Why Does My Dog Stick the Tip of His Tongue Out? Unraveling the Canine Tongue Mystery!

Dogs use their tongues for everything from drinking to panting and beyond. So when your pup’s tongue is sticking out, it begs the question – what does it mean?

Understanding your dog’s tongue behavior provides insight into how they communicate, their breed traits, and even potential health issues. Read on to unpack the many roles of a dog’s tongue and common protrusion causes.


A dog’s tongue is a vital tool for drinking, eating, playing, and more. Those pink appendages convey a wealth of information through various licks, flicks, curls, and sticks.

When a dog’s tongue is relaxed, it sits inside the mouth. Protrusion beyond the lips typically signals intentional communication or an underlying condition.

Learning typical tongue behaviors for your dog’s breed and age will help you monitor their health. Unusual changes may require a veterinary examination to address concerns early.


Fact 1: Dogs have fewer taste buds than humans – only around 1,700 compared to our 9,000. They rely more on their sense of smell.
Fact 2: Panting is a cooling mechanism for dogs. As air passes over the tongue, evaporation lowers the blood temperature.
Fact 3: The term “blep” refers to when a dog’s tongue casually sticks out while relaxing. “Mlem” describes licking motions.
Fact 4: A dog’s tongue is an important grooming tool for cleaning themselves and their puppies.

What Is a Dog’s Tongue Behavior?

A dog uses their tongue in various ways throughout the day. Key tongue behaviors include:

  • Panting – Heavy breathing with tongue protrusion to dissipate heat.
  • Licking – Smoothing fur, cleaning eyes/nose, showing affection, treating wounds.
  • Drinking – Curling tongue backward to scoop water.
  • Eating – Using the tongue to grasp food and chew.
  • Cooling – Panting and releasing saliva to lower body temperature.
  • Communication – Conveying emotions like anxiety, contentment, and stress.
  • Sensing – Detecting scents and pheromones with tongue receptors.

Understanding these mannerisms provides insight into your dog’s well-being. Sudden changes may reflect an underlying issue.

Understanding A Dog’s Tongue Protrusion

A dog’s tongue contains connective tissue and intertwining muscles covered in a thin mucous membrane. The underside has small bumps called papillae.

Salivary glands beneath the tongue, cheeks, and palate release antimicrobial saliva. The tongue mixes saliva to aid swallowing and digestion.

In daily life, a dog relies on their tongue extensively:

  • Drinking – Curling the tongue backwards scoops water into the mouth.
  • Eating – Food gets grasped and positioned for chewing/swallowing.
  • Panting – Protruding the tongue dispels heat through evaporation.
  • Hydration – Saliva moistens mucous membranes and aids digestion.
  • Grooming – Licking cleans the coat and body.
  • Cooling – Blood vessels in the tongue release heat.
  • Communication – Varied motions convey different meanings.
  • Sensing – Taste buds and scent receptors identify flavors/smells.

Reasons Dogs Stick Out The Tip Of Their Tongue

There are many possible reasons your dog is sticking their tongue out. Here are some of the most common causes:

Natural Behavior and Relaxation

Dogs will casually stick out the tip of their tongue when completely relaxed. Referred to as a “blep”, this is normal behavior.

Tongue protrusion when sleeping often signals deep, restful sleep. Some dogs will stick their tongue out while dreaming.

Concentration and Focus

You may notice your dog’s tongue peeking out when concentrating intently. This helps them focus during training, play, or other engaging tasks.

PRO TIP: Dogs sticking their tongue out while concentrating can be a sign of them being in a relaxed state. It’s a positive behavior!


As a cooling mechanism, panting is normal on hot days or after exercise. Their tongue hangs loose while breathing rapidly.

However, consistent heavy panting can signal stress, anxiety, or overheating. Excessive drooling may also occur.

Flehmen Response

Curling the upper lip and sticking the tongue out allows dogs to analyze scents and pheromones. This helps identify other animals’ territories and readiness to mate.

Breed-Specific Traits

Certain breeds have distinct facial structures and mannerisms involving tongue protrusion:

Brachycephalic Breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs have compressed snouts. Their tongues can stick out due to upper jaw misalignment and obstructed airways.

Toy Breeds like Chihuahuas tend to leave their tongue out more often. Their smaller jaws allow the tongue to slip forward easily.

Knowing the typical traits of your dog’s breed helps determine if any behavior is abnormal.

Dental Decay and Tooth Loss

Issues like gingivitis, abscesses, and broken teeth can cause discomfort and tongue protrusion.

Signs of dental problems include:

  • Bad breath
  • Red, inflamed gums
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Pus around teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Difficulty eating

Poor dental hygiene diminishes quality of life. Regular cleanings and oral exams promote healthy teeth and gums.

Neurological Issues

Involuntary tongue protrusion may signal a neurological disorder.

Potential causes include:

  • Seizures – Uncontrolled tongue motions during a seizure episode.
  • Cranial nerve dysfunction – Damage to nerves controlling the tongue. Often, it occurs from traumatic injury.
  • Rabies – Facial muscle paralysis causes tongue protrusion.

Schedule a veterinary exam if your dog’s tongue sticks out for no clear reason. Early intervention is key.

Using the Tongue to Communicate

Like humans, dogs use their tongues to signal different emotional states.

