Six Surprising Reasons Why Dogs Smack Their Lips (2022)

In the human world, lip smacking is something we do when we open and close our mouth loudly to express a strong desireto eat something we like, but in the dog world, lip smacking can take place for many other reasons.

Some dog owners may find the behavior concerning especially when a dog licks his lips excessively, while others may find it downright annoying.

By the way, if you are terribly bothered by those lip smacking noises your dog makes, there are chances you may have a condition known as "misophonia" which literally means "hatred of sound" and can involve specific noises produced when someone eats, yawns or when dogs smack their lips.

Back to dogs, let's discover six surprising reasons why dogs smack their lips.

Six Surprising Reasons Why Dogs Smack Their Lips (1)

1) Anticipation of Food

Just like us, a dog's mouth may water when he sees food, smells food or even thinks about food. This collection of saliva in a dog's mouth may cause him to drool, which is often seen in dogs with heavy jowls, but sometimes dogs may just discreetly smack their lips to collect the excessive saliva that collects laterally and prevent it from seepingout.

In this case, the lip smacking behavior occurs when there is something in the dog's environment that has to do with food. You're likely to see your dog smack his lips therefore when you're cooking something or when you're prepping your dog's meal.

Surprising fact: Your dog may even smack his lips when no food is around. When RussianphysiologistIvan Pavlov started studying the digestive process in dogs, he noticed how the dogssalivated naturally when food was presented, but what was really surprising is that the dogs started salivating even upon the mere sight of the white lab coat of the experimental assistants!

Basically, the dogs started associating food with the lab assistant's coat so they drooled upon seeing it and at some point even upon hearing the lab assistant's foot steps!

So if you ever clicker trained your dog, don't be surprised if he smacks his lips when you get the clicker out orupon clicking it, even before you give a treat. From your dog's perspective, the clicker is what dog trainers call a secondary orconditioned reinforcer,meaning that the dog has learned to associate it with treats.

Its mere presence can triggera lip smacking event. Same goes with seeing Aunt Molly.

If every time Aunt Molly meets your dog she gives him a treat, just seeing her may elicit a lip smacking episode as he anticipates food from her!

2) A Bout of Nausea

Just before people or dogs vomit, saliva accumulates in the mouth and this may trigger lip smacking in dogs and drooling or repeatedswallowing in humans.

Why this saliva accumulates in the mouth before vomiting is not entirely clear, but according to Science Focus, there is belief that it may be a protective measure to prevent the throat, mouth and teeth from being harmed by the highly acidic stomach contents when they're brought up.

(Video) Dogs smacking their lips once in a while

Fortunately, most cases of dog lip smacking from nausea resolve after the dog has vomited, but sometimes the nausea may go on for some time and the dog may be repeatedly gulping down saliva.

Surprising fact: dogs can get acid reflux too! Small dogs are particularly prone to it as they have tiny stomachs and their metabolisms are so fast that their stomachs remain empty for some time. When their stomach is empty, they produce gastric acid, but since it'snot absorbed by food, it stays in the stomach, irritating the lining and causing nausea and vomiting ofyellow bile, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.

3) A Mouth Problem

When we have mouth or tooth pain, we may look inside the medicine cabinet to address the pain and make an appointment with the dentist.

Dogs have no way to tell us about their problem, other than showing signs of discomfort such as lip smacking and drooling, dropping food as they eat and pawing at the mouth.

Problems that may affects a dog's mouth or tooth may include periodontal disease, objects embedded in the dog's mouth or problems with the salivary glands. If you live in an area where there are foxtails,consider that these pesky awns may have lodged somewhere into your dog's mouth or throat causing lots of discomfort, lip smacking, drooling and gagging.

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Six Surprising Reasons Why Dogs Smack Their Lips (4)

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Surprising fact:In the world of fairy tales, kissing a frog may turn it into a prince, but in the dog world kissing the wrong type of toad may lead to lip smacking and foaming at the mouth and may even turn life threatening if veterinary care isn't sought in a timely manner.

Problems start when a dog licks a giant toad or a Sonoran desert toad, two species that secrete toxic substances as a defense mechanism. Along with foaming at the mouth, affected dogs may develop a high temperature, red gums, trouble breathing,abnormal heart rhythms, seizures and even death.

The Pet Poison Helpine recommends rinsing the mouth out and immediately contacting the vet.

4) A Sign of Pain/Illness

As a species that relies of words and vocalizations, us humans oftenassume dogs will show their pain thoughwhines, whimpers and yelps, but that's not always that way. Many dogs show subtle signs of pain that are often missed by dog owners or attributed to other things others than pain. Other than nausea, lip smacking can be a sign of pain explains veterinarian Dr. Jake Tedaldi in the book: "What's Wrong with My Dog?" Once the pain is taken care of, the lip smacking behavior should therefore resolve.

