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Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

For some people, wet, sloppy kisses is the best part of having a dog. For others… not so much

Whether or not you let your dog lick your face is a  personal preference.

Here are some things you need to know if you’re unsure if you should allow this habit to continue.

Why Your Dog Licks Your Face… It’s Not Always A Kiss!

Is a lick from a dog simply their version of an affectionate kiss? Sort of, but not always. 

A lick can definitely be a display of affection. Your dog might run up to you and lick your face, with flailing tail, when you arrive home. Or, they might wake you up with “good morning” kisses.

These types of licks mirror how a feral puppy or wolf cub would lick the corners of their parents’ or older relatives’ mouths when they come back from a hunt. Their parent would then regurgitate tasty, predigested meat from the hunt for the pups to eat. 

You might notice that your dog licks your face more around their mealtimes. It’s no coincidence! Dogs may still carry over that instinct to use licking as a way to get food.

Patricia McConnell, PhD, applied animal behaviourist, has discovered another interesting reason why dogs lick: she calls it a “kiss to dismiss”. Dogs may use facial licking as a way to get a person or another dog to go away. 

For example, if your dog feels uncomfortable when you put your face close to theirs, they may lick you as a gentle way of getting you to give them space. 

Can I Get Sick If I Let My Dog Lick My Face?

Though dogs do carry zoonotic bacteria in their mouths, meaning bacteria that can be passed from dogs to humans, it’s rare for people to actually get sick this way. 

Even so, it’s best to turn your face away when your dog licks you so they don’t lick the inside of your nose or mouth. That way, you can prevent bacteria from entering your bloodstream. You should also keep wounds or open sores covered for the same reason.

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Kid’s Face?

Kids are low to the ground – and may have crumbs or smudges of food on their face – making them an ideal target for sloppy dog kisses. 

While a lick on the face is unlikely to harm a healthy child, it might not be safe for very young children whose immune systems are not yet fully developed. 

The biggest concern, though, is that children are not yet skilled at knowing when a dog wants to give kisses, and when a dog should be left alone. 

If you let your kids make a habit of getting kisses from the dog, they’ll be at greater risk for getting bitten. 

Statistics show that when dog bites happen to children, about 32 percent of the time, they occur on the face and neck. This is likely because of the way kids tend to lean in for hugs and kisses. Teach your kids about dog body language early on, and instruct them to stay away from dogs while they are eating and sleeping.

How Do You React To Your Dog Licking Your Face?

Dogs lick us to make us react, or because we seem to like it. 

If your dog licks you while you’re snuggling, you can give them a different way to show affection. You can offer them your hand to lick instead, if you don’t mind that. 

If your dog licks you when you come home, it can be helpful to discourage jumping. You can also teach your dog to greet you by bringing you a toy. 

Overreacting by shouting or pushing your dog away can actually turn licking into a fun game. It’s better to just turn away, and ask for an alternative behaviour. The less you react, the less fun you are to kiss!

Learn New Ways To Communicate With Your Dog

There are so many ways to show affection, communicate, and bond with your dog besides licking. Positive training sets a strong foundation for your relationship, and makes it easy to replace unwanted habits with good ones. 

For professional, private dog training in Toronto and North York, get in touch with Healthy Houndz. 

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