Why Does My Dog Hold My Hand Down and Lick It?

Dogs are known for their affectionate behavior towards their human companions. They often display various forms of physical affection, such as licking and pawing. One peculiar behavior that some dogs exhibit is holding their owner’s hand down and licking it. 

This act of affection can leave pet owners wondering about its meaning and significance. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind why dogs engage in this behavior and what it may convey about their emotions and bond with their human companions.

Instinctual Behavior and Communication

Dogs have a long history of socializing with humans and other canines. They have developed complex communication skills to interact with their owners. 

Licking is a natural instinct for dogs, stemming from their early days as puppies when their mother would lick them for grooming and bonding purposes. 

By holding your hand down and licking it, your dog may be trying to communicate their affection and establish a sense of connection with you, similar to how they would interact with their littermates or mother.

Seeking Attention and Affection

Dogs are social animals and thrive on attention and affection from their owners. Holding your hand down and licking it may be your dog’s way of seeking your attention and expressing their desire for physical contact. 

Dogs often engage in behaviors they find rewarding or that have resulted in positive responses from their owners in the past. 

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If you have previously responded positively to this behavior, your dog may have learned that it is an effective way to receive attention and affection from you.

Reinforcement and Positive Associations 

Sometimes, unintentionally reinforcing certain behaviors can lead to their repetition. If, in the past, you responded positively or provided attention when your dog held your hand down and licked it, they may have associated this behavior with a positive outcome. 

Consequently, they might repeat the behavior in the hope of receiving a similar response from you. It’s important to note that dogs are quick learners, and they can pick up on patterns and associations even if unintentionally reinforced.

Display of Submissive Behavior

In the canine world, there is a hierarchy or social structure where some dogs may exhibit submissive behavior towards their dominant counterparts. 

When a dog holds your hand down and licks it, it could be a submissive gesture, indicating that they recognize you as the leader or the dominant figure in their pack. 

This behavior may be an expression of trust, respect, and a way for your dog to reinforce your position in the relationship.

Anxiety and Comfort-Seeking 

Dogs often seek comfort from their owners when they feel anxious or stressed. Holding your hand down and licking it can be a soothing behavior for dogs, similar to how they might lick their paws or engage in other self-soothing actions. 

Your presence and the physical contact provided through this behavior can help alleviate their anxiety and provide a sense of security and reassurance.

Reinforce the Bond and Strengthening the Relationship

Touch is a powerful tool for strengthening the bond between humans and dogs. By holding your hand down and licking it, your dog may be reinforcing the emotional connection and trust they share with you. 

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This behavior can help solidify the bond and enhance the emotional attachment between you and your pet.


While the behavior of holding your hand down and licking it may seem unusual or perplexing at first, it is generally a display of affection, communication, and seeking attention from your dog. 

Understanding the reasons behind this behavior can help deepen the bond you share with your furry friend. 

However, it’s essential to ensure that this behavior remains safe and comfortable for both you and your pet. 

If you find the behavior excessive or bothersome, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to address any concerns you may have. Remember, each dog is unique, and understanding their individual needs and preferences is crucial for a harmonious relationship.