You know where that tongue has been. And no matter how loving your dog’s intentions are, it’s best that they stick to licking the food bowl rather than your face.
Regardless of COVID-19, Greencross Vets Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Magdoline Awad, suggests that pet parents discourage dogs from licking their faces. “At this point, there’s no evidence that animals are a source of [COVID-19] infections to humans,” she says. However, “there are zoonotic diseases that pets can transfer to us” which we should always take care to avoid.
While man’s best friend is limited in how they express affection and slobbering on you is just one of their natural ways, there are steps you can take to stop your dog from licking you. Keep in mind that licking you can also be a sign that your dog is bored or seeking attention, so ensure they have plenty of toys to keep them entertained.
Is your dog licking you because of anxiety?
Before you put a plan into place, it’s important to rule out the chance your dog is suffering from anxiety problems. If there are factors in your dog’s life that are making them unhappy – including prolonged loneliness, fear or a lack of exercise – they may manifest through obsessive compulsive behaviours, such as licking yourself, themselves or inanimate objects.
Stop your dog licking you by ignoring this behaviour
If anxiety has been ruled out and your pup is just one enthusiastic face-smoocher, then simply ignoring the behaviour and moving away is a good start. Remember, it’s important not to scold your dog as licking is a is natural canine behaviour. Even though you don’t find it acceptable, they shouldn’t be punished. As your dog may be seeking attention, even a negative reaction could be unintentionally encouraging. Instead, calmly stand up and leave the area when it occurs. If your dog follows you, repeat — it may take a while to reprogram their thinking. Just be patient. You can also try offering them a toy as a distraction.
Progress to saying ‘no’
If that doesn’t work, try including a firm “no” into the equation. Make sure you turn away from your dog when you say it. It’s also important that everyone in your family is on board with the same plan. If your dog is getting away with licking others, then your training will be more challenging.
Shake on it
You can also encourage your dog to ask for your attention in more agreeable ways. Teach your dog to shake hands or sit down in front of you when they want your attention and reward them with treats when they do this correctly. If you’re struggling to teach your dog to follow these cues, remember that it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes time! Much like our best tips for training puppies, the principles for training adult dogs are the same – have regular training sessions, be consistent in your words and actions, don’t lose your temper and use positive reinforcement.’
This is a great time for your pets and family to develop and enforce hygienic habits. Not only should we make the effort to stop our dogs from licking our faces, “it’s really important that we always practice good hand hygiene… We should always wash our hands before and after handling our pets, or their food and water bowls,” says Dr Mags.