If you are a dog parent, you know how satisfying it is to receive a big kiss from your fur baby, especially when you have had a long, stressful day at work. Their excitement and attention just covers over you and makes you fall in love with them all over again.
However, as beautiful as this love is, sometimes it is hard to determine if this form of affection is sanitary. Think about it: your dog uses its tongue to clean its paws and body. There’s an old saying, “A dogs mouth is cleaner than a humans.” We’ve been using that for years to justify this behavior. However, is there any validity to this claim?
It’s no secret that dogs can bring outside bacteria and germs indoors. However, does it show up on you when they decide to give you loads of kisses? Let’s take a deep dive into the science of dogs licking your face with the hopes of reaching a solid conclusion.
You may wonder, why do dogs go for the face? This seems like such an intimate part of the body. However, this intimacy may be traced back to their biochemical and ancestral development. When puppies are born, their first inclination is to lick the faces of their brothers, sisters and mother. As they continue on in their development, they will move on from licking to sucking to eating regular food. However, as they grow older, that behavior becomes more of an association to food. Once they are placed with their forever home and they associate you with their food source, they may revert to licking your face as a means to express their hunger, just like they did when they were younger.
However, licking the face is not just a method to beg for food. It is a sign of affection. Dogs learn and explore with through their nose and tongue. When they see you after a long day, they may want to know exactly where you’ve been. This involves slopping you with a big, wet kiss.
For dog lovers, it has been proven that healthy dogs with no sign of illness who lick their owner’s face do not transmit bacteria that causes harm. However, if your dog has some sort of virus, this could transfer bacteria to you. In addition, if you have an open sore on your face, it is best to not let your dog lick your skin. This could cause an infection to both you and your dog.
One of the only viruses found through bacteria in dogs saliva is Capnocytophaga canimorsus. Since this is found in their saliva, there is a chance it could be passed to you or your kids. However, there aren’t any risky health threats associated with this bacteria. In addition, this is most commonly found in dogs who are exposed to open wounds. Therefore, the best practice would be to avoid letting your dog in or around your face if you have an open wound or scar.
This is primarily a personal preference. If you don’t mind your fur baby laying a sloppy kiss on you after a long day, then have at it. However, if you’d rather have your pup use their manners and develop personal space boundaries, it is best to teach them otherwise.
It should be noted that if you are trying to deter this habit from your older dog, it may be a bit challenging, since your dog has associated this behavior with affection their whole lives up until now. Forbidding this behavior now may make them feel as if you do not accept their affection anymore.
As always, it is best to consult with your dog’s vet regarding any health or behavioral concerns. They will be able to point you in the right direction and provide useful resources. If you are searching for a reliable place to bring your furry friend, try Dr. Ron’s Animal Hospital & Emergency. We proudly serve animals in the Simi Valley, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, and Chatsworth communities as well as the areas near Ventura County. We will go the extra mile to make sure you and your dog have the tools you need to live a happy and productive life.