The main reason dogs lick each other’s eyes is for grooming. Dog’s saliva contains traces of antibiotical and antimicrobial elements, which help clean dirt and germs from the skin. A few other reasons for this behavior include submission, bonding, and obsessive behavior.
Humans have a lot of unusual quirks that are unique to our species. Whether it is using complex language, working together in groups to solve complicated problems, or transacting business, we as a species have traits that would likely seem unusual to other species (if they could process information the same way we do).
Dogs are not an exception to having unusual behaviors for their species. One such example is their occasional act of licking other dog’s eyes (or face in general).
At first glance, this might seem like a completely random act without a rational explanation. However, despite initially appearing nonsensical, there are several reasons dogs may lick the eyes of other dogs.
We have done the research and have obtained facts about the many reasons dogs do this, so let’s jump right into it and go over some of the main reasons.
Reasons Dogs Lick Other Dogs’ Eyes
Dogs do not lick each other’s eyes for one singular reason. There are several reasons your dog may lick another dog’s eyes. The following are a handful of reasons this may be the case.
To Get Someone’s Attention For a Specific Reason
Dogs, particularly puppies, will lick another dog’s face to bring attention to the fact that they need something.
A puppy may lick their mother’s face to indicate they want to be fed. They may also do this to another dog to indicate they want to play (or for a number of other reasons).
As a Form of Greeting
Similar to how humans shake hands, exchange greetings, or bow to one another, dogs have their own ways of greeting each other.
Licking the other’s eyes or face is one of the many ways dogs greet each other. While this may not be the most common form of greeting, it is worth taking into consideration why they may do this.
This is similar to the previous example of a greeting, but eye and face licking can also occur after the initial greeting.
Dogs may lick each other to deepen their bond, similar to how humans hug or kiss one another. Dogs will probably also be licking more spots than just another dog’s eyes, so a form of bonding may be what’s occurring if you see your dog lick other areas on another dog.
For Grooming Purposes
Like humans, dogs like to keep clean. Dog saliva contains trace amounts of antibiotical and antimicrobial elements. In other words, dog saliva helps clean dirt and germs from the skin and fur of a dog. Dogs may lick each other’s faces to help clean them.
Despite the massively different genetic diversity among dog breeds, it is a well-known fact that dogs are descendants of gray wolves that were domesticated over thousands of years by humans.
Because of this, dogs share elements of adhering to the pack mentality regarding the social hierarchy wolves follow.
In more straightforward terms, this means that a dog may lick another to show that they feel the other dog is superior to them. This can be due to several reasons, such as the other dog’s size or behavior, particularly if they show more dominant behaviors when interacting with your dog.
It Enjoys The Taste
This is probably the most primitive, easiest-to-understand reason your dog is licking another’s face or eyes.
If your dog is not doing this frequently, they may just be licking another dog simply because they like the other dog’s taste. This might seem odd to us, but dogs behavior often seems strange to us!
In humans, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when an individual frequently feels the need to repetitively perform tasks. This can range from something as simple as scratching the head regularly to more inhibitive behaviors, such as feeling the need to always check the kitchen stove.
Did you know dogs can also have OCD? Known as Canine OCD, this is virtually the same as human OCD, but with more specific traits.
Such traits include frequently chasing their tail, repeatedly barking for no reason, or excessive eating. This can also include frequent licking.
If this is the case for your dog, this can be dangerous. Frequent licking might lead to infection or injury. If you feel your dog is showing signs of Canine OCD, you should immediately contact your vet to have them look at your pup.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Licking Other Dogs’ Eyes
You do not want your dog licking another dog’s face for many reasons. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to train your dog to avoid licking the faces of other dogs. Here is a list of some things you can try.
Get Assistance From Your Vet or A Dog Trainer
This is going to be the most straightforward, effective method for putting an end to this behavior.
Your vet may provide you with advice and information that you may not have known prior, such as your dog having Canine OCD. They can even provide medication for more extreme cases.
Dog trainers are experts in conditioning dogs to respond to certain behavior. You may want to consider hiring a trainer to assist you in training your dog to stop licking other dogs.
Discourage and Punish Inappropriate Behavior
If you see your dog licking another dog’s eyes, don’t just sit idly. There are several things you can do to condition them to avoid further licking.
The most basic, immediate thing you can do is to scold them. A loud, firm verbal warning will alert them that what they are doing is wrong.
In addition to this, using tools like a whistle or a spray bottle can help further discourage inappropriate behavior. Like in Pavlov’s Dogs experiment, a dog will learn to perform or avoid a behavior when a particular stimulus is triggered.
Encourage and Reward Good Behavior
This is the other side of the coin to the punishment of inappropriate behavior. If you see your dog interacting with dogs and are well behaved around them, consider giving your dog praise or a treat to further cement that what they are doing is good.
You will want to be conservative with giving treats to them, or they may misunderstand why you are giving them a treat.
Give Your Dog Other Things to Lick
If all the above fail (which is unlikely, fortunately), give them a toy or something else they can use to divert their attention away from another dog’s face.
There’s Always a Reason For Licking
Dogs have more complex motives and behaviors than many people give them credit for. Dogs will not necessarily lick another dog’s face for no reason: there may be one or more reasons for them to do so.
As said before, if you see your dog doing this, you will want to discourage the behavior. Ultimately, it’s in a dog’s nature to want to lick another dog’s face, so it is up to you to figure out the best method to prevent further behavior like this in the future.
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