Licking Behavior

  • Affectionate licks – Gentle lip licking shows contentment and care.
  • Attention-seeking – Repeated licks to humans can communicate boredom or solicitation.
  • Stress/anxiety – Excessive self-licking signals discomfort.

Common Tongue Behaviors and Their Meanings

Behavior Meaning
Blep Relaxed, content
Panting Hot, stressed
Licking nose Seeking attention/food
Licking limbs Grooming
Protruding tongue Concentrating
Hanging tongue Sleepy/relaxed

Why Does My Dog Stick The Tip Of His Tongue Out While Sleeping?

You may notice your pup’s tongue peeking out while napping. Reasons include:

Deep Sleep – Total relaxation of facial muscles causes the tongue to slip forward. This is normal during restful sleep phases.

Pain Relief – Extended tongue protrusion may alleviate oral discomfort from dental issues.

Breathing Issues – Brachycephalic dogs may unconsciously stick out their tongues to maintain airflow.

If protrusion only occurs while sleeping, it is likely natural behavior. However, if awake tongue flicking persists, consult your veterinarian.

Reasons Dogs Stick Out The Tip Of Their Tongue

Hanging Tongue Syndrome in Dogs

Hanging Tongue Syndrome is a condition observed in some dogs where the tongue consistently hangs outside the mouth, even when the dog is relaxed or at rest. This can be due to various reasons, including dental issues, breed-specific facial structures, or neurological problems. While it’s common in certain breeds like Chihuahuas and Pugs, it can also be a sign of underlying health issues. It’s essential for dog owners to monitor for any changes in the tongue’s texture or color and to ensure it doesn’t become dry or injured. Regular vet check-ups can help determine if the condition is merely a quirky behavior or indicative of a more serious concern.

Diagnosis of Hanging Tongue Syndrome in Dogs

Vets examine factors like:

  • Medical history – prior injuries, illnesses.
  • Neurologic assessment – cranial nerve responses.
  • Oral exam – tongue/jaw placement, dental health.
  • Imaging – x-rays, CT, or MRI scans to identify damage.

Treatment and Recovery of Hanging Tongue Syndrome in Dogs

Options may involve:

  • Medications – corticosteroids to reduce nerve inflammation.
  • Surgery – procedures to shorten tongue tissue.
  • Physical therapy – exercises to strengthen jaw muscles.

With treatment, many dogs regain normal tongue function over time.

PRO TIP: Regular dental check-ups can prevent many tongue-related issues in dogs.

When to Be Concerned

While most tongue behaviors are harmless, pay attention to any abnormal protrusion including:

  • Hanging tongue without panting
  • Tongue that stays out overnight or for prolonged periods
  • Stiff, awkward tongue motions
  • Difficulty retracting the tongue
  • Discoloration of the tongue
  • Excessive drooling

Schedule an exam if these signs persist beyond a day or two. Early intervention can resolve many conditions before they worsen.


A dog’s endearing tongue has many pivotal roles – from promoting health to conveying feelings. When your pup’s tongue sticks out, consider the context to understand the meaning.

While casual tongue flicks are no cause for alarm, abnormal or excessive protrusion warrants a veterinary visit. As your dog’s closest companion, stay alert to subtle changes in their cherished canine companion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when my dog sticks his tongue out a little?

Slight tongue protrusion often signals relaxation or concentration. It’s normal and not a cause for concern.

Why does my dog pant and stick his tongue out?

Rapid panting with an exposed tongue is a dog’s way of cooling down. It helps regulate their body temperature.

Is it normal for dogs to stick their tongues out while sleeping?

Yes, a sleeping blep is very common as facial muscles relax. Unless protrusion persists while awake, it’s nothing to worry about.

Should I be worried if my dog’s tongue is always out?

Consistent tongue exposure could signal an underlying condition. Schedule a veterinary exam to identify any issues requiring treatment.

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

Gentle tongue protrusion when petted demonstrates contentment. Your dog is likely relaxed and enjoying your affection.

What is a blep? How about a mlem?

A “blep” refers to a relaxed tongue sticking out slightly. A “mlem” describes licking motions and panting with an exposed tongue.

Should I be concerned if my dog sticks out their tongue?

Occasional tongue flicking is usually normal. But if it persists for long periods, happens often, or appears involuntary, consult your vet.

Does a tongue-out mean a happy dog?

It depends on the context! Happy bleps do signal a relaxed, content pup. However excessive protrusion can mean overheating, stress, or a potential health issue.

Why does my Dog Stick His Tongue Out Like a Snake or Lizard?

This likely indicates a Flehmen response – curling the upper lip to detect pheromones and scents. It helps process chemical stimuli.

Why Do Dogs Stick Their Tongue Out?

Reasons range from cooling off to dental problems to neurological conditions. The most common causes are relaxation, panting, or concentration.

Dog Sticking Tongue Out and Panting: Is it normal?

Yes – panting helps lower a dog’s temperature through evaporation. Extensive panting is the body’s way of preventing overheating.

Causes of Hanging Tongue Syndrome in Dogs: Should I be worried?

Persistent tongue protrusion could mean nerve damage or cranial anomalies. Consult your vet, as treatment may be required. Act quickly to resolve the condition.


  1. AKC article on dog tongues
  2. AVMA page on oral health in dogs
  3. ASPCA advice on panting in dogs
  4. VCA Hospitals on hanging tongue syndrome
  5. PetMD on neurological disorders in dogs