There’s no doubt dogs are affectionate creatures. And they have numerous ways of showing it. So what’s the deal when your furry friend comes up and gives you a big ol’ pooch smooch? Let’s take a tongue-in-cheek look into why.
You taste great … or at least interesting
Dogs are oral creatures and gather a lot of information about their surroundings through taste and smell. Maybe you’re salty after a sweaty run. Maybe you’ve got barbecue sauce on your face. “Dogs can smell a lot better than we can,” says
Opens a new windowDr. Jo Gale, BVetMed CertLAS MRCVS, Senior Manager, Global Science Advocacy at Waltham Petcare Science Institute, “so they find a lot more things interesting to lick than we can.” This despite the fact dogs only have about 1,700 taste buds compared to around 9,000 in humans.
Why do dogs lick your face?
In a poll* of dog owners, IAMS™ found a large majority (75%) believe dogs lick people to offer friendliness. That’s definitely a correct assumption. Licking has been a social behavior among dogs since the days of great-great-great granddaddy wolf. "It’s a standard canine greeting to lick others around the face,” agrees
Opens a new windowJames Serpell, B.S., Ph.D., Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “Junior members of the pack will run around and lick the mouths of more senior members.” Your dog considers you part of their pack, so it’s their way of greeting and welcoming you. Or maybe you still have that barbecue sauce on your face.
Why do dogs lick your wounds?
In ancient Greece, dogs at the shrine of Asclepius were trained to lick patients. In the Middle Ages, Saint Roch was said to have been cured of a plague of sores through his dog’s licks. The French even have a saying, “langue de chien, langue de médecin,” which translates to, “a dog’s tongue, a doctor’s tongue.”
Don’t cancel your health insurance just yet. While dogs’ saliva does have some possible bactericidal properties against some types of bacteria, it can put you at the risk of exposure to others. Too much licking can also reopen the wound and cause further infection. With modern medicine, you’re much better off hitting the first-aid kit.
And that myth about dogs’ mouths being cleaner than humans’? Not true — both contain over 600 types of bacteria. You’re welcome for that image.
How to handle a dog that licks too much
While an occasional canine kiss is “aww”-inducing, some dogs can overdo it to the point of annoyance. When this happens, the best thing to do is “completely ignore it and give no attention,” suggests Dr. Jo Gale. “When they stop, provide them with attention.” Over time your dog will learn to scale back on the smooches.
*Surveyed U.S. dog owners, age 18+
Sample Size: n=201
Fielded May 8-10, 2020
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Does your mature dog sniff at his bowl and walk away instead of digging in? You may think he’s just being picky, but it’s important to keep an eye on how much he’s eating — especially if he’s a senior. While age-related diminishment of the senses of smell and taste may account for some of his disinterest in food, appetite loss can also indicate a serious medical problem.
“It’s important to give your dog enough calories because weight loss can be debilitating to senior pets,” says Wendy Brooks, D.V.M., who warns that a loss in appetite should be mentioned to your vet. A good rule of thumb: If your pet hasn’t eaten in a day, make a visit to the vet. Here are six ways to entice your canine friend with a nourishing meal.
6 Ways to Encourage Your Senior Dog to Eat More
1. Mix Dry Food with Moist Food
Many animals find canned food more palatable because they like the taste and texture, Brooks says. You can top their favorite dry food with room-temperature wet food.
2. Warm It Up
Dogs like a warm or room-temperature (not hot or cold) meal. Avoid serving him day-old wet food from the refrigerator, and keep his food away from heat. Another reason he might not be eating: It's too hot outside.
3. Try a Change
Dogs prefer consistency when it comes to their food. Don't change every day, but try a new flavor, such as lamb or chicken, and see if he responds (it may trigger his sense of smell). To avoid an upset stomach, introduce a new food by mixing it with his old food in equal increments each day.
4. Stay Close
Common mature-dog health issues, such as arthritis or joint pain, can make it difficult for him to access his bowls. Keep food and water where he spends most of his time. Put a water bowl on all floors of the house, too.
5. Keep the Fresh Water Flowing
Older pets are at a higher risk of dehydration. Provide a clean bowl with fresh water at all times. It will help prevent disease, such as a kidney condition, and aid in digestion.
6. Offer Praise
Dogs are people pleasers. If you see him eating, give him a little verbal reward. He'll know it makes you happy and will repeat the behavior.
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