Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Your Dog Sticks Out Their Tongue

Alba Navas
By Alba Navas. July 4, 2024
Why Your Dog Sticks Out Their Tongue

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It is not unusual to see your dog sticking out, especially during the summer and often accompanied by panting. While this behavior can be a way to regulate body temperature, it can also signal other emotions or, in some cases, even health issues. Understanding the various reasons behind this tongue lolling can help you better interpret your dog's communication and ensure their well-being.

This AniamlWised article explores 12 reasons for why dogs stick out their tongues, helping you become a more informed dog owner.

You may also be interested in: My Cat Is Sticking Their Tongue Out
  1. Heat regulation
  2. Fear or stress
  3. Happiness and excitement
  4. Brachiocephalic syndrome
  5. Deep relaxation
  6. Submission
  7. Anticipation of food
  8. Poisoning
  9. Oral conditions
  10. Cardiovascular pathologies
  11. Respiratory pathologies
  12. Obesity
See more >>

Heat regulation

Unlike humans, dogs do not have sweat glands distributed over their entire bodies. Humans sweat through these glands to cool down, but dogs have sweat glands only in their paw pads and noses, which are not sufficient for significant cooling.

Dogs primarily regulate their body temperature through panting. Panting increases their respiratory rate, allowing for the evaporation of moisture from the tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract, which helps dissipate heat. You might also see dogs sticking out their tongues to facilitate this process.

When a dog's body temperature rises, the increased respiratory rate and salivation help to cool the body through evaporation. After physical activity or exposure to heat, it is common for dogs to pant and stick out their tongues.

It is important to note that dogs can suffer from heat stroke if they are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods without adequate cooling. It's important to ensure they have access to shade and fresh water to help them stay cool. Additionally, on very hot days, providing other cooling methods, such as a fan, cool mats, or even a shallow pool of water, can be beneficial.

To learn more about the signs of heat stroke in dogs and how to prevent it, check this other article.

Why Your Dog Sticks Out Their Tongue - Heat regulation

Fear or stress

Just as dogs pant to cool down, they may also pant when they are anxious or stressed. Panting can be a way for them to cope with the situation, even if they are not overheated. The act of sticking out their tongues often accompanies panting.

Trembling or shaking is another common sign of fear or anxiety in dogs. This physical reaction can occur due to the adrenaline released in response to stress. A dog's tail position can also indicate its emotional state. When a dog is scared or stressed, it often tucks its tail between its legs or holds it low. This is a submissive posture intended to make the dog appear smaller and less threatening.

In some cases and depending on the dog, they may seek to hide or find a secure, confined space when they feel afraid. This behavior is a way to escape the perceived threat and find comfort.

Additional signs of stress in dogs can include yawning, lip licking, pacing, whining, or avoiding eye contact. Some dogs might also display more pronounced signs like attempting to flee or becoming overly clingy to their owners.

Want to learn more about recognizing stress in dogs? Check out our other article here.

Happiness and excitement

Canine body language plays a crucial role in their communication with humans. Two common signals often interpreted as signs of happiness are tail wags and lolled tongues.

A wagging tail is a widely recognized indicator of positive emotions in dogs. The intensity of the wag can provide further information: a faster, more vigorous wag typically suggests greater excitement. In some cases, the entire body might move with the tail in a display of canine joy.

While often associated with happiness, a lolled tongue can also indicate other states in dogs. During petting sessions, a lolled tongue might signify relaxation and contentment. Conversely, it can also be a sign of seeking further attention and affection from their owner.

Understanding these signals allows pet owners to better interpret their dog's emotional state. When a dog wags its tail and lolls its tongue during petting, it's likely enjoying the interaction and seeking continued attention. Positive reinforcement through petting, treats, or verbal praise can strengthen the bond between dog and owner.

Why Your Dog Sticks Out Their Tongue - Happiness and excitement

Brachiocephalic syndrome

Brachycephalic dogs, characterized by their short noses and flattened faces, often face respiratory challenges due to their unique anatomy. These breeds, like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus, have noses that contribute to their distinctive appearance but also cause health issues. Their narrowed nostrils make it difficult to breathe through their noses, while the elongated soft palate extends further back into the throat, obstructing airflow. Additionally, the trachea in these dogs is often smaller, complicating breathing further.

As a result, these anatomical restrictions lead to noisy breathing, which includes snoring, snorting, and wheezing. Exercise intolerance is another common issue, as the compromised airways make it hard to get enough oxygen during physical activities. Furthermore, the elongated soft palate can cause coughing and difficulty swallowing, as it partially blocks the throat.

To cope with these challenges, brachycephalic dogs often stick out their tongues to improve airflow. This behavior helps them breathe more easily by maximizing the air passage. Excessive panting is also common, not only to regulate body temperature but also to facilitate better airflow.

Curious about the most popular brachycephalic dog breeds? Read our other article here.

Deep relaxation

The sight of a dog sleeping with its tongue lolling out can be comical, but it's actually a sign of deep relaxation. When a dog is truly comfortable and at ease, all its muscles relax, including the tongue. This relaxed state explains why a dog's tongue might even peek out while its mouth remains closed.