Surprising fact: there are several other physical ailments that could trigger lip smacking in dogs. For example, liver and kidney disease can cause lip smacking, and so can dehydration, further suggests Dr. Tedaldi. In some cases,partial seizures may also cause a dog to lick the air and snap, as if catching imaginary flies.

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5) A Calming Signal

In dogs, licking the lips can be what Roger Abrantes calls a "pacifying behavior." Dogs basically engage in this behavior to diffuse a perceived threat using the lip smacking action as an appeasing signal. It can be seen in dogs who are stressed, anxious or nervous about an interaction or when there is some type of conflict going on.

Many dogs smack their lips when they are being photographed (it makes some dogs uneasy) or when an owner trips on them. As with other behaviors, it's important to look at context as things can get blurry at times. A person may assume a dog may smack its lips from nervousness when starting a training session, but it could also mean the dog is anticipating treats. Patrica McConnell in her blog suggests a way to distinguish the two.

"Usually, (but not always) licking in anticipation of food involves the tongue moving laterally, to the side of the dog’s mouth, while in other types of lip licks the tongue moves straight forward." ~ Patricia McConnell

Surprising fact: Lip licking behavior has likely evolved with the dog because it has proven toprolong the dog's life increasing its chance of surviving and reproducing, suggests Abrantes. The behavior must have therefore puts roots as it helped the dog survive conflicts without incurring in physical harm.

6) Attention Seeking Behavior

Last but not least, lip smacking behavior may occur at times because the dog notices that it gets the owner's attention. After ruling out any medical causes, this may be a possibility if every time your dog smack his lips, you turn to look at him or talk to him.

The lip smacking behavior therefore puts roots because it has been accidentally reinforced by the owner.Dogs who look for attention are often dogs who aresocially deprived spending the majority of the day alone and craving any form of attention when the owner comes home.

As with other behaviors, it's important to look at context. If it happens only in presence in the owner, it's likely attention-seeking behavior. By recording the dog's behavior in the owner's absence, one can probably deduce if it may be attention-seeking behavior or perhaps something else.

Surprising fact:Dogs have been known for engaging in surprising behaviors just for the sake of attention, evenpseudo-medical attention-seeking behaviors, like faking lameness or face scratching, explainsDr. Nicholas Dodman. And if you were wondering, consider that evennegative attention such as reprimanding the dog telling him to stop may qualify as attention to a dog who is craving attention. The best approach is to totally ignore.

"Even telling your dog to stop, or reprimanding him, can be rewarding for some dogs. The principle here is that some attention, even negative attention, is better than no attention at all." ~Dr. Nicholas Dodman

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool or as a substitute for professional veterinary or behavioral advice. If your dog is smacking his lips, see a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Six Causes of Lip Smacking in Dogs

References:

  • What's Wrong with My Dog? by Dr. Jake Tedaldi,Fair Winds Press (August 1, 2007)
  • Science Focus, Why do we salivate before we vomit, by Luis Villazon, retrieved from the web on April 30th, 2016
  • Roger Abrantes, Pacifying Behavior, Origin Function and Evolution,retrieved from the web on April 30th, 2016
  • The Other End of the Leash, What Does Licking Mean? by Patricia McConnell,retrieved from the web on April 30th, 2016
  • Pet Place, Attention-Seeking Behavior in Dogs, by Dr. Nicholas Dodman, retrieved from the web on April 30th, 2016

FAQs

Why does a dog smack their lips? ›

Nausea, acid reflux, and a lower quality diet can all be a culprit. All of these cause an increase in the saliva production in the mouth which leads to lip smacking.

Why do dogs smack their lips at night? ›

To Soothe Emotional Distress or Anxiety

Dogs may smack or lick their lips as a way to soothe anxiety. This type of behavior may also be associated with anxiety, though it is likely more of a coping mechanism than simply a sign that the dog is experiencing anxiety.

How do I stop my dog from lip smacking? ›

You can try distracting your dog with a food-filled toy when you see the behavior. You can also ignore the behavior by looking away or leaving the room when the behavior occurs. Getting your dog enough exercise may also help control lip-licking behavior.

Why do dogs lick their lips before they throw up? ›

Nausea. Dogs with nausea will often hypersalivate, which results in them licking their lips excessively. This commonly occurs just prior to the act of vomiting. Some dogs may also eat grass when they are nauseated.

