Lip Licks!

A classic lip lick from Zani

Just a quick body language observation item today. I love watching slow motion footage of my dogs since so much is happening that I normally don’t see.

I had suspected for a while that Summer had at least two distinct “lip licks.” Lip licks, lip flicks, or nose licks are believed to be stress signals for most dogs. I certainly think they are for Summer and Zani. The slightest hint of untoward events and it is Lip Lick City at my house. It is embarrassingly easy to get one on film. All I have to do is walk straight toward either of them with stiff body language and they’ll usually do it. Both of them are incredibly pressure sensitive. (I try to mind my body language on their behalf,  but I’m a klutzy human so of course I bother them a couple of times a day by accident.)

Anyway, here is a short movie comparing what I believe to be stress lip licks from both Summer and Zani, contrasted with what I believe is a happy relaxed lip lick from Summer. Both of these lip licks can be seen in the video in Does Your Dog REALLY Want to Be Petted? One lip lick means no, another yes.

So does anybody else’s dog have a “happy lip lick” like Summer?

Discussions coming up:

  • “Errorless learning”
  • Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Is It Really Just a Tap? (shock collar content)

About eileenanddogs

Passionate amateur dog trainer, writer, and learning theory geek. Eileen Anderson on Google+
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14 Responses to Lip Licks!

  1. Marjorie says:

    Both my dogs do the exact same as your Summer, especially Taffy. I’m so glad that you did this post as I think the lip licking thing can be confusing for some. When mine are being patted and are relaxed they do the one where the tongue just barley comes out of the mouth.

  2. Marjorie says:

    I’ll have to take a closer look when I get home tonight. If they are it’s not really noticeable. I have wondered about this kind of behaviour and I have really wondered what they could possibly be stressed about because it only happens when they are relaxed, interacting with me and something positive is happening. Just the tip of the tongue shows and sometimes they keep it out for a while if I’m scratching a good spot and they lean into it.

  3. Thank you! you gave me much to think about! I feel very uncomfortable when I see it in my training videos. Much thought to do. 🙂

  4. Marjorie says:

    Do your dogs champ? I was watching my girls tonight for the swallowing while lip licking and yes they do while champing (smacking their lips and licking) which is what they do when they want something. Then there is the “wolf greeting behaviour” that they do which also has little quick licks to the face. Oh so much to decipher!

  5. Carolyn (and Molly) says:

    Molly definitely does the small lip lick when she is exceptionally contented. She might be being petted or scratched, or perhaps brushed in a way that she likes. Her entire face looks relaxed, particularly her eyes. I haven’t noticed that she is swallowing while doing this. If I am understanding Marjorie’s definition of “champing”, Molly does this as well under the same relaxed, contented circumstances.

  6. lorac says:

    Tongue rolling in humans is genetically influenced (not a single gene trait). I wonder if it’s the same in dogs. sign me curious.

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  11. Dee says:

    My dog does this little lip lick whenever he’s contented and happy and being touched or rubbed in a way he likes. I was sure it wasn’t stress lip licking, but I’d never seen it discussed. Thanks for insight.

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