Therefore, unless accompanied by other symptoms, seeing your furry friend with its tongue out during sleep or other calm moments is generally nothing to worry about. It simply indicates a state of complete contentment and relaxation.

Why Your Dog Sticks Out Their Tongue - Deep relaxation


On some occasions, it is also common to observe that your dog sticks out its tongue in front of other dogs. This behavior typically signifies submission. You may notice the dog gently licking the corner of its mouth or that of another dog, which indicates that it is calm and submissive. Dogs use this gesture to communicate their peaceful intentions and to show deference within their social interactions.

Additionally, this behavior can occur when you pet your dog. By sticking out its tongue and perhaps even licking you, your dog is expressing submission and relaxation. This is a way for the dog to communicate its trust and comfort with you, reinforcing the bond between you and your pet. So, when you see your dog sticking out its tongue in these contexts, it is a sign of calmness, submission, and contentment.

Socialization is key for teaching your dog to interact with other dogs and people. Learn more about proper socialization techniques in our other article.

Anticipation of food

Many dogs, especially those with a strong appetite, exhibit a telltale behavior around mealtimes when they repeatedly stick out their tongues and licking their lips at the sight or smell of food. This isn't simply a sign of greed, but rather a physiological response triggered by anticipation.

The aroma and sight of food stimulate the dog's digestive system, leading to increased salivation. This drooling helps prepare the mouth and digestive tract for incoming food. So, when you see your dog licking its lips and sticking out its tongue around mealtimes, it's simply their body's natural way of getting ready to enjoy a meal.


While a lolling tongue often signifies relaxation in dogs, it can also be a symptom of underlying health issues. In cases of poisoning, excessive tongue lolling might be present, along with other concerning signs:

  • Vomiting
  • Apathy
  • Excessive drooling
  • Disorientation
  • Fever

If you observe any combination of these symptoms alongside tongue lolling, it's vital to seek immediate veterinary care. Early intervention is crucial in cases of poisoning, as it can significantly increase the chances of a full recovery. The veterinarian will take steps to minimize toxin absorption and provide the necessary treatment for your pet's well-being.

If you think your pet might be poisoned, read our other article now for crucial first-aid steps.

Oral conditions

If your dog has an oral condition, such as missing teeth or another issue, you may notice that its tongue often sticks out, especially when it is relaxed. This occurs because it becomes more difficult for the dog to keep the tongue contained inside the mouth.

Moreover, any oral problem like periodontitis, cavities, or inflammation that causes pain could result in your dog sticking out its tongue. The dog does this to try to relieve the discomfort, as it often feels better with the tongue extended. Therefore, if you observe this behavior frequently, it might be worth checking for any underlying dental issues and consulting with your veterinarian for appropriate treatment.

Gingivitis, a common mouth problem in dogs, can lead to serious issues. Learn how to prevent it in our other article.

Cardiovascular pathologies

While a lolling tongue often signifies relaxation in dogs, it can also be a sign of underlying health problems, particularly those affecting the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. When a dog's body struggles to get enough oxygen, it may loll out its tongue in an attempt to breathe more effectively.

Heart conditions like heart failure can hinder the circulatory system's ability to deliver sufficient oxygen-rich blood to the tissues. This lack of oxygen can manifest in several ways, including tongue lolling. Here are some common clinical signs of heart failure in dogs:

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Rapid, shallow panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Arrhythmias

Dilated cardiomyopathy, chronic valvular degeneration, and pericarditis are some potential causes of heart failure in dogs. These conditions are serious and require immediate veterinary attention.

If you observe any combination of these symptoms alongside tongue lolling, it's crucial to seek professional veterinary care as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve your dog's prognosis and quality of life.

Respiratory pathologies

Sticking out the tongue can also indicate underlying health issues, especially those affecting the respiratory system. When a dog's body struggles to get enough oxygen, it may loll out its tongue to try and breathe more effectively.

The respiratory system's job is to bring oxygen into the body and remove carbon dioxide. If this process fails, leading to low oxygen levels, it can cause problems like pneumonia, pulmonary edema, or pleural effusion. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Panting
  • Coughing
  • Blue mucous membranes

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, along with tongue lolling, seek immediate veterinary care. Early intervention is crucial, as severe cases can progress to respiratory distress and even death. Recognizing these signs and promptly seeking veterinary help is vital for your dog's well-being. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the chances of a successful recovery.


Lastly, another condition that can lead to fatigue and cause your dog to frequently stick out its tongue is obesity. Overweight dogs often tire more easily and may struggle to obtain adequate oxygen for their bodies.

It's important to prevent obesity by providing a diet tailored to your dog's needs and adjusting food portions accordingly. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise not only improves overall health but also reduces the risk of associated respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

Looking for homemade weight-loss recipes for your pup? Check out our other article, but remember to consult your vet before making any dietary changes.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Your Dog Sticks Out Their Tongue, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Why Your Dog Sticks Out Their Tongue