Why does my dog keep licking and smacking his lips? ›

Why Is My Dog Constantly Licking Its Lips? Dogs will lick their lips non-stop as an appeasement gesture when feeling threatened, anxious, or nervous, or when they experience a health-related problem such as nausea, oral discomfort, allergies, or internal pain.

Do dogs lick their lips when happy? ›

Flicking things around, a dog excessively licking lips could be a sign that they REALLY enjoy your petting. If you have been petting the dog's favourite spot, they might start to drool out of enjoyment.

What does lip smacking mean? ›

displaying or expressing enjoyment or pleasure, esp at the taste of food or drink. He consumes his food with lip-smacking enjoyment.

What does lip licking mean in dogs? ›

Dogs communicate non-verbally and use a wide range of body language signals as well as different vocalisations and sounds to tell people and other dogs how they feel. Lip licking is often a sign that your dog is feeling uncomfortable or anxious in any given situation. It can also be used to signal submission.

Why does my dog make noises with his mouth? ›

The lip smacking could indicate either nausea (dogs will salivate a lot and become nauseous due to illness), severe dental disease (infected teeth are painful and can make it hard to eat) or increased stress/anxiety.

Why does my dog stare at me? ›

Just as humans stare into the eyes of someone they adore, dogs will stare at their owners to express affection. In fact, mutual staring between humans and dogs releases oxytocin, known as the love hormone. This chemical plays an important role in bonding and boosts feelings of love and trust.

Why do dogs yawn? ›

Simply put, dogs yawn when they are stressed. According to Turid Rugaas, Norwegian behaviorist and author of On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, yawning is one of many signals dogs use to calm themselves when they are stressed or uneasy.

Why do dogs lick their privates? ›

Dogs Lick Their Crotch to Stay Clean

They need to keep their genitals clean from dirt and discharge, and they don't use toilet paper for their anal region, so their tongue is the way to do it.

Why do dogs lick your mouth and nose? ›

Licking can be an appeasement gesture that signals a dog's social deference. It can also be a signal to solicit food, more social information, a sign of affection or to solicit attention. A dog licking faces or other body parts can also occur as part of grooming.

What do dogs dream about? ›

What Do Dogs Dream About? While no one knows for sure what your dog dreams about, researchers think they likely dream about dog things like chasing squirrels, running after rabbits, and playing fetch with you. But while dogs dream happy dreams about fun activities, they can also have bad dreams or nightmares.

Why does my dog flick his tongue like a snake? ›

When displaying a Lip Lick or a fast Tongue Flick, your dog might be trying to calm herself down, or calm another person or dog out of the camera's reach. For a dog, personal space is of great importance, and as such, Lip Licks & Tongue Flicks can be used as an indication of a personal space violation.

Why is my dog licking his lips and eating grass? ›

If your pet is licking their lips or the air, carpet, or bedding, or if they are eating grass, this could be a sign they are nauseous. You might also see signs like drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, increased stomach noises, or lip-smacking. There are many reasons why a dog may be nauseous or vomit.

Why do dogs lick your feet? ›

Your dog licks you to show they care, to get attention, to understand you better and because they enjoy it. However, the reason they may prefer your feet could be because they're bursting with scent information that tells them a lot about you, where you've been and what you've been doing.

Why do dogs lick your face? ›

Aside from all the scents and flavors your face offers, licking your face is likely an instinctual behavior for your dog. Dogs lick each other's faces for mutual grooming, affection, and submissive communication, so licking your face is also a true sign of endearment.

What happens if a dog licks inside your mouth? ›

Some bacteria in dogs' mouths are zoonotic, meaning the animals can pass them to humans and cause disease. Some common zoonotic bacteria include clostridium, E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter, which can cause severe gastrointestinal disease in humans, said Dr. Leni K.

Is lip smacking good? ›

(informal) Tasty; appetizing. (degree, informal) Very. Aunt Bessy's Easter ham is always lip-smacking good.

How do you spell smacking lips? ›

Lip-smacking.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lip-smacking. Accessed 23 Oct. 2022.

What is Monkey lip smacking? ›

Lip smacking is a social behavior that usually results in friendly interactions between monkeys in a social group. Often, a monkey will lip smack to a more dominant monkey as a sign of submission.

Why does my dog lick the air when I talk to him? ›

Dogs lick the air for a number of reasons: to better smell things they are interested in, to communicate anxiety, to combat an upset stomach, etc. Occasional, short-lived episodes of air-licking are not a cause for alarm, but you should watch for increases in the time and/or frequency spent licking.

