Six Surprising Reasons Why Dogs Smack Their Lips (2023)

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) Two Types of Lip Licks

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


  • 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


Why does a dog smack their lips? ›

This is because the mouth produces more saliva when it anticipates eating, and lip-smacking helps spread that saliva around. Dogs may also smack their lips when they're feeling anxious or stressed. This behavior helps release some of that tension and can even be calming for the dog.

Why does my dog smack his lips so much at night? ›

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. It is actually a common misconception that dogs such as boxers, great danes and bull mastiffs are supposed to have long ropey drool.

How do I get my dog to stop smacking his lips? ›

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.

What is the meaning of lip smacking? ›

Adjective. lip-smacking (comparative more lip-smacking, superlative most lip-smacking) (informal) Tasty; appetizing.

Why do dogs lick their lips before falling asleep? ›

Dogs may like to lick before they go to sleep because it stirs latent memories of when they were puppies. From the moment they're born until they're separated from their mother, puppies are subjected to vigorous maternal tongue washes. It stimulates their growth and keeps them clean.

Why is my dog shaking and smacking his lips? ›

Shaking may be a sign that your dog is nauseous. Other signs include listlessness, lip smacking, swallowing or salivating more than usual, hiding, yawning, and vomiting. Treatment for nausea depends on what's causing it. Poisoning is one cause of nausea.

Why does my dog keep swallowing and smacking lips? ›

Normal behavior.

Some dogs will lick their lips when they feel dry, a bug hits their face, or something is stuck near their lip, like a piece of food or a blade of grass. This may be followed by swallowing.

What does smacking my dog do? ›

Using hitting or spanking as a method of punishment can severely damage the relationship you have with your dog. If you start using force to discipline them, your dog can develop various behavioral issues. Some typical problems that hitting your dog will cause are: Insecurity and fearfulness.

Why does my dog keep smacking me? ›

Showing Affection

In most cases, a dog is hitting their pet parent or another person in the house with their paw in order to show affection. Your dog loves you! And, just like people, they want to express that love through physical touch. Some dogs use their paws more than others.

What's another name for lip smacking? ›

What is another word for lip-smacking?
61 more rows

Is smacking a real word? ›

smart, brisk, or strong, as a breeze. Chiefly British Slang. smashing.

How do you use lip smacking in a sentence? ›

He consumes his food with lip-smacking enjoyment.

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.

What does it mean when a dog licks your hand for a long time? ›

Many dog owners view dogs' licking as a sign of affection similar to kissing. Obsessive licking may be a sign of underlying issues, including anxiety, boredom, or fear. Trick training is an effective way to redirect problem licking in a positive way.

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

If you notice a dog licking his lips or flicking his tongue out in a social situation, he's likely either uncomfortable himself or responding to another dog or person's discomfort. Both of these are oral self-soothing behaviors, much like thumb-sucking in toddlers.

How do you calm a scared dog? ›

Provide Distractions. If a dog is punished or ignored during a frightening event, it's likely to worsen the anxiety. Instead, offer a positive stimulus, such as gentle petting, to distract and calm your dog. If your dog will still engage, try a game of indoor fetch, tug, or offer a high-value chew.

How do you apologize to a dog? ›

If you want to apologize to your dog, talk to them calmly and soothingly with a slightly high-pitched voice, the one we tend to use when talking to babies or puppies. You don't have to say "sorry", but the words that you usually use to reward your dog when they behave correctly, such as "well done" or "good boy".

Do dogs forgive you if you hit them? ›

While a dog will not necessarily forgive you, he will simply let go of what happened. As the feelings of guilt rush through your system, he will have moved on. If you show him affection once more, he will wag his tail, jump all over you, and pet you like nothing ever happened.

Do dogs remember you hitting them? ›

If they are hurt, do they harbor anger, resentment, and negative feelings in their canine psyche? Yes, in some capacity, dogs remember something negative that caused them harm. Dogs growl at certain people, wag for others, and snarl at a dog who barked at them one time on a walk.

Can your dog be mad at you? ›

While dogs can indeed get upset by a situation, they don't get mad at someone in the same way that you do. According to HealthyPsych, anger is what psychologists refer to as a secondary emotion, which is a human response to primary emotions like fear and sadness.

How do you know a dog is mad at you? ›

Don't expect an angry, “Bad human! Go!” but dogs do have plenty of ways of telling you to keep your distance because they are not happy with you right now. This can mean he darts away from you or it can also be a hard stare, flattened ears, paw lift, sharp barks, or a raised tail among other signs, Askeland says.

Why does my dog make mouth noises? ›

Lip smacking is just the noise produced when the dog uses his tongue to lick his lips and sometimes tip of his nose. It's a more significant type of lip lick. If it's happening when being told to sit or stay down it could be a calming signal or an anticipation for a treat to lick away a bit of drool.

Why is my dog licking the air? ›

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 is my dog gagging and licking lips? ›

Nausea. 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.

Why is my dog gulping repeatedly? ›

If we hear a gulping noise, it could simply be they are trying to swallow something. When they repeat this gulping noise regularly, it is possible they have trouble swallowing. Trouble swallowing could be due to eating something too large, but there are also health conditions which can have this as a symptom.

What does dog chuffing mean? ›

Huffing and Puffing: Huffing, puffing, or (in our house) “chuffing” is when the dog rapidly exhales a small amount of air, that sounds like a cross between an exhale and a bark. It's a form of stress relief, and can also be a precursor to escalating aggressive behaviors.

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.

Do dogs like when you make kissing noises? ›

A kissing noise is friendly and is just the perfect sound to get your dog's attention in a nice calm way. Dogs have been responding to this sound for years and it feels completely normal for them to come to this signal.

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

Inflammation of the tongue (glossitis), inflammation of the soft mouth tissues (stomatitis) inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and inflammation of the lips (cheilitis) can cause the tongue to stick out.

Why do dogs eat grass? ›

Dogs need roughage in their diets and grass is a good source of fiber. A lack of roughage affects the dog's ability to digest food and pass stool, so grass may actually help their bodily functions run more smoothly.

Why does my dog lick where I sit? ›

Dogs are creatures of habit and changes in their routine can make your dog anxious. Repetitive licking releases endorphins and is a way for dogs to self-soothe. In many cases, licking the sofa is an occasional response to occasional stress, loneliness, or boredom. However, it can become a habit if not checked.

Does dog licking lips always mean anxiety? ›

If your dog pants, salivates, yawns, or licks his lips for no apparent physical reason (such as heat, exercise, tiredness, presence of food), it is likely that he is anxious or fearful. Some of these behaviours are often interpreted to mean other motivations.

Do dogs lick lips when nauseous? ›

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 is my dog jerking his head forward and licking his lips? ›

Petit mal seizures in dogs

Petit mal seizures, also called absence seizures, are rare in dogs. Signs of petit mal dog seizure may include lip-licking, head-shaking, trembling, staring, eyes rolling up and back.

Should I let my dog eat grass when sick? ›

Whatever the reason, most experts believe it's okay to let your dog eat grass. But they do suggest a couple of caveats: If the grass is eaten in gulps and your dog vomits, or there is a sudden increase in grass eating, it's time to talk with your veterinarian.

What happens if a dog licks inside your mouth? ›

You could get an upset stomach.

Some common bacteria transmitted by dogs can lead to stomach upset, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. These types of bacterial infections include Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Clostridium, E.

Can dogs eat honey? ›

Is Honey Safe for Dogs? Honey is safe for dogs to eat in small quantities. It contains natural sugars and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. It is also used as a sweetener in many foods and beverages.


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