There is no doubt that dogs are amazing companions. Incredibly, there are hundreds of different breeds and personalities and you can find the perfect dog for almost every kind of lifestyle. What do all these dogs have in common though? Dogs tend to be weird!
Dogs can be weird in different ways, but most dogs seem to enjoy licking weird things. Some of those weird behaviors might be licking smelly things, or licking their owner. Or licking smelly things and then licking their owner. However, do you ever feel like your dog fixates on licking one certain spot on you, like your belly button?
So why does your dog lick your belly button?
Dogs probably lick belly buttons because they smell and taste good because of dirt and sweat, or body products you use. Licking your belly button is often a sign of grooming, affection, or stress. Sometimes licking your belly button could be a sign that something is off about your health.
Your belly button might be one of the more uncomfortable places for your dog to lick. So let’s take a look at why your dog is obsessed with trying to lick your belly button and what you can do to try to change that behavior. We will discuss why you might not want your dog to lick your belly button.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Belly Button?
Some breeds of dogs are huge lickers by nature. Which can be endearing, until they start to lick your belly button!
Licking allows dogs to explore their environment through taste and smell, however, it is also a social behavior. What starts as a way for their mother to groom and keep her young puppies clean quickly becomes an innate habit for dogs to express love, and affection, and a way to bond.
Because licking is such a bonding experience, it is no wonder your dog licks you more than anyone else. However, what attracts them to focus on your belly button? It might not only be affection, but smell, taste, and maybe even hormones!
Reason 1. Your Belly Button Smells and Tastes Good
I strive to be a clean, well-groomed person. But sometimes I have just gone for a run, been camping in the woods, or have had a lazy day. On those days, my body order might be a little more rank than normal. Certain body parts, like my belly button, will be smellier than the rest of my body. And my dogs can smell that and might want to taste it.
Even the cleanest person might forget about their belly button. Because of its crevices, it easily collects dirt and sweat, the belly button has been found to host 67 different kinds of bacteria. If not cleaned properly regularly, the belly button has the potential to smell bad or in extreme cases develop yeast infections.
It is no secret that dogs like to get into some pretty gross things, so it is not too surprising that your dog likes to lick your belly button, especially after a stinky day. If you have not had a chance to take your shower and clean off, they are attracted to the smell of it and like the taste.
Reason 2. Your Dog Is Being Affectionate
While it might seem gross that your dog licks your belly button for affection, there is a good reason for it. Your belly button probably has a strong scent that reminds them of you. Licking is an affectionate behavior for dogs and they associate the smell of your belly button with you, therefore licking your navel is just a sign that they love you.
It is sweet when your dog licks when you cuddle, but might not be so endearing when they lick your belly button. Even though it is still out of affection, some dogs might be attracted to licking your belly button because of the strong smell. Soap, lotion, or sweat can deter a dog’s snout from a normal face lick to a belly button lick.
Reason 3. Your Dog Is Grooming You
As we already stated, dogs learn to lick from their mother. Mother dogs start to groom their puppies as soon as they are born to start to clean off the afterbirth and to keep them clean as they learn to control their bodies.
A good mama dog will be diligent about keeping her puppies clean and healthy, like the dog in the video below.
Social grooming is common for many species of animals, including humans and dogs. Most creatures experience it from birth and carry it on through their adulthood as a way to show affection.
For example, dogs grooming each other’s private parts is a social behavior. And licking your belly button (probably because it smells) is another innate behavior because your dog has the urge to groom you.
Reason 4. They Are Bored
What is your reaction when your dog licks your belly button? While I do not mind the occasional lick from my dogs, I usually discourage them from licking places like my belly button. I would like to keep that area of my body clean and who knows where my dogs have been licking! Would you let these dogs lick your belly button?
Well, like most reasonable people, I would push my dog away and probably redirect them to a new game. When you accidentally reinforce bad behavior like licking your belly button by playing with your bored dog, they know how to get your attention.
Dogs tend to learn and pick up on patterns very quickly. Once they learn that licking your belly button leads to you petting them or playing with them, they will repeat that behavior whenever they are bored.
Reason 5. Your Dog Is Stressed
Licking is self-soothing behavior, so when many dogs get stressed they might start neurotically licking your belly button. Dogs that are more likely to lick might find a body part that is comforting to lick (like your belly button or your head or just any surface around the house) and start licking whenever they are stressed.
Besides excessively licking your belly button, other symptoms of anxiety include:
- Having accidents in the house
Reason 6. Your Dog Is Fixated
Sometimes excessive stress licking can turn compulsory, so do not let your dog lick your belly button for too long. Dogs can become fixated on licking certain things and Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD) can be stressful for your dog and frustrating for you to manage.
