What Does A Dog’S Tongue Sticking Out Mean?

Dogs often stick their tongues out for a variety of reasons. This article will provide an overview of some of the most common causes behind why dogs stick their tongues out, including happiness/excitement, stress/anxiety, concentration, and certain medical conditions. We’ll explore how sticking the tongue out can be normal dog behavior in many cases, while also discussing when it may indicate an underlying health issue that requires veterinary attention. Breed tendencies will also be covered, as certain breeds like the Chow Chow are prone to having a tongue that sticks out. Finally, the article will provide tips on how to manage a dog that frequently sticks their tongue out.

Normal Causes

One of the most common reasons dogs pant with their tongues out is to help cool themselves down. As this article explains, “dogs don’t have normal sweat glands like people do. Their main way of getting rid of excess heat from their bodies is by panting.” When a dog pants, they breathe rapidly in short breaths, which allows air to quickly pass over the moist surfaces of the mouth and tongue. This evaporates moisture, which effectively releases heat and cools the blood before it circulates back through the body. Panting with the tongue sticking out allows dogs to maximize surface area in their mouth and increase evaporative cooling.

Therefore, dogs often pant with their tongues out when they are overheated, whether due to high environmental temperatures, exercise, stress, or other factors. The tongue out position allows more air contact and greater cooling. If your dog is panting with their tongue out on a hot day or after physical exertion, it is likely just their way of moderating body temperature. As long as they do not appear in distress and the panting resolves, it is usually normal. However, excessive, rapid panting for long durations may indicate overheating or heat stroke, which requires emergency veterinary treatment.

Happiness and Excitement

Dogs will often stick out their tongues when they are happy or excited. This is frequently a sign of joy or anticipation. When getting pets and attention from their owner, dogs may stick out just the tip of their tongue as a sign of contentment. According to Cooper and Gracie, sticking their tongue out during petting is a mechanism for dogs to cool down after a fun, stimulating play session. Dogs also tend to stick their tongues out in anticipation of something they enjoy, like going for a walk or car ride. It’s a sign they are looking forward to the activity.

Stress and Anxiety

Sometimes when dogs stick their tongues out, it’s due to stress or anxiety. This is often referred to as a calming signal. When dogs get stressed or anxious, they can exhibit repetitive behaviors like lip licking or yawning as a way to calm and soothe themselves. Sticking the tongue out releases calming hormones and signals to others that they’re uncomfortable or nervous (Dutch, 2021).

There are several potential causes for stress and anxiety in dogs that could lead to tongue protrusion: new environments, interaction with strangers or other pets, loud noises like thunder or fireworks, separation from owners, or chronic stress. If it becomes an ongoing behavior whenever the dog is stressed, sticking the tongue out has likely become a self-soothing habit.


Dogs will often stick their tongues out slightly when they are focusing intently on something. This frequently occurs when a dog is actively working or playing. For example, herding dogs will stick their tongues out when they are herding livestock. The tongue out is a sign of extreme focus and concentration on the task at hand. Similarly, dogs playing fetch or participating in agility courses will sometimes have their tongues out as they concentrate on catching the ball or completing the course.

According to this source, dogs stick their tongues out and breathe heavily when they are exerting themselves physically and mentally. The tongue out is likely a natural response to the exertion and concentration required during play or work.

Overall, a dog with their tongue out slightly while actively playing or working is a sign they are focused and engaged on the task. It’s a natural response indicating concentration, not cause for concern.

Medical Reasons

There are some medical conditions that can cause a dog’s tongue to stick out, including:

Dental problems like periodontal disease or a broken tooth can be very painful and make it uncomfortable for a dog to keep their tongue in their mouth. Severe dental disease may cause damage to the nerves or muscles involved in tongue retraction.

Neurological issues like nerve damage, muscle weakness, or paralysis can prevent a dog from properly retracting their tongue back into their mouth. Hanging tongue syndrome is often associated with neurological problems.

If a dog’s tongue is sticking out persistently, it’s important to take them to the vet to get checked out. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. Things like medication, dental care, or physical therapy may help manage the condition.

Breed Tendencies

Some dog breeds are more prone to letting their tongues hang out casually due to the shape of their mouths and jaws. According to Quora, breeds like Boxers, Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, and some Mastiffs have very short snouts and loose flews (upper lips) which can make it difficult for them to keep their tongues inside their mouths.

Other brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like Pugs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, and Lhasa Apsos are also known for tongues that stick out. Their pushed-in faces mean less room for their tongues. Hounds like Beagles and Basset Hounds often have long, loose jowls that can cause tongue exposure as well.

In general, dogs that have very large tongues relative to the size of their mouths may stick their tongues out more than other breeds. Overall though, any breed can potentially stick their tongue out, especially when panting or feeling stressed.

When to See a Vet

If your dog’s tongue is sticking out consistently over a prolonged period, it’s a good idea to see your veterinarian. A tongue that hangs out all the time could signal an underlying illness or condition that requires medical treatment.

Some symptoms that warrant a vet visit include:

  • Tongue sticking out for more than a day or two
  • Discomfort or changes in eating habits
  • Excessive drooling or thick saliva
  • Tongue that appears red, swollen or inflamed
  • Bad breath even after brushing teeth
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Lethargy, weakness or other behavioral changes

Potential causes that may lead a dog’s tongue to stick out consistently include:

  • Oral pain, dental disease, or mouth injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Dehydration
  • Overheating or heat stroke
  • Neurological disorders
  • Cancers of the mouth, throat or neck

Your vet can run tests to pinpoint the underlying reason and provide appropriate treatment to resolve the issue. It’s important not to ignore a tongue that sticks out constantly, as it may worsen without veterinary care. If you notice anything unusual about your dog’s tongue, schedule an appointment right away.

Tips for Managing

There are some things you can try to minimize inappropriate tongue flicking in dogs:

  • Provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs that are bored or have pent up energy may develop repetitive behaviors like excessive tongue flicking. Make sure your dog gets adequate walks, play time, and access to interactive toys.
  • Manage stress and anxiety. Anxious dogs may flick their tongues more often. Try to minimize stressful situations, provide a predictable routine, and use calming aids like pheromone diffusers or calming treats if needed.
  • Discourage the behavior. When you see excessive tongue flicking, say “no” firmly and redirect your dog’s attention to another behavior like a sit or down. Reward them for stopping the behavior.
  • Rule out medical causes. Schedule a vet visit to make sure there’s no underlying dental disease, nausea, neurological issue etc. causing the behavior.
  • Consider anxiety medication. For dogs with severe anxiety leading to repetitive behaviors, medication prescribed by your vet may help.
  • Use bitter spray deterrents. Spraying something bitter but harmless on your hands can discourage licking behaviors when directed at you.

In some cases, consultation with a veterinary behaviorist may be needed for persistent tongue flicking issues. But simple management steps can often minimize this behavior in dogs.


In summary, there are several common reasons why dogs stick their tongues out, ranging from harmless to concerning:

– Happiness or excitement, especially in breeds like pugs or bulldogs

– Stress or anxiety, which may indicate a dog needs more training or environmental changes

– Concentration while playing or working on a task

– Medical reasons like overheating, nausea, dental problems, or neurological issues

Certain breeds like Chow Chows and Shar-Peis also just have longer tongues that stick out more often.

If a dog is sticking their tongue out frequently or for long periods, it’s best to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health problems. Otherwise, pay attention to context clues to understand the meaning behind a dog’s lolling tongue.

With proper care and training, owners can ensure their dogs stick their tongues out for all the right, happy reasons.

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