their sense of smell to learn information. They might like the taste, but they are picking up on smells that humans cannot detect, particularly hormones and pheromones.
A dog’s sense of smell, which is connected to taste, is so refined that it can use those hormones to detect whether a dog is altered, what gender they are, how old they are, if they are coming into heat, and even learn about their health. Unrelated to licking each other dog’s private parts, but a dog’s sense of smell can even tell them what gender humans are.
Reason 2. Communication
Even though dogs may not communicate the same way humans use language does not mean that they have not developed their own complex form of communication. This includes barking, body language, pooping on things, and licking each other’s private parts. Have you ever noticed your dog sniffing the air? There is a good chance another dog is communicating with them.
Most of the time, a dog licking another dog’s private parts is communicating a simple “hello!”
Properly socialized dogs often go in for a quick sniff or lick of other dogs’ privates. Once they have greeted and gathered the information they were curious about, the dogs might use body language to communicate a play session. Here is a video that shows you good playful doggy body language, including socially appropriate check-ins of each other’s private parts.
A well-socialized dog should also be able to read another dog’s body language and know if they are making them uncomfortable by licking the other dog’s private parts. If their quick lick is not reciprocated, hopefully, they leave that dog alone. Body language that shows discomfort includes lip-licking, body freezing, raised hackles, a turned head or whale eyes.
Reason 3. Your Dog Is Curious
Another reason dogs might try to lick each other’s private parts could be curiosity. Dogs are often attracted to unusual smells like lotions, and they usually will try to investigate these strange smells by licking them. That means they are going to lick another dog’s privates if there is a curious smell on them.
Weird smells worth investigating on privates include residual soap from being groomed, dirt, excrement, or a health issue like an infection. A curious dog catching a whiff of some of these smells on another dog’s private parts will try to explore by licking.
Reason 4. Your Dog Is Not Fixed
According to Monique Feyrecilde, Debra Horwitz, and Gary Landsberg, most dogs should be spayed or neutered around the time they hit puberty as it not only “minimizes the risk of unplanned litters, but may also offer behavioral benefits.” Since altered dogs are usually less sexually frustrated and constantly looking for a mate, one of those behavioral benefits might include reducing licking other dogs’ private parts.
Why Do Male Dogs Lick Other Male Dogs’ Privates?
While unneutered male dogs may mark more than neutered males, your boy dog still may love to lift their leg every chance they get. The higher they get their pee, the bigger the smell radius will be to let other dogs know the territory has been marked!
But why smell the leftover pee on the ground when you can go straight to the source and lick another male dog’s private parts? That leftover pee plus general pheromones give a lot of information about that dog’s personality and whether they should play or avoid each other.
Why Do Female Dogs Lick Each Other’s Privates?
Male dogs tend to mark more than females, but female dogs will occasionally lift their legs to mark. This means, like male dogs, they might try to lick each other’s privates to get a better idea of what the pee is trying to say.
Female dogs will also lick each other’s privates when they are going into heat. If you have two unaltered females, they sometime will try to keep each other clean by licking each other’s private parts. Hormones sometimes cause two unaltered females to go into heat at the same time. If you have two females going through estrous cycles together, be careful that they do not lick each other too much or they could get a yeast infection.
If you have an unspayed female dog and are unsure what a heat cycle looks like, this video is a great place to learn.
Depending on the breed and size of your dog, they can hit puberty between 6 months old and 2 years old. Talk to your veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your vet. Besides uncomfortable licking of other dogs’ privates, it can help curb behaviors like marking and humping.
There is some evidence that suggests not being fixed can cause aggression between strange dogs. However, any dog regardless of sex or if they are fixed can become uncomfortable and lash out when their personal space feels invaded by another dog licking their private parts.
Reason 5. Affection
Grooming shows affection between two dogs with a close relationship. If two dogs are comfortable with each other, they will often groom each other to show their love and affection. Sometimes dogs can become dirty in their private area, especially if you have a dog with long hair. Dogs that like to be clean will show affection by helping other dogs and licking their private parts.
Licking is a social behavior learned from puppyhood since mother dogs lick their puppies, including privates, to stimulate them, keep them warm, keep them clean, and comfort them. Below is a video of a mother dog showing affection and cleaning her puppies, including their private parts.
Your older dog’s licking your new puppy’s private parts is mimicking that mother dog’s affection and helping them clean themselves. They are also learning about the new puppy, and can even tell how old the puppy is by licking them.
Should I Be Worried?
Sometimes dogs lick each other’s private parts because there is something wrong. Common issues that a dog might be able to smell and cause them to investigate each other include:
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Yeast Infection
- Impacted Anal Glands
If you are worried that your dog could be suffering from one of these ailments, please go see your veterinarian. Many of these conditions can be treated with simple antibiotics and some cancers are very treatable if caught early.
If you have unaltered male and female dogs living together, be aware that your male dog might start licking the female’s private parts when she is going into heat. She starts putting out pheromones before she is fertile or bleeding during an estrous cycle, and your male’s powerful nose can pick up on that.
Unless you are planning a litter, you will have to keep these two dogs separated for at least 2 weeks. The best way to make sure you do not have any unwanted litters is to spay or neuter your dog!
How Can I Change This Behavior?
While licking might be a normal dog behavior and helps them learn information about each other, a dog who obsessively or habitually licks other dogs’ private parts can be considered rude. It can make other dogs uncomfortable and might escalate to a dog fight. Some breeds of dogs naturally lick a lot and will need help finding a different outlet for their licking.
Most dogs will take the hint when another dog corrects them for being overly interested in licking their privates. Although some dogs might have a harder time reading those cues and you will need to distract them and teach a new behavior. Using positive reinforcement and treats to pull them away from another dog’s privates and training “Look at Me” or “Watch Me” are easy alternative behaviors.
This video gives you an idea of how to train your dog to offer you eye contact but there are also plenty of other dog training resources available if you’re interested in learning more:
Obsessively licking themselves or other dogs’ private parts could be a sign of anxiety or boredom. Make sure your dog is getting enough mental and physical stimulation so their licking habit does not become destructive or create issues with other dogs.
As already mentioned above, some dogs might lick another dog’s private parts because of a health concern. If compulsively licking one certain dog’s privates is a new behavior, you might want to take the dog being licked to the veterinarian for a health check.
Dogs are known for being dramatic creatures, but when we as human owners get upset that they are licking each other’s private parts, your dog probably thinks you are being the dramatic one!
That is because licking each other’s privates is a socially acceptable way to greet, gather information, and show affection in the dog world. Usually, interesting smells attract them to lick other dogs’ private parts including urine, dirt, or pheromones. Curiosity drives a dog’s nose and tastebuds.
Furthermore, dogs can learn a lot about another dog by licking private parts. This includes a dog’s age, gender, whether they are fixed, health issues, and diet. It is amazing how much information a dog can gain by licking other dogs’ private parts.
While dogs are capable of learning some human vocabulary, communication looks very different in the dog world. Having the ability to smell and lick other dogs’ privates probably tells them more information than conversations humans have with each other.
However, dogs also use body language to communicate. Dogs that have their hackles up, mouth closed, and a straight stiff tail likely feel uncomfortable about having their privates licked.
Therefore, be a responsible dog owner and learn about dog body language and not let your dog greet too enthusiastically by licking other dogs’ private parts. Keep your dog safe by being an advocate for them when they are put in uncomfortable positions!