Almost as soon as they’re born, dogs experience the soft warmth of their mothers’ tongue, which bathes them with maternal affection. The licking never really stops after that. Mothers take advantage of their puppies’ relative immobility during nursing to lick them clean. They also lick their bottoms to jump-start their impulses to relieve themselves.
Puppies do their share of licking too. They lick older dogs’ chins and faces to greet them and show respect. And when they’re hungry – and puppies are perpetually in search of something to eat – licking their mother will sometimes stimulate her to regurgitate a meal, which the puppies regard as an appetizing lunch.
As dogs get older, they lick each other less often, but they never quit entirely. At the very least, in the absence of hands and hairbrushes, they do each other’s hair with their tongues.
A Show Of Respect.
Dogs don’t lick people because they’re hoping for a hot meal. They lick because we’re their parents, or at least the head folks in the house. Even when dogs are old, gray, and grizzled, they see themselves in some ways as being our children, and a lick shows how much they respect us.
You can tell a little bit about your dog’s personality by how much licking she does. Dogs who are very bold or independent are restrained with their licking because they don’t feel as though there is anyone they have to win over. Outgoing, sociable dogs, on the other hand, lick everyone all the time.
We play a role in all this licking too. It doesn’t take dogs very long to learn that laying a wet one on the cheek is a great way to get cooed over and rubbed the right way. So in a way, the instinct to lick is both ancient and immediate; dogs do it naturally, and we en- courage them to do it more.
People are never sure how to react to licks. The first emotion is generally “Aw, that’s cute,” closely followed by “Yuck.” Imagine where that tongue has been! But it’s not as unhygienic as it seems. At worst, dog licks are like wiping your face with a slightly dirty washcloth. Not exactly cleansing, but hardly worth worrying about. In fact, there’s some evidence that it may be good for you.
So whilst a dog lick on the face might not be to everyone’s taste, judging by the millions and millions of dog owners who’ve received a dog lick to the chops, it’s not going to kill you (or your children!).