If you’re a dog parent or a dog lover, you probably know that dogs love to lick. They lick a lot of things, including licking the faces and teeth of other dogs. What compels them to do this?
Dogs licking each others’ teeth is completely normal behavior. When dogs lick each other’s teeth or face, they’re not exactly kissing. Licking is the opposite of aggressive behavior. So, get ready to enjoy some play.
There are various reasons dogs can do this. It’s sometimes a sign of affection, playtime, submission, or hunger. It’s a behavior that comes from early puppyhood when puppies used to lick their mother’s lips.
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Your dog may also lick another dog’s teeth to show that they are ready to play. It may do this with dogs it’s meeting for the first time, and dogs it already knows and likes.
If your dog is looking for playtime, it might lick the other dog’s teeth in addition to getting into play bow with their butt in the air and front legs on the ground. Coupling play bow with face licking is your dog’s way of saying “ Hey! I’m friendly, let’s play!” If the other dog is not interested you may want to pull the licking dog away as this may irritate the other.
2. Sign of affection:
Licking helps dogs relax and bond. Dogs sometimes lick each other’s teeth just to show affection. This is true when they lick us, as well as when they lick other dogs. Licking releases endorphin hormones that feel pleasurable to both dogs.
For submission, licking other dogs’ teeth to show subordination. If a dog meets another dog it highly respects, it might lick that dog’s face to show submission. It also might roll over onto its back to express submissiveness. This behavior is important in the wild to maintain pack harmony.
Social order is important in dog life. A dog licking another dog’s teeth shows that it is below the other dog in the hierarchy. This is particularly true if the dog doing the licking approaches the other dog from under the chin.
In other words, it wants to say “you’re in charge here and I mean you no harm.” The other dogs say “it’s ok” by licking back. Keep an eye on this as the dominant dog might get snappy or get overexuberant and growl or snap at the submissive one.
4. I’m sorry:
Dogs can get frustrated or baffled by each other, especially if one is more highly energetic. The offending dog can say it’s sorry with a gentle face or teeth lick.
The dog usually comes in from below and licks the other dog’s mouth or teeth. It might also raise a paw slightly. When the other dogs lick back, all is forgiven.
Puppies seem to stay hungry all the time. They grow fast and need lots of nourishment. One way they tell their mother dogs how they’re feeling is by licking them on the mouth and teeth.
Instinctively, a puppy thinks it’s the mother dog’s job to find food and bring it back for it to eat. They lick their mother’s face and teeth when they are hungry. You can use this as a sign of when to feed the puppy.
Pet parent tip: Supervising the interactions of your dog with other dogs is always important. You must ensure that the licking dog doesn’t get too carried away. Some dogs can engage in aggressive behaviors that might lead to serious fights.
Why do puppies lick their mother’s face and teeth?
If a puppy licks their mother’s face or teeth, it’s usually a signal that they want to be fed. Their instinct is to lick their mother’s face when they are hungry.
In the wild, puppies lick their mother’s lips and teeth when the mother has just returned from a hunt, her belly full of meat. The lick signals the mother to regurgitate some of the pre-digested food for her hungry puppies.
Domesticated puppies display the same licking behavior, with the same results. The puppy’s lick is a subordinate behavior that means “please take care of me.”
Possible medical issues
Dogs have been known for being capable of detecting diseases as serious as diabetes and cancer in humans. When dogs develop a sudden interest in certain body parts, it may be worthy to see the vet rule out any possible medical problems. Dogs are pretty good at knowing when other dogs are ill by just their scent.
Many dogs are prone to gum and dental issues. There might be a dental issue that is causing odors in the mouths or the gums are inflamed. Also, there might be a piece of bone lodged in between teeth.
How to stop a dog from licking other dogs’ teeth
So your dog is a persistent licker, and you want to put a stop to this behavior? Here are some general tips.
- Watch for cut-off signals from the dog being licked. Turning the head, moving away, growling, or yawning may be signs that the other pooch is getting annoyed. Remember that some dogs may go straight to just biting.
- Redirect the licking behaviour to an alternate behaviour. For instance, tell your fur buddy “leave it” as soon as you notice its intent and redirect him to an alternate behavior. Make sure to praise and reward. Alternatively, you can try to redirect to a chew toy or any other interactive toy.
- Keep the dogs separated with a pet barrier or pet gate when you cannot monitor and redirect.
- Consult with a dog behaviourist or vet if things seem to be getting out of hand.
Until dogs can talk, we can only make assumptions as to what is going on really in a dog’s mind when licking other dogs’ teeth. It’s better to look at how the behaviour presents, the context in which it happens, and the accompanying body language.
If your dog likes to lick other dogs’ teeth, don’t worry. It may seem weird to us, but your fur buddy is doing it to show friendliness, hunger, affection, or submission. Whichever reason is behind his dog-on-dog teeth licking, it’s never a bad thing. It’s always a sign that it means no harm. Also, it’s really cute as well!
Family Dog Expert Author
Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.