Should You Let Your Dog Lick and Kiss You On The Face? · The Wildest

Skip to main content

Should I Let My Dog Lick Me On The Face?

How many kisses is too many kisses?

by Orla Pentelow
2 February 2024
Woman lying on bed with dog, dog is looking up at the woman and licking her in the face

A resurfaced video featuring footballer Nuno Tavares sharing a moment of affection with his two furry friends sparked a heated debate online recently, and raised the age-old question – should we let our dogs lick our faces, lips and even mouths?

The video, originally posted in 2021, captured the Arsenal left-back (currently on loan to Nottingham Forest) allowing his dogs to give him kisses on the tongue, and sparked a divisive conversation online as to whether you should allow your dog to get so… up close and personal.

Understanding why our dogs feel the urge to shower us with slobbery kisses is the first step in navigating their displays of affection. Why do pups want to lick us all the time? ​​And what is the relationship between a dog’s kisses and our own health? Delve into the reasons behind a dog’s desire to lick your face, whether their saliva is as clean as they’d like us to think and whether allowing your dog to lick your face, lips or mouth is best practice.

Why does my dog want to lick me?

Dogs express love, excitement and submission through various behaviours, and licking is one of their most common forms of communication. Puppies learn licking as a way to bond with their mothers and littermates, and the behaviour often carries over into adulthood as a means of expressing affection. Dogs may also lick to explore their environment, groom themselves or even signal their submission to a dominant figure (that’s you).

A lick is often recognised as a dog’s equivalent of a hug or a handshake, so it’s essential to understand the underlying motivations behind their slobbery kisses to determine whether it poses any risks to human health. But the burning question remains – is it hygienic?

Is a dog’s saliva clean?

It’s a common misconception that a dog’s saliva is inherently cleaner than a human’s, but unfortunately, your pup’s mouth isn’t a magical elixir of cleanliness; whilst it does contain certain antibacterial enzymes and proteins that aid in wound healing, the reality is that a dog’s mouth is far from a sterile zone. 

Dogs use their mouths for a whole host of things, from eating to grooming and exploring the world around them, resulting in a saliva cocktail that harbours a diverse array of bacteria.

One study revealed that a dog’s mouth can contain over 600 different types of bacteria, a number comparable to the 615 found in human saliva. Most of these bacteria are not transferable from pup to parent (zoonotic); however, some can pose risks to human health.

Bacteria such as Pasteurella and Capnocytophaga found in dog saliva can lead to skin infections and more severe complications, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems.

Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly, young or immunocompromised, are more susceptible to zoonotic bacteria spread from dog to human, so exercise caution when allowing your dog to lick your face, lips or mouth.

Should I let my dog lick me on the mouth?

The decision to let your dog kiss you on the mouth ultimately comes down to personal preference and risk tolerance. For most healthy individuals, the risk of contracting an illness from a dog’s saliva is relatively low. However, if you fall into the more susceptible categories or have concerns about potential bacterial transmission, it’s advisable to err on the side of caution.

Pet parents should consider factors such as their dog’s diet, overall health and an individual’s susceptibility to infections. It is crucial to strike a balance between fostering a strong bond with your dog and ensuring responsible pet parenting. If you choose to allow your dog to lick your face, establishing boundaries and practising good hygiene can mitigate potential risks.

Here are some considerations to help you make an informed decision:

  • Health status: if you or someone in your household has a compromised immune system, it’s best to limit direct contact with your dog’s saliva, especially around the mouth.

  • Dietary habits: dogs on a raw diet may carry additional bacteria, so be mindful of their diet and take appropriate precautions.

  • Personal comfort: if the idea of your dog’s kisses on your mouth doesn’t sit well with you, there’s no harm in setting boundaries. Find alternative ways to bond with your furry friend that you both enjoy.

  • Regular vet check-ups: ensure your dog receives regular veterinary check-ups to monitor their overall health and catch any potential issues early.

What to do if my dog licks me on the mouth

If your dog surprises you with an unexpected kiss on the mouth, here are some practical guidelines to help minimise potential risks to you.

  • Wash your face: after any dog-human interaction involving licking, wash your face thoroughly with mild soap (or face wash) and water to reduce the likelihood of transferring any bacteria.

  • Monitor for symptoms: keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms, especially if you or someone in your household is more susceptible to infections.

  • Educate yourself: stay informed about the potential risks associated with dog saliva, especially if your dog is on a raw diet.

  • Set boundaries: establish clear boundaries with your pup to control licking behaviours. Consistent training can help reinforce these boundaries and create a healthy balance between affection and hygiene.

The age-old debate of whether to let your dog kiss you on the mouth boils down to a combination of personal preference, health considerations and risk tolerance. While your dog’s affectionate kisses are heartwarming, being aware of potential health risks allows you to make informed choices that prioritise both your well-being and the bond you share with your furry friend.

Orla Pentelow

Orla Pentelow is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in London. When not at her desk she’s out and about with her rescue dog, Luna, who works primarily as chief distractor.


Related articles