Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face, and Is It a Problem?

As a dog owner, you are probably familiar with dog face licking, whether you think 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 partially digested 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 is a normal 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 other body parts can also occur as part of grooming. Your dog may lick his canine housemate’s face and your face or other body parts. 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 may try to lick a complete 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 children, 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 allow your dog to lick an 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.

Should You Allow Your Dog To Lick You?

For most healthy people, a dog licking faces or other body parts should pose minimal health risk. If you are concerned, then do not let dogs lick your mouth or anywhere near an open skin wound.
I sometimes offer dogs the underside of my chin to lick. Then I immediately wash my face or apply antibacterial sanitizing spray or gel to that area of my face. Alternatively, I may allow them to lick my hand, and then I wash my hands afterwards or use an antibacterial spray or gel on my hands.

What If You’re Not a Fan of Dog Face Licking?

First, recognize that you might be reinforcing the licking behavior. If every time your dog licks your face, you give him attention, he is more likely to repeat the licking behavior. And if your pup licks you on the face or mouth when you are eating, and you give him a piece of your food, you are encouraging the behavior to continue.
If you do not like having your dog lick your face, you can always redirect them to exhibit affection and attention in a more acceptable manner to you, and be sure not to encourage the behavior.
Featured Image: iStock.com/FatCamera

The Pixie frog, or African bullfrog, is the second largest frog species in the world. If you can handle their larger size, Sundberg highly recommends this species as a first pet frog, since they’re so long-lived and hardy. Sundberg says the species does exceptionally well in captivity and is among the toughest of all frog species. “We have some that are 15 years old and doing well,” Sundberg said, adding that some owners believe 20 years is achievable. Males of this species reach snout-to-vent lengths of up to 10-inches and weigh between 2 and 3 pounds. Females are generally half the size of males. Both genders are olive green on top, with throats that can be white, tan, and yellow. Their backs have distinct ridges running lengthwise.
While Pixies can be kept together in the same terrarium if they’re given plenty of food and space, they can be cannibalistic when hungry, so it’s best to keep them separate.
“Pixies can have wild personalities,” said Sundberg. “They’re such aggressive eaters that they tend to eat first and ask questions later, meaning keep your fingers away from their mouths!”
Because of their voracious appetites, beware of overfeeding, Sundberg advises. Pixies are always willing to eat and

As their name suggests, this species is big, round, and bright red. They have white bellies with short black stripes behind their eyes. Females can attain a snout-to-vent length of about four inches; males are a bit smaller at about three inches. Shy and gentle by nature, Tomato frogs don’t tend to be aggressive, although they should not be handled frequently, because their skin can secrete a sticky mucous that can be irritating if touched. Like the Pacman, the Tomato frog will puff up when it is stressed and wants to be left alone. “Tomato frogs can make good pets, as they can be relatively low maintenance,” said Dr. RiceWatkins. “They require feeding only as little as every other day. Their diet consists of gut-loaded crickets, nightcrawlers, waxworks, mealworms, and roaches.”
In terms of lifespan, you can expect to have your Tomato frog for many years. “If their general care requirements are met, Tomato frogs can thrive in captivity,” said Sundberg. “In fact, lifespans of 5-7 years are not uncommon, and 8-10 years is possible.”
Setup for the species is similar to that for the Pacman and Pixie, with a substrate that is deep enough to burrow into and with an additional low level UV light. This species, however, can be kept communally without the risk of fighting, aggression, or cannibalism, as long as the frogs housed together are the same size.

“These frogs are extremely popular because of their beautiful appearance, calm demeanor, large size, and ease of care,” said Sundberg. White’s tree frogs are massive frogs, with females reaching nearly five inches. Indeed, the White’s tree frog, or Australian green tree frog, isn’t for someone looking for a smaller species of frog. Specimens of this species from Australia are also called “blue” White’s tree frogs due to their bluish color.
“Tree frogs, as a rule, are not for handling,” said Sundberg, “but White’s tree frogs are one of the exceptions — they’ll tolerate handling for short periods. They’ve got passive personalities and are fairly inactive most of the day.” Their calm nature means that multiple White’s tree frogs of the same size can be kept together in the same enclosure, as long as they each have ample space of their own.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a tree frog hardier than a White’s, said Sundberg. “Their lifespans can reach 15 years, making them one of the longest living tree frogs in the world.” They also don’t require much by way of setup — a tall glass aquarium tank and a water bowl to bath and drink from. The tank needs to be kept at a range of about 80-85F during the day and 70-75F at night. Low level UV lighting is recommended for these nocturnal frogs.
“They can be kept slightly drier than most frogs, which helps reduce potentially harmful bacteria,” Sundberg said, “but a nice, damp substrate of peat moss or coconut fiber is advisable and will be appreciated by the frogs, as it helps raise in-tank humidity,” he added.

A moderately sized frog, the American green tree frog reaches snout-to-vent lengths of 1.5 to 3 inches. Their iridescent green color and definitive white stripes along their sides make them beautiful to look at and a great choice for a vivarium pet.
Green tree frogs don’t love to be handled, but they make excellent display pets and are much more active than many of their tree frog cousins. “Feeding time is a flurry of jumping acrobatics, but there’s never any aggression,” Sundberg said. In captivity, these frogs can thrive with minimal care requirements – some living in excess of six years.
“Setup can be as simple as a 10-gallon glass tank, a water dish, and a substrate that will hold humidity, like sphagnum moss, peat moss, or coconut fiber,” said Sundberg.
Sundberg suggests misting the enclosure once daily to help boost humidity, and feeding them a few crickets, mealworms, or superworms every other day to keep them healthy. They live well together; you can generally keep one frog per 2-gallons of space.
“Most people feel that low level UV light helps, despite their being nocturnal,” said Hess. This is owing to the fact that “they don’t live underground during the day, even if they are sleeping.”

With big beady eyes that protrude from above the water’s surface for watching prey, the Budgett has a comically unique appearance many will recognize. Their base color is grey with some yellow or brown mottling, and their mouths are nearly as wide as their bodies. Adult snout-to-vent size can reach 4-6 inches.
These frogs are mostly motionless throughout the day, unless it’s feeding time, when they’re happy to wrestle just about any swallowable prey item below the surface to consume. “It’s best to keep your fingers away from their mouths, as they treat a disturbance in the water as an active prey item,” warned Sundberg. “If threatened in the water, they’ll simply swim away, but on land they’ll puff up with an open mouth and will sometimes even make shrieking noises at you.”
Under good conditions, they can live 15 years or more, said Sundberg. “There are few frogs as easy to keep as Budgett’s,” he added.
The health of a Budgett relies on clean water and sufficient food, including live fish, roaches, earthworms, and crickets. “They require clean water at a depth of 4-8 inches, heated to approximately 80F, and that’s it.”
Hess says that adding a filter is advised, as Budgett frogs produce large amounts of waste, but it’s an optional tank addition as long as frequent partial water changes are performed every couple of days. And as with the other nocturnal frogs, low level UV light is recommended, says Hess.
Both doctors caution that Budgett frogs don’t play well with others, so keeping them together or with other species of frogs isn’t recommended.