Why does my dog stick the tip of his tongue out when I pet him? ›

Their tongues may quite literally be too large for the oral cavity, or breeding may have led to an abnormal jaw bone that doesn't properly support it. If your dog has an overbite or underbite, they may develop this condition, especially as they age. But genetics aren't the only cause of Hanging Tongue Syndrome in dogs.

Why does my dog kiss me on the lips? ›

Kissing on the mouth is your dog's natural way of showing affection. It is up to you to decide if you want to encourage this or not. Make your own personal boundaries so that you don't confuse your dog with mixed messages. Dogs just want to make you happy and know how you are when you come home.

Why does my dog making chomping noises? ›

The most common causes of dog teeth chattering is periodontal disease. This is a painful condition where the gums become inflamed and bacteria eventually deteriorates the teeth, bones and tissue. Chattering can also be caused by sensitive teeth due to a loss of tooth enamel.

Why does my dog make weird mouth movements? ›

Stressful situations and anxiety problems in dogs can cause them to manifest strange mouth movements, one of many possible signs of stress. Grinding teeth often incurs in stressed or anxious dogs while they sleep.

Why does my dog make noises with his mouth? ›

The lip smacking could indicate either nausea (dogs will salivate a lot and become nauseous due to illness), severe dental disease (infected teeth are painful and can make it hard to eat) or increased stress/anxiety.

Why does my dog act like he's chewing something? ›

Chewing accomplishes a number of things for a dog. For young dogs, it's a way to relieve pain that might be caused by incoming teeth. For older dogs, it's nature's way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing also combats boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration.

Why does my dog keep opening and closing her mouth? ›

If your dog opens and closes their mouth a lot, it could be a sign of feeling stressed or anxious. It's often referred to as 'pacifying behavior,' and it's something that dogs do when they feel uncomfortable or nervous. If your dog only does it occasionally, there's no need to worry.

Do dogs lick their lips before a seizure? ›

Some of the pre-ictal symptoms to watch for include sudden, unwarranted fearfulness; sniffing, maybe in response to the phantom smells that some people report prior to a seizure; licking the lips; and pawing at the head, perhaps in response to a headache.

Why does my dog stare at me? ›

Just as humans stare into the eyes of someone they adore, dogs will stare at their owners to express affection. In fact, mutual staring between humans and dogs releases oxytocin, known as the love hormone. This chemical plays an important role in bonding and boosts feelings of love and trust.

Why do dogs sigh? ›

Dogs communicate pleasure, happiness, excitement, and affiliation through their vocalizations. The most common sounds of pleasure are moans and sighs, although dogs also use whines and growls to communicate happiness. Low-pitched moans are very common in puppies and are signs of contentment.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

Why does my dog making chomping noises? ›

The most common causes of dog teeth chattering is periodontal disease. This is a painful condition where the gums become inflamed and bacteria eventually deteriorates the teeth, bones and tissue. Chattering can also be caused by sensitive teeth due to a loss of tooth enamel.

Why does my dog look like he's talking? ›

When a dog moves his mouth as if he's talking, it can be a sign of one of several serious medical conditions such as distemper or seizures. If you think your dog might be suffering from a medical problem, you need to make an urgent consultation with his vet.

Why does my dog close his mouth when I look at him? ›

When your dog is relaxed and happy, he's likely to have his mouth closed or slightly opened. If his mouth is open, he may be panting—this is how dogs cool their bodies. You might see his teeth because his mouth is slightly opened. A dog who's frightened or feeling submissive probably has his mouth closed.

Why do dogs chomp after eating? ›

If he's just chewing, he could be calming himself after a delicious meal. His chewing might also be related to keeping his smile pretty. He might also have a toothache or is trying to clean out his teeth. The amount of time passed after your dog eats can also indicate his needs.

What does lip licking mean in dogs? ›

Dogs communicate non-verbally and use a wide range of body language signals as well as different vocalisations and sounds to tell people and other dogs how they feel. Lip licking is often a sign that your dog is feeling uncomfortable or anxious in any given situation. It can also be used to signal submission.

Why does my dog flick his tongue like a snake? ›

When displaying a Lip Lick or a fast Tongue Flick, your dog might be trying to calm herself down, or calm another person or dog out of the camera's reach. For a dog, personal space is of great importance, and as such, Lip Licks & Tongue Flicks can be used as an indication of a personal space violation.

Why does my dog stick his tongue in and out like a snake? ›

Dogs will stick out their tongues or lick their lips with their tongues when they are nauseous. Other times, it can signal a dental infection, periodontal disease or other oral infection. A foreign body like a pieces of twine or twig could be stuck in between his teeth or gums.

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