Why Dogs Like To Lick Your Face, And Why You Might Want To Avoid It

Why Dogs Like To Lick Your Face, And Why You Might Want To Avoid It

People usually fall into two camps: Those who like getting kisses from their dog, or those, like me, who can’t stand it. Here are the reasons why dogs want to lick your face, and why you might want to avoid that kind of affection, even if you do enjoy it.

In this video from the Business Insider YouTube channel, Dr Leni K. Kaplan of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine explains what drives dogs to give you slobbery kisses, and why it’s actually pretty gross. The reason they lick your face comes down to three main factors:

  1. Licking is one of their ways to communicate, especially with other dogs.
  2. You, as their owner, have a familiar scent and taste that comforts them.
  3. They want attention.

If you’re a healthy person, getting a little dog saliva on your skin is no big deal. There’s very little risk it will cause any problems since your skin doesn’t absorb it. When they lick your face, however, zoonotic pathogens like Clostridium, E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter can make their way into your body through your eyes, mouth and nose. The same thing can happen if they lick your hands and then you touch your face. But where does this nasty stuff come from? Dogs release these nasty bugs in their faeces, the dog then eats the faeces and finally the dog licks your face. That’s why it’s best to avoid your dog’s kisses, especially if you have a compromised or underdeveloped immune system.

This is why you should stop letting your dog lick your face [YouTube]


  • So if they don’t eat poo then it’s OK? I won’t say our dogs never eat poo but they only seem to like cat poo – they certainly never eat their own. How many dogs eat their own poo?

  • I was going to say the same thing. Never seen my dog eat dog poo. Only cat poo – and once that has happened she doesn’t get to lick – because you can tell what she’s been eating!

    • Whilst it can be diet related, I understand that it can also stem from watching their mothers eat the poo of their puppies (which they do to keep them clean), and also from when they would do a similar thing in the wild in their dens (to reduce the smell and minimise the chance of predators finding them because of it).

      There is also the suggestion that it can be caused by owners trying to stop them, and then taking the poo away. The dog thinks “My owner wants it; it must be awesome!” and then whenever it finds a poo, it eats it before you can take it away.

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