Dogs are very interactive animals. They just love to express their affection and amusement at everything that happens. That’s especially true if they have a human. Yes, I’ve heard people asking in the past: “Why does my dog lick me when I sneeze/cough/etc?” To answer this very simple question you need to know dogs are very physical animals and licking is the main way they interact with people and the world. It’s perfectly normal for them to do that. Whether you like that or are bothered by it, it’s an instinct and it can be increased or decreased with the right approach. Keeping that in mind, here are some of the possible reasons:
To Show Affection
Your dog might be trying to give you care in the best way it knows how. Licking is a form of affection and dogs do that a lot in general, but some dogs do it at specific times like this. They notice that something happened to you and try to ease you down and show that they’re there for you through licking. It’s different from humans, of course, instead of someone saying, “bless you” or your grandmother kissing your face 10 times to “make the sickness go away”, dogs caress you with their tongue. That’s how they show that they care and express warmth, in their own limited ability of communication.
It May Be Scared
Sneezes can be loud. No, seriously. Some people might sneeze softly and gently and if you’re one of those people, may peace be with you. Others sound like an atomic bomb when they sneeze. The noise, the suddenness, the change in your facial expression. All of those are factors that could very easily jump scare an animal. Sometimes even people get startled by someone sneezing, so it’s safe to assume animals can be caught off guard too. Because they’re scared, they start licking you for safety and to be clingy.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a sneeze. If it does often scare your dog though, or makes it uncomfortable, you should consider being a bit gentler with the way you sneeze. Use a tissue, be less noisy, etc. At least until your dog gets used to it. Of course, that will happen over time.
They Like the Taste
Human snot and mucus fresh out of their insides, provided by the nostrils? Oh yeah, dogs don’t get a lot of that so tasting it is definitely a good snack for them. As disgusting as it may sound, a sneeze does have a smell and a flavor. If you’re curious, try sneezing onto your arm and then smelling it. I don’t recommend it as a good aroma, but a dog probably would. Matter of fact, they’d probably recommend it as a delicacy.
Obviously, you don’t want your dog licking all your snot off you. They deserve tastier and healthier food than that. That won’t stop them, though, all they know is that their human has a new salt to them and that’s enough for them to want a taste of it.
To Get Your Attention
This is also another type of licking that can happen at different times but can happen more often after certain movements. Your dog heard you do something unusual? It got to let you know that he or she is there too and wants to be involved with you. It wants you to know that whatever you’re doing, remember to give it some attention and interaction too.
Dogs can also be licking you due to curiosity. As mentioned above, a sneeze is different from what a human usually does. It’s unusual, the noise, smell, etc. They might not want to communicate anything to you, as they could simply be licking you to see what’s going on and analyze.
Dogs are sensory creatures. Their way of exploring and understanding the world is through direct contact. Some of their strongest senses, if not the strongest are sniffing and taste. It’s not even about the sneeze itself, dogs sniff at everything, even if there’s nothing to smell. If something happens that makes them curious, they go to examine it. It could be as simple as just that.
What if I don’t like it?
If you don’t like the amount of licking you get from your dog, whether that be in general, or just when you sneeze, cough/something similar then there are a few things you can do about it. It’s understandable. Some people like their personal space and may not like clingy behavior, which is perfectly reasonable. The first thing to do would be treating a sneeze as something normal, being natural and soft about it, and not giving your dog too much of a reaction when it clings up to you afterward.
If a dog goes up to their human and their human cuddles them, or talks to them, that’s all the reassurance they need. They will do it again in the future to get that comfort and interaction. You could use this in two ways: one way is to increase interaction with your dog and have a more affectionate/close connection. The other way is to not react and in return, make it less likely for your pet to repeat the behavior. If that doesn’t work and your dog is extremely clingy still, there are many guides online on how to stop your dog from being clingy.
So, Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I Sneeze?
Just for attention, interaction and to express concern or affection. It really isn’t that deep. It’s cute, but understandably it can bother some people. If it does bother you, gently prevent making a big scene to your dog about your sneeze and just treat it as something normal. If you do, the dog should too. On the other hand, though, it’s extremely cute for dogs to come up to you and play with you over small things like that, so why wouldn’t you?