As a dog owner, you’re in all probability acquainted with dog face licking, whether or not you think that it’s cute or not. But why do dogs lick your face? Should you stop the behavior?
Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?
The common dog face licking behavior has evolved from the wolf puppy behavior of licking the mouths of adult dogs to prompt the regurgitation of part digestible food. This is how puppies transition from suckling their mother’s milk to eating partially digested food to more solid food.
Licking another dog’s face or a human’s face may be a traditional social behavior. Licking can be an appeasement gesture that signals a dog’s social deference. It can also be a signal to solicit food, more social information, a sign of affection or to solicit attention.
A dog licking faces or different body components may also occur as a part of grooming. Your dog might lick his canine housemate’s face and your face or different body components. When your dog cannot reach your face, he may lick the closest body part, which may be your hand, arm or leg. In certain cases, the licking behavior can be interpreted as a sign of affection.
Some dogs might try and lick an entire stranger’s face. Why do they do that? It may be in an attempt to appease the stranger so that the stranger does do anything harmful or threatening to the dog. When dogs lick the face of youngsters, it can be a sign of affection, appeasement or simply the act of cleaning food residue off their face.
Is Dog Face Licking a Health Risk?
For healthy children and adults, dog saliva is not a health risk for intact skin. It is not healthy, however, to permit your dog to lick Associate in a Nursing open wound on your skin. Their saliva may continue to keep the wound moist and open and allow bacteria to thrive, leading to a potential skin infection.
In the past year, there have been 12 cases reported to the CDC in which people have gotten sick from a bacteria carried in the dog’s saliva. In those cases, the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus was the culprit. This particular bacteria is found in both dogs and cats and is harmless to them.
However, in cases where an individual has a compromised immune system, there is potential for the bacteria to cause an infection. The bacteria has to enter the skin through an open wound, such as from a bite or a cut on the skin.
Typically the dog has to have a high concentration of that particular bacteria, and their saliva has to come into contact with the open wound. It is best practice to wash your hands after petting any dog.