I let my dogs lick my face, as long as…
A - I have invited them to do so;
B - They are not in an overly excited state;
C - They have not been eating anything disgusting;
D - They lick in a respectful manner and know when to stop!
It is normal, healthy expression of joy and affection for a dog to give you one or two gentle licks as a greeting, or to share affection.
Licking behavior is instinctive in puppies. Puppies lick their mother’s face as a sign of recognition and respect. A mother dog will lick her puppies to groom them. A dog will also lick another dog to indicate subservience.
My Australian Shepherd Tasha loves to groom my Chihuahua Carmen - when Carmen needs a grooming he always goes to see Tasha!
But when a dog licks in a dominating manner (never asks if you would like to be licked but just moves in and takes completely over) or incessantly licks in an anxious manner and refuses to stop it is time to put some limits in place.
Too much licking is not normal and indicates that your dog is either dominating you or is insecure and anxious. Left unchecked this behaviour can become obsessive. It can also indicate that your dog does not know how to relax. That is not good for the dog or you.
TO TEACH YOUR DOG LIMITS AROUND GIVING ‘KISSES’
If you enjoy getting a ‘kiss’ from your dog but would like to teach your dog that it needs to stop licking after a couple of licks and that it needs to lick respectfully (gently, slowly - not hyper and fast). First make sure that you are not inviting your dog to lick you when your dog is very excited - you can end of overwhelming and stressing your dog! To learn more you can read this short article Affection and Your Dog.
One - Make sure you are calm (without excess emotion), and ready to coach with fair, firm confidence. Don't be aggressive, annoyed, frustrated, angry etc., don't raise your voice in anger. To understand more about how you can make sure you are communicating properly with your dog you can read about the Sensitivity of Dogs and Communication.
Two - Once your dog has licked once or twice you can touch your dog firmly but quickly with your fingers - at its neck or waist, you can snap your fingers and say 'enough' firmly, but not with anger. If your dog is too rough in the way he licks you can follow the same methodology and say ‘gentle’.
Three - Then tell your dog what you would like it to do instead i.e. 'go sit' etc.
Four - Follow through...if your dog goes back to lick you again - don't get angry, simply correct as per the steps above.
TO STOP YOUR DOG FROM LICKING
If you do not want your dog to lick your face, your hands etc;
If your dog always licks your skin cream off, or is insistently / obsessively licking anything else… here is the proper way to it them not to stop…
One - Make sure you are calm (without excess emotion),and ready to coach with fair, firm confidence. Don't be aggressive, annoyed, frustrated, angry etc., don't raise your voice in anger.
Two - get your dogs attention, you can touch your dog firmly but quickly with your fingers - at its neck or waist, you can snap your fingers and say 'hey' firmly, but not with anger. Never touch or talk in anger as you then lead by the wrong example!
Three - Tell your dog what you want i.e. 'no, don't touch' and then say 'leave it' I have ten dogs - different breeds, from tiny to large - they all understand this type of direction...as do the dogs I work with for my clients.
Four - Tell your dog what you would like it to do instead i.e. 'go sit' etc.
Five - Follow through...if your dog goes back to lick you again - don't get angry, simply correct as per the steps above.
And by the way - dogs use the placement of their body to takeover and own space - you can too! If you lean or walk into the space your dog occupies your dog will naturally move out of your space - providing you are calm confident...this is also an excellent way of telling your dog - in a language it understands - to give you space. This helps your dog to further understand that licking and invading your personal space is not appropriate at that time!
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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld
Please note - this article is for information purposes and is not a substitute for an in-person session with me. When working with dogs I use many techniques - it is important to note that this article may touch on one or several techniques but not all. I select the technique that I use for a particular dog based on my observations of the dog and an intuitive, instinctive assessment of that dog's and its human's individual requirements. For example when I am working with a dog that is hyper sensitive and very physically reactive I will not use voice or touch. I use a lot of therapeutic touch on some dogs, others require the use of herding techniques and so on. Each and every technique must be combined with:
- an understanding of the real intelligence, sensitivity and capability of dogs;
- an understanding of how to read a dog's face and a dog's overall body language;
- an understanding of the full spectrum of ways that humans communicate and dogs communicate;
- understanding and recognition of the individual that is each dog - no two dogs are the same...taking a 'cookie cutter' approach to techniques is not the way to work with a dog;
- a complete recognition and understanding of all the elements that feed a behaviour and create an issue:
- the vast majority of people can only identify one or two elements...which vastly inhibits the ability to resolve behavior issues;
- behaviours do not exist in isolation - there are always many elements that feed a single behaviour, there all always multiple behaviours that create a behavioral issue;
- self-restraint and discipline on the part of the human who is directing the dog;
- sensitivity, awareness, intuition, instinct and timing on the part of the human who is directing the dog;
- to understand, connect with and adapt quickly and effectively to a dog's learning requirements you must be able to employ the same tools a dog uses - acute sensitivity, awareness, instinct, intuition and timing;
- kindness, endurance, consideration, patience, persistence, perspective, the ability and know how to let the past go, the ability to set realistic expectations at any one point in time;
- the creation of structure, rules, boundaries and limitations for each situation at the macro and micro level;
- understanding of all the elements that make up an instruction and direction to a dog...there are multiple steps involved in an instruction - not just one!
- absolute honesty - if you cannot be honest with yourself you will not be able to communicate clearly with a dog.