Beyond Affection? Why Your Dog Licks You

Dog licking girl's face

Rare is the dog that doesn’t try to sneak a kiss or two. Most people are familiar with this decidedly canine behavior, and some even welcome it. That being said, however, there are quite a few dog owners that question the opportunistic tongue. If you’ve ever wondered why your dog licks you (and possibly want them to stop), we’ve got you covered.

The Slobber Factor

Let’s address the health and safety of dog kisses. Like us, dogs have a lot of bacteria in their mouths. It’s reasonable to assume that some of that bacteria gets passed from them to us via a kiss. This can certainly be off-putting, but unless their saliva enters an open wound on your body their kisses will not easily cause illness. Simply wash your hands and face after receiving some good ‘ole doggie affection. 

Strong Genes

Sure, slobbery dog “kisses” can be gross. The important things to remember, though, is that they aren’t trying to alienate you. In fact, just the opposite.

Dogs are simply answering their canine instincts by licking. This action has been relayed through wolf and dog DNA over the years. From their earliest days with their mother, wolf pups learn to eat food that has been regurgitated. They lick their mother’s face and are licked in return to get cleaned up. 

Me Love You!

Since licking is a natural, inherited behavior in dogs, owners may allow a few “kisses” from time to time. After all, pet dogs should feel comfortable expressing their love and devotion to their special humans. If they cannot get close to your face, it’s likely that your dog licks you on the hands, legs, and feet. Some experts believe that they do this to pick up signals of where you’ve been. You might even taste intriguingly salty to them

Where Is the Line?

Some owners might be uncomfortable with any and all licking. Others might accept this behavior as part of the territory of dog ownership. It is important to note that when your dog licks you excessively there might be something more going on.

Me. Me. Me?

If your dog licks you more often than you feel is necessary or appropriate, the following could explain why:

  • They could be using their kisses to get more attention from you. If you react with laughter, smiling, petting or scratches they may be more inclined to repeat the behavior. Remember that dogs can even seek negative attention which inadvertently reinforces the action. Instead of getting mad, try to simply ignore it. Only reward the type of behavior you want to see.
  • Stress and anxiety can trigger obsessive behaviors in dogs. Some dogs will lick things, like furniture, carpeting, toys, household objects, and even themselves repeatedly in an effort to soothe themselves. If left alone, this behavior can get worse over time. Please call us so we can help address your concerns. Animal behaviorists can also be very helpful at redirecting any symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  • Boredom, pain, allergies and other health problems may be the cause and require attention and action.

When Your Dog Licks You

Dogs can be trained not to lick. It may take time, but with positive reinforcement they will eventually be less inclined to show this behavior. If your dog licks your face too much, give them a food puzzle or interactive toy. 

To curb excessive licking, be sure that your dog receives abundant opportunities to exercise. Spend time with them every day and keep to a routine.
If you need additional support regarding canine behavior or training, the Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are always here for you.

Elmhurst Animal Care Center’s Top 5 Pet Blogs of 2020!

With all of 2020’s ups and downs, one thing remained loyal and steadfast by our side – our pets. Their constant love, affection, patience, and compassion has seen us through it all with all the snuggles and tail wags a person could need.

This past year, The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center have remained committed to you, and your pet’s health, too. From curbside, to exam room, and even online, our staff has dedicated themselves to the pets of Elmhurst and beyond through thick and thin.

to celebrate the turning of calendar, and in keeping with tradition, we have compiled a list of our most-read blogs from the past year. We hope you enjoy and appreciate you reading.

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Urine Marking in Dogs: Why They Do it and how to Clean it

White dog sitting in corner of home.

We’ve all seen a dog lift its leg on a tree or fire hydrant, or sniff endlessly at a rock or patch of grass only to dribble a few drops of urine over the area. For dogs, urinating marking is an important means of communication and “scent marking”. Urine communicates a dog’s age, sex, whether a female is in heat, and so much more. It’s also a way of marking territory.

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Question of the Week: Can Dogs Eat Nuts?

A white Elmhurst dog licking peanut butter off of its mouth.

A handful of salty cashews. A piece of toasted sourdough smeared with a thick slab of peanut butter. Sweet, slightly spicy candied walnuts in the holiday snack bowl. Have we made you hungry yet?

Indeed, nuts are a ubiquitous, delicious, and (mostly) nutritious part of life for many of us, and it’s understandable to want to slip your sweet, begging pooch a tasty morsel or two. But can dogs eat nuts?

Can Dogs Eat Nuts?

Let’s face it, most dogs eat nuts along with any other food item that happens to fall on the floor or be offered by human hands. Fortunately nuts are, for the most part, safe enough for dogs, but that doesn’t mean they should be eaten on a regular basis. Nuts are high in fat and calories, and can lead to weight gain, pancreatitis, and other complications.

