Last updated: 8 Oct, 2021
Published on: 9 Oct, 2015
Do you speak dog? - Tongue flick
What is your dog saying when they flick their tongue and lick their lips?
“I’m feeling anxious about what’s happening now. I’m a bit uncomfortable.”
In the dog world, a quick upward flick of the tongue is a clear and direct signal that he doesn't like what’s happening.
Until you start looking for it, a ‘tongue flick’ or ‘lip lick’ is easy to miss. But once you recognise this signal, you’ll realise it’s an incredibly common use of body language in your dog’s repertoire. And what is he trying to tell you? He’s letting you know that he’s feeling anxious about what’s happening right now.
It could be a stranger approaching that puts them on edge. They could be feeling uncomfortable about being stared at - dogs consider direct eye contact to be rude and aggressive. Being picked up, hugged, or just having a camera pointed at them is often enough to make them feel a little anxious.
All too often, we hear that a dog gave no warning before biting, but more likely than not, the dog has been giving clear signals that weren’t recognised (and he thinks are being ignored). By recognising a ‘tongue flick’ or ‘lip lick’ you may suddenly realise that your dog doesn’t actually love being hugged by the neighbour’s kids, or feels a bit uncomfortable if a stranger goes to pat him when he’s on the lead. This should be our cue to ease off, change the situation, or give him a little more space.
Let your dog know you are listening. Because every relationship needs good communication.
Do you have a cat too? Find out what your cat is saying when her pupils are dilated.