When we get hurt, we always want someone to soothe our pain. Whether we receive a hug from a companion, or a few licks from our puppy, anything helps. Yet, when we cut ourselves, it resembles that of physical pain, and our dogs know it. When dogs have a cut, a sore, or even an itch, they use their mouths to soothe themselves. Since they are our companions, wouldn't it make sense for them to try and heal us, too? Understanding why dogs may lick our cuts can help us understand the healing process and how they interact with us, as our pets.
The Root of the Behavior
Animals know that when they get hurt, their wound needs to be soothed because it is painful. When their companion and their owner who they look up to is hurt, they think it is their job to take care of the pain and soothe their companion. Humans, dogs, as well as other species, will desire to quickly attend to their wounds. It is an instinct. When your dog licks a wound, there are healing capacities in their saliva and it can also help cleanse the area. They are natural healers when it comes to grooming and cleaning. It is a part of how they are wired. There is a belief that dog saliva can heal wounds, which dates back to Egyptian times. There are also biological reasons as to why dogs lick wounds, just as they lick themselves and people in general, as a form of affection and communication.
Your dog considers you as a part of their pack, because their pack is their family. Due to this, your dog will have a natural desire to take responsibility for your wounds and want to take care of you. Depending on the wound, your dog’s licking can be positive or negative. Canine saliva can be helpful in cleaning your wound and even healing it. It is said that their saliva may have antimicrobial and healing properties. Yet, it may be important to not let your dog go too crazy with licking away at your wounds. This could cause an infection in your cut and it may not be the healthiest for your dog, either. There are also other reasons a dog may lick your wound. It may be the same reason they lick your feet, your hands, or even your face. Whether that be desire, affection, or negative emotion, it may be wise to understand what they are reaching for. When dogs lick their own wounds, sometimes it can be because they want to tear open their stitches, or the wound is bothering them. The same could be with why they are licking you.
Encouraging the Behavior
When you have a cut, the way you handle it will depend on how intense the pain and wound is. If it is big and painful, you may want to pay close attention to it and not bother it. If your cut is small, you may feel comfortable with your dog licking and attending to your wound. If that is the case, it is suggested that you allow your dog to lick your wound. It is important to make sure your dog has been fully dewormed and checked by the veterinarian. It can be helpful in trusting this process, so no infection is created. If your dog is not willingly trying to lick at your wound, it shouldn’t be something you push at. Your wound may be something that your dog does not desire to lick and it may be something your dog feels sick over, too, and does not like it. Therefore, if you feel safe and your dog desires to lick your wound, then it may be something to encourage and allow. Yet, it is important to do what is best for you, your health, and your dog. If you feel you need to, it may be best to check with a veterinarian before proceeding further with this act.
Other Solutions and Considerations
When you are in pain, your dog will notice, and want to attend to you. If you don’t feel comfortable with them licking at your wound, it may be best to express in some way to them and show them they do not need them to attend to your wound. Showing your animal that they can comfort you and support you in other ways can help with the situation. Animals may want to show comfort in a different way to attend to your wound, as well. You can show them that you enjoy when they lick your face, spend time with you, and be your comfort, instead.
As owners of dogs, it is important to create a relationship with our animals that is healthy and loving. They love us and want to comfort us in all times of need, and we should allow it, as long as it feels safe and comfortable for everyone that is involved.
By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 01/30/2020