Should you French your Frenchie? Kiss your keeshond? Smooch your pooch? People have strong opinions either way. Here’s what to know about canine kisses
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Many people love getting dog kisses. “Oh, I don’t mind,” they say, as your dog washes their face with her tongue.
I am not one of those people. Fortunately, my current dogs aren’t lickers, but we used to have a tricolor cavalier, Darcy, who was nicknamed “the quicker licker-upper.” No amount of trying to train her out of it worked, mainly because other people encouraged it.
Dogs love to lick us for all kinds of reasons. In the wild, a pup licks its mother’s face and lips, stimulating her to regurgitate food for it. And mother dogs, wild and domestic, lick their puppies clean. Some dogs probably enjoy the salty flavor of our skin, while others are intrigued by the tasty scented lotions and creams we rub into it. Licking can be soothing. When dogs intensively lick certain areas, it’s often an attempt at pain relief. Any way you look at it, licking generally has a pleasurable connection for dogs.
And for people. Those who love dog kisses give the following reasons:
-- “It’s just that extra show of affection with your dog.”
-- “Great for my immunity and my soul.”
-- “Bee wakes me every morning with such enthusiastic kisses it makes me laugh.”
Sweet as they are (for those who appreciate them), dog kisses can have some drawbacks. Overly enthusiastic canine kissers can bash heads, break noses, give black eyes and knock people down in their attempts to give smooches.
A study in Japan found that bacteria that cause gum disease are transferrable between dogs and humans -- going both ways.
Your dog may also be kissing you immediately after gulping down garbage, snacking on poop from the cat’s litter box, gnawing on a dead squirrel or licking his own behind. The latter can result in accidental ingestion of parasite eggs or larvae lurking in your dog’s saliva.
And a high concentration of the canine allergen is present in saliva.
Some dogs have jobs that preclude kissing. Therapy dogs must learn not to give kisses, particularly if they visit people with health issues. It’s important to protect not only humans, but also the dogs themselves, who may be at risk of illness if they slurp skin infected with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) or other body fluids present on skin or clothing.
To lick licking -- if that’s your preference -- try these four training (or retraining) tips:
-- Turn your face away when your dog tries to lick you. But beware: If other family members and friends don’t do the same, your dog will keep on licking.
-- When your dog stops licking, immediately offer praise and a treat. Gradually, you can add a cue such as “no kiss” or “no lick.”
-- Teach an alternative behavior such as a high-five or twirl. Any time your dog tries to kiss, give the cue for the alternative -- “Shake!” or “Spin!” and reward him for that great trick.
-- Teach your dog to give kisses on cue so they can be reserved for people who want them. Therapy dogs can learn not to give kisses when they’re wearing their vest.
The really hard part isn't teaching your dog not to lick, but discouraging other people from letting your dog kiss them. But if you're serious about stopping the licking, say, “Please don’t let her kiss you; she’s in training.” People will ignore you, but you can still try it.
If you fail, put your kissing dog to work raising money for your local animal shelter. Set up a kissing booth at a pet fair, and charge for their licks of love.
In the end, getting a little sugar from a dog you love isn’t the end of the world. Just thoroughly wash your hands and mouth afterward -- and maybe swish with mouthwash to kill any lingering germs.
pay water bill
Q: My cat keeps turning on the faucet because she prefers to drink from it instead of her water dish. How can I get her to drink normally?
A: For some cats, that is normal! They prefer running water because they can see (and hear) it better than still water. But before we tackle your problem, first things first: If this is a new behavior, take your cat in for a vet check to make sure the change isn’t related to an underlying illness. If she gets a clean bill of health, the following changes may help.
Many cats prefer high places. The sink may seem like a safer place to fill up her tank than down on the floor, especially if the water bowl is in a heavily trafficked area such as the kitchen, or if she shares it with other pets. Try placing the bowl up high in a less frequented area, maybe on a guest bath counter.
Make sure the bowl isn’t near the litter box. Cats don’t like to eat or drink in the same area where they pee and poop.
If you have multiple pets in your home, provide several water dishes, each in a different area.
Water from the faucet may taste better, especially if you aren’t washing pet bowls daily. Use a nonscented dish soap and rinse thoroughly to make sure there’s no unpleasant residue. And use glass or ceramic bowls instead of plastic, which can retain odors.
Cats who like drinking free-flowing water may enjoy a pet fountain. Providing one could help redirect your cat away from the sink. Place a soft treat on the edge to garner her attention, or ask your veterinarian about flavored additives that could pique her interest.
Reward her any time you see her drinking out of the fountain or bowl. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
to the dogs
-- When the pandemic hit last year, Judi Townsend of Oakland, California, knew her business of buying and selling mannequins was going to be in trouble. But when she realized how many people were adopting pets to keep them company at home, she pivoted to a new plan: taking pet glamour shots. She already had a photo studio, and she began offering photo packages and do-it-yourself photography lessons on Facebook Live. Now, Furtography Pet Pics is doing very well, she reports to AARP Magazine. Embarking further into the pet world, she also sells fabric dog mannequins for people who want to sew or display clothes for dogs.
-- Would you recognize whether your tortoise is feeling unwell? Like most animals, including humans, a change from normal behavior can signal a health problem. Other signs include eye or nasal discharge, swollen or closed eyelids, increased respiratory effort or open-mouth breathing, decreased appetite and decreased activity, says LaToya Latney, DVM, a reptile and zoo animal specialist at New York City’s Animal Medical Center. In an interview with PopSugar.com, she notes that tortoises should be seen by a veterinarian annually for a checkup as well as when they’re sick.
-- When the Million Cat Challenge started, the goal was to save the lives of 1 million shelter cats. That goal was achieved in 2018, more than a year earlier than expected, and it’s marching on to even greater success. The approximately 1,500 shelters that signed on to the program have now saved 3 million cats, and the future is brighter for other shelter cats. Founders Julie Levy, DVM, and Kate Hurley, DVM, plan to continue the consultation service offered by MCC to help shelters, elected officials and policymakers identify and break down barriers so that cats leave shelters alive, not in body bags. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.