Dogs can be peculiar creatures, and while some of their behaviors are easy to decipher, others remain mysterious. One puzzling behavior is when your dog starts licking your eyes. It’s not only confusing but also raises concerns about the reasons behind this odd habit. In my quest to understand why dogs engage in such behavior, I’ve gathered a wealth of information that will shed light on this peculiar subject. Let’s explore the various reasons why dogs lick our eyes, and whether we should be worried or not.
The Canine Licking Phenomenon: Eyes, Nose, and Ears
Dog licking is often regarded as an expression of affection. However, it can also indicate underlying medical conditions including allergies, infections, genetic predisposition based on breed, or even gastrointestinal diseases. Moreover, studies have shown that dogs may resort to licking eyes, ears, and noses due to behavioral factors such as anxiety, stress, boredom, or obsessive-compulsive disorders. While most pet owners tolerate some level of dog licking, it is crucial to be aware of the documented cases of serious illness resulting from dog-to-human transmission, emphasizing the need for caution.
1. Small Breed Dogs and their Propensity to Lick Eyes
Small dogs appear to be more prone to eye licking. A study conducted on the influence of size on undesirable behaviors in domestic dogs revealed that small dogs frequently displayed behaviors like exaggerated jumping-up on their owners, excessive barking, and persistent licking of various body parts. However, this behavior is not exclusive to smaller breeds. Even larger dogs can exhibit similar tendencies, as I experienced with my own pet, who surprised me with an unexpected tongue greeting. Additionally, certain breeds, like the English Bulldog, have shown a predisposition towards the licking behavior, including the eyes.
2. Grooming, Affection, and Pack Mentality
When your dog licks your eyes, it might be their way of engaging in normal grooming behavior. However, if this grooming activity becomes excessive or causes discomfort, it could be indicative of a pathological behavior. Dogs view their human companions as part of their pack, which explains their desire to sleep on or follow you around the house. Some dogs will lick any part of your body within reach, including your eyes. They may exhibit this behavior not only to groom you but also to express their affection.
3. Canine Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior
Research is uncovering a growing occurrence of obsessive-compulsive behaviors in dogs, often manifested through excessive licking. This behavior can lead to conditions such as canine lick granuloma, where persistent licking of paws causes skin abnormalities. Certain dog breeds, including Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers, are more prone to such conditions. Dogs affected by this compulsive behavior may also extend their excessive licking to human owners, including their eyes.
4. Medical Conditions and Stress
Medical conditions can trigger eye licking behavior in dogs. Allergies, infections, or injuries that cause itching in a dog’s paw may prompt them to seek relief by licking the affected area. This itch-lick cycle can aggravate the condition and lead to repeated licking. Stress and boredom can also contribute to a dog’s tendency to lick, including their owner’s eyes, as a stress-relieving mechanism. In some cases, compulsive licking of surfaces, such as floors and furniture, can indicate underlying gastrointestinal disorders.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Eyes When I Cry?
When your dog licks your eyes while you’re crying, it can have different meanings. One possibility is that they are enticed by the salty taste of your tears. Another explanation is their instinctual understanding that you are upset and their attempt to provide comfort and solace through licking. Licking serves as their way of offering support, especially when vocalizing their emotions is not possible.
Should You Allow a Dog to Lick Your Eye?
Allowing a dog to lick your eye can potentially lead to bacterial transmission, potentially causing illness. In movies, we often witness heartwarming scenes of dogs showering their owners’ faces with affectionate licks. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that disease transmission through this practice is not merely a theoretical possibility. Several documented cases support the idea that bacteria from a dog’s saliva can lead to severe infections in humans, particularly in vulnerable individuals, such as the very young, elderly, or those with underlying health conditions.
Though cases of illness resulting from dog-to-human transmission are rare, it is essential to exercise caution to avoid potential risks. If you do allow your dog to lick your face, ensure that you have no open wounds or abrasions, and promptly wash your face with soap and water. High-risk individuals should refrain from activities that may expose them to potential harm.
While my Frenchie’s eye licking behavior does not appear to be of the repetitive or obsessive-compulsive type, I now understand the potential risks associated with allowing such actions. It is advisable to discourage repeated, incessant, or unwanted licking by implementing behavior modification techniques. These techniques involve avoiding triggers, rewarding desirable behavior, and, in resistant cases, using behavior-modifying drugs. Importantly, training should not be based on punishment or confrontations, as they can lead to fear, avoidance, and increased aggression.
Remember, as much as we cherish our dogs and the affection they shower upon us, it is crucial to prioritize our health and well-being. By being aware of the reasons behind their actions and taking appropriate precautions, we can ensure a harmonious relationship with our four-legged companions.
Handy Hint: For more intriguing insights into dog behavior, check out my research on the possibility of contracting rabies from dogs licking your hands and face.
Image in the header via Pixabay