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, 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.
Obsessive licking of his body: This lick may indicate an injury, in the case of a paw, a likely infected claw – if a saline wash and sock do not stop the licking, then it’s off to see the Vet.
Long, fast licks, where his tongue laps his nose: Harry has enjoyed something 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 dog walk.
Full, slow licks of my arms or legs: These are the simplest to interpret – Harry is savouring my salty sweat.
Dog Body Language
One of the benefits of dog training is that you learn to observe your dog. Doing so helps you recognise its body language and thus communicate with your Lick, Lick Dog.
But always remember to wash after a licking. A dog’s tongue is not hygienic — and you can never be sure what they last licked!
© 2007 Robert Fairhead
This article appeared in the Village Voice Eastern-Harbourside in January 2007 and in my dog club newsletter. 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 also a writer and editor at the Tall And True writers' website, and he writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast. In addition, his book reviews and other writing have appeared in various print and online media, and he's published three collections of short stories. Please contact Robert for further details.