The occasional nut tossed your dog’s way is probably fine, but there are certain nuts that should be avoided, including:

  • Macadamia nuts – These nuts are toxic to dogs and can cause weakness, vomiting, and/or tremors if ingested.
  • Chocolate covered nuts – All chocolate is toxic to dogs.
  • Salted nuts – Just like with humans, too much salt can cause water retention and bloating in dogs. 
  • Candied nuts – Sugary, candy coating adds too many extra calories and no nutritional value. Sugar-free candy coating may contain Xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs.
  • Whole nuts – Larger nuts such as almonds or walnuts can pose a choking hazard if eaten in whole form.
  • Unshelled nuts – Nut shells can cause serious problems for dogs. Nut shells are indigestible, and eating too many can lead to intestinal blockage (a serious emergency requiring surgery to repair). Hard shells such as pistachios can splinter, causing lacerations to the mouth, throat, and digestive tract.

What About Nut Butters?

Nut butters are safe for dogs in general, but like nuts they add a lot of calories to a dog’s diet and should be used sparingly. A little peanut butter smeared inside a Kong or other toy is a safe and yummy option (peanuts are in the legume family which is safe for dogs), just make sure to avoid peanut butter sweetened with Xylitol. 

Alternatives to Nuts

Although most nuts are safe for dogs, there are plenty of healthier, lower-calorie options to choose from for an occasional treat. Many dogs enjoy steamed, plain veggies like green beans, pumpkin, and cauliflower. Berries, apples, bananas, and other fresh fruits make great treats as well, although these tend to be higher in calories due to the sugar content. 

Elmhurst Dog Veterinarians


If you have any further questions regarding dogs and nuts or other people food, The Pet Experts are here for you! Contact our dog veterinarians at Elmhurst Animal Care Center for more information, or to schedule an appointment for your furry friend.

Your Pocket Pet’s Mental Health

A hamster peeking out of a little log.

The metaphor of a hamster running on a spinning will is used to describe moments of repeating the same action without actually getting anywhere. While this is mostly used to describe people, many pets experience similar sensations.

Dogs and cats might get a little stir crazy, but they tend to have more room to roam than pocket pets. They also tend to get more physical attention and affection from their owners. Pocket pets, however, live much smaller, more sedentary lives, often within the walls of a cage or aquarium. Because of this, pocket pets are more susceptible to health issues, many of which are of the mental variety.

The pocket pet veterinarians at Elmhurst Animal Care Center want to help our clients provide the best lives for all pets big and small. Here are some ways to ensure your pocket pets are living their best lives:

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Bush Dweller or Tree Dweller: How to Figure Out the Best Environment for Your Cat

Despite our desire to understand what’s going on inside a cat’s adorable head, we humans occasionally miss the mark. 

But why?

Your cat responds to various instincts and behaviors that were inherited from generations of felines over the millennia. Even though the modern cat is far removed from their earliest ancestors, today’s house cats have retained similarly distinct body language and corresponding preferences. 

As odd as it may seem, one of the driving behavioral factors inherited from their ancestors is whether they like to perch on high surfaces or prefer to be close to the ground. 

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The History of Cat Ownership Is Full of Surprises

A gray cat in Elmhurst relaxing on green pillow

It’s hard to imagine a culture that doesn’t celebrate and support our feline friends, but it took a long time for cats to take their rightful place at the top of the pet podium. 

In fact, their entire species has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride over thousands of years. Ancient people loved them for ridding agricultural storage of rodents, but then in the Middle Ages their fates took a turn. A dive into the fascinating history of cat ownership should foster a deeper appreciation of our feline friends.

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Celebrating the Small Dog!

The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center love dogs of all kinds. Long-haired, short-haired, athletic, couch potatoes, they all have a special place in our hearts. 

When one pictures (wo)man’s best friend, often images of doting Labradors or protective Shepherds come to mind. We know through personal experience, though, that small dogs earn just as much love as their more massive counterparts.

The small dog has earned respect and love from dog lovers everywhere, and they deserve to be recognized, too. 

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What’s the Deal With Your Dog’s Dewclaws?

When we watch our dogs stalk and chase “prey”, we are reminded of their wild wolfish ancestors. Behaviors aside, there are other links to their interesting past. 

Dewclaws offer a glimpse into the canine evolutionary process. Millions of years ago, they were necessary for climbing trees and rough terrain. Over time, dew claws changed to accommodate more speed while running and hunting. 

Thumbs Up?

You’re likely well aware that your dog has a little toe that sits up a little higher than the other digits. The dew claws are attached to these toes, don’t touch the ground, and are referred to as “thumbs”.

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5 Ways to Pamper your Cat

Most cat owners are keenly aware of their fluffy friend’s likes and dislikes and work hard to either provide an abundance of these things, or eliminate them altogether. 

Cats are anything but subtle. However, sometimes we don’t always know exactly how to spoil them. A little tuna juice from the can? An extra catnip mouse or two? These ideas may sometimes fall a little flat. Not to worry, the Pet Experts have brainstormed 5 ways you can pamper your cat. And why not? They deserve it.

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