If a human were to walk up and lick you, you may be angered by their disregard for your personal space. But for some reason, when a dog does the same you might find it charming and friendly. You should appreciate the lick because it actually means the dog likes you!
Why dogs like to lick
A dog’s instinct to lick is rooted in its ancient lineage, which extends back some 43 million years when the first canids evolved, and perhaps even earlier. The first thing a dog, wolf or any type of canid experiences in life is its mother’s tongue. Licking is how the mother stimulates breathing and how she cleans her pups after birth. For dogs, licking is a deeply primordial act.
Dogs also lick for the following reasons
- They explore the world with their mouths (and nose); so, it’s a way to learn about their surroundings.
- Dog’s like the taste of our salty skin and scent, which is why some dogs steal their owner’s socks.
- The act of licking releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormone, which makes dogs feel content.
- It’s very difficult to ignore a dog when it’s licking you; it forces you to give them attention
- Enzymes in their mouths kill bacteria, and licking a wound helps to get rid of dead tissue (However, many veterinarians say licking wounds is destructive to the healing process.)
Is it bad for us?
Some people love big wet sloppy kisses from their dogs, or from any dog. Others do not. As to whether getting licked by a dog poses health risks, the answer is … it depends.
The belief that a dogs’ saliva has healing properties and that their mouths are cleaner than ours is untrue. Additionally, some dog’s saliva can carry small amounts of dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, as well as parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. However—and this is important—these illnesses are not found in large quantities and it’s very rare that doggy kisses transmit them to people.
But some people absolutely should avoid getting licked. According to VetStreet.com, babies, pregnant women, the elderly, anybody with open scratches or sores, and anybody with a compromised immune symptom, should avoid doggy kisses.
If you do not fall in the aforementioned category, then doggy kisses are safe.
How to stop licking
Although some people love doggy kisses, some do not. If you fall into the latter category, try the following techniques to put the kibosh on your dog’s licking instincts:
- Ignore your dog, thus denying it the attention it craves.
- Simply say “No!” in a firm voice and walk away.
- Redirect its energy by putting an appropriate food or toy in its mouth to give it something else to focus on.
- Give your dog exercise to help it burn off pent-up energy.
- If your dog is an obsessive licker, use bitter spray.
To lick or not to lick?
Do you like doggy kisses or does is a slobbery pink tongue off-putting to you? Let us know!