Besides incessant licking, other compulsive dog behaviors include chasing their tails, chasing lights, eating dirt, excessively drinking water, or spinning. Certain breeds are more prone to CCD, like Border Collies or Labradors who might play fetch until they nearly collapse.
While licking your belly button might seem like a harmless fixation, CCD often only gets worse and your dog might turn their focus from licking your belly button to compulsively destroying the house.
Reason 7. Something Is Up With Your Health…
Dogs are very sensitive to our bodies and health, like licking us when we sneeze to check in on us. Licking your belly button could be a sign that they know something is off about your body.
Dogs are very sensitive to hormonal changes, and one of the biggest hormonal changes the human body can go through is pregnancy. With almost 60 times the amount of smell receptors that humans have, dogs sense the subtle changes in hormones, insulin, and other changes the body goes through during pregnancy. Some people even think dogs might be able to sense a woman is pregnant before she knows!
Because dogs love and are protective of their owners, especially when they are in a vulnerable place like pregnancy, they will show their affection by licking their pregnant owner’s belly button. Maybe they can sense the baby in there?
Research has shown that dogs’ acute sense of smell can also sniff out cancer. If you are not feeling well and your dog is suddenly licking your belly button, maybe it is time for a doctor’s appointment. The dog below found their owner’s cancer before the doctor was able to diagnose them.
Besides cancer and pregnancy, dogs have been trained to use their nose to help patients with epilepsy and diabetes. So if you are worried about your health, do not ignore the signs if your dog starts licking your belly button.
How Can I Stop Them From Licking My Belly Button?
Let’s face it, licking your belly button is probably not your first choice of places on your body to lick. Since it is already in a place on your body that collects dirt and sweat, it is enough work keeping up on belly button hygiene without your dog adding more moisture by licking.
Not to mention that your belly button is a sensitive area and it probably tickles and can be uncomfortable when your dog licks your belly button.
So here are some ways you can prevent your dog from licking your belly button.
Dogs enjoy licking things, so instead of allowing them to lick your belly button redirect them to a more appropriate behavior. In the dog training world, redirection refers to distracting your dog from an unwanted behavior (either predicted or when it is happening) and redirecting them to a more appropriate behavior.
So if your dog enjoys licking, try redirecting them to something more appropriate to lick. The puppy in this video has a toy full of frozen peanut butter.
What a perfect redirection for a dog that loves to lick your belly button.
Mental Stimulation And Exercise
Dogs that are bored or become stressed easily probably need more mental stimulation and exercise. Otherwise, they might start licking your belly button. Young and high-energy dogs need more exercise than other dogs, but every dog will appreciate a fun walk with their owner.
Regular exercise is not only important for physical health but also provides a bonding experience and mental stimulation that helps keep a dog cognitively healthy. Whether it is a run, a hike, or a bike ride, exercise helps reduce stress and bad behaviors.
Most dogs love to go for a walk no matter what the weather is like, but if it is too rainy or cold for you, there are lots of indoor games you can play to wear out your dog so they do not lick your belly button. Try training games, playing indoor fetch, or hide-n-seek!
Finally, take away the allure of your belly button and keep it clean. Belly buttons can be full of bacteria, sweat, and dirt, but a clean belly button is less likely to attract the inquisitive nose of your canine best friend.
Simply use your favorite soap to give your belly button an extra scrubbing and make sure to towel dry. Hopefully, the lack of a smelly belly button will keep your dog from licking it.
Should I Be Worried?
While it is not always a bad thing, be careful of what you let your dog lick out of your belly button, certain skincare products can be toxic to your dog if they lick them off your skin. These include:
- topical medications
- retinoids (vitamin A compounds)
- Anything with avocado or grape oils
Besides making sure your dog stays away from toxic products, you want to ensure that licking your belly button is not a behavior born out of stress. Anxiety behaviors can lead to generalized or separation anxiety, CCD, or bad habits like getting into the trash.
If you believe your dog is suffering from anxiety, find a local certified trainer or behaviorist who can help you build a training and management plan.
While we might gag at the thought of licking our belly button, our dogs usually do not have that reaction. They love the smell and taste of your belly button, either because of the dirt and sweat or interesting body products you use.
Sometimes, licking your belly button can be because of affection. In dog behavior, grooming is an innate way to display love. Licking is also self-soothing, so be careful that they are not licking your belly button because of stress. Or that the licking becomes compulsive. Many dogs might fixate on belly buttons.
Furthermore, be aware of common body products that humans use but are toxic to dogs. This includes certain sunscreens and oils containing grape or avocados.
It is probably best to err on the side of caution and not let your dog lick your belly button. Instead, redirect them to a good alternative behavior for licking. Or, even better, engage with them and pet or play with your dog before they start licking your belly button for attention.