There's nothing better than the unconditional love that you get from your dog. You're covered in doggy drool whenever you step through the door. Are those sweet, slobbery dog licks really your pet's way of showing that he's fond of you? Is your dog licking or kissing? Dogs lick for many different reasons, so it's tough to say. Your dog may be showing submissiveness, or you might just taste salty. Here are some other reasons why your dog licks.
Mother Dogs and Puppies
Puppies get licked by their mothers as soon as they're born. They do this partly to keep things clean. The mother removes bodily fluids and blood from the puppies' fur. She also ingests some hormones that help improve her bond with the new babies. This ensures that she will stick around to take care of them. The licking done by a canine mommy can be interpreted as kissing when you realize that it helps her become more attached to her babies.
Until they're about three weeks old, puppies can't go to the bathrooms by themselves. They have to have their bottoms stimulated in order to eliminate waste. Mom accomplishes this by licking them under their tails. She also eats their poop while she's doing it. Although that sounds gross, it doesn't put the dog's health at risk.
Puppies might lick their mothers' muzzles when they're transitioning to eating solid food. This tells the parent that the little one wants some regurgitated food. Mom spits up some chow that's been partially digested. It's easier for pups to process than regular food.
Licking is a regular part of the grooming process. Dogs' tongues are rough, when they lick themselves that texture helps remove dust, germs, and other debris from their fur and skin. It's kind of like the way sandpaper will pull fuzz off of a sweater. Additionally, dogs can pull dirt out of their wounds with their tongues. Also, they can't use toilet paper, so they have to lick themselves clean after they go to the bathroom. Removing feces from their rear ends and food from their lips prevents the organic material from rotting and making dogs stink. In the wild, this gives them a better chance of staying hidden from predators and sneaking up on their prey.
What do you do when your dog slurps your face? Most people react. Whether you respond in a negative or positive manner, you're showing your dog that she will get attention when she slobbers on you. She keeps doing it because she continues to get a rise out of you. She's showing you who's boss. (Hint: It's not you.)
Other dogs lick to show respect for the fact that you're the one in charge. According to Vet Street, dogs immediately set up a pecking order when they meet each other, except instead of pecking like chickens, one may lick the other one's muzzle. The dog who does the smooching is saying that she's not out to hurt the other dog. She's showing deference. Rover may do the same thing to you. It's similar to kissing your friends on the cheek to say hello, only you don't drool as much.
What If Your Dog Has A Licking Problem?
Some dogs take licking to an extreme. They lap at themselves every chance they get. They might even create a wound by going over and over the same spot. This is your dog's way of soothing himself. If he is especially anxious or stressed, he may go overboard. This repetitive behavior might be done out of boredom.
How to Stop Your Dog From Licking
If your dog's habit is hurting him, you'll need to step in. Excessive moisture can prevent wounds from healing and introduce bacteria. You might be able to stop your dog from licking when you're around, but what can you do when you're away? Some products can be applied directly to a cut; they taste bad, so they deter the dog from further irritating the area. You can cover the area with a bandage, but this can draw more attention to the irritation, making the dog unlikely to leave it alone.
If your dog doesn't stop this troubling behavior, you could fit her with an Elizabethan collar. That's the dreaded cone that surrounds the animal's head, making it hard for her to get her mouth on any other part of her body. You can also find collars that just restrict the pet's movement so that she can't access her hind legs. These usually don't do anything to keep the dog from reaching her front paws, though.
Sometimes, a pet's slobbery behavior is just annoying. If your dog continues to soak guests with her tongue, you'll probably want to do something about it. Your friends might not like doggy kisses as much as you do. You can put a bitter spray on human skin to deter the animal, but your visitors might not want to do that.
The best way to eliminate the behavior is to stop giving your pet any kind of attention when she does it. Don't talk or look at the animal when she licks. Because that won't work right away, pair your response with a sharp “No,” and move your body out of reach of the dog. Go into another room and close the door for 10 seconds if you have to. Diverting the dog's attention can also help. Give her a chew toy, or use the opportunity to do positive reinforcement training to teach her some tricks.
Should You Let Your Dog Kiss Your Mouth?
So your dog is a kissing fool. You've probably heard that dogs' mouths are cleaner than those of humans, so you don't really mind. Intelligence For Your Life explains that millions of germs live inside your canine's mouth, but those microbes don't usually give you human illnesses. Being exposed to them could even improve your immunity. Pet MD says that some bacteria found in a dog's intestines can help protect against childhood asthma. However, dogs can also harbor parasites, and they lick their butts when they groom themselves. Would you let your dog kiss your mother with that mouth?