Lick, Lick Dog
In my early days of dog training, I commented to a fellow class member that if aliens landed on Earth and the first dog they saw was my Harry, then they would call his species a “Lick, Lick”.
Like all dogs, Harry loves licking, often rudely from our viewpoint. However, setting aside squeamishness, a dog’s tongue is part of its body language, it’s one of the ways in which Harry communicates with me.
I’ve learnt to interpret five distinct licks:
Small, rapid licks under my chin: These are submissive licks, the same as a puppy or lower rank dog gives a dominant dog. Harry is acknowledging my place above him in the pack
Long, fast licks, where his tongue laps his nose: Harry has enjoyed something really tasty – typically a treat with his dinner
Long, slow licks, where his tongue runs from 10 to 2 o’clock across his muzzle: Harry has enjoyed something tasty again, but this time he found it under a bush on our walk
Full, slow licks of my arms or legs: These are the simplest to interpret – Harry is savouring my salty sweat.
But always remember to wash after a licking. A dog’s tongue is not hygienic — and you can never be sure what he or she last licked!
© 2007 Robert Fairhead
This article appeared in the Village Voice Eastern-Harbourside in January 2007 and in my dog club newsletter, PawPrints, in 2008. The trick for getting Harry to lick for the photo was to hold a teaspoon of honey just out of sight of the camera, above his nose!
Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of a middle-aged dad and dog owner. Robert Fairhead is writer and editor at Tall And True, an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers. His book reviews and other writing have appeared in various print and online media. And he has published two collections of short stories, Both Sides of the Story (2020) and Twelve Furious Months (2021).