Dogs use their tongues to pant, lick, lap, taste, and just hang out. It’s a remarkable muscle that’s put to good use from the moment a dog is born.
Here are a few doggie ‘tongue’ uses and other interesting facts:
Licking: A newborn pup is licked by its mother to stimulate breathing and other bodily functions, and it’s how she cleans them after birth. Very young pups will lick their mother’s face and lips so she will regurgitate food for them (this behaviour stems from wild ancestry when a mother would carry food in her stomach rather than drag it back to the den).
As they grow older, puppies lick to groom themselves and their pack mates, which increase the bond among dogs in a pack. A subordinate member of a pack will lick a more dominant member in order to maintain pack harmony, according to the experts. Call it the pecking order…
Licking as an emotional response: Licking releases endorphins for dogs and gives them a feeling of comfort and relief from stress. If a dog chronically licks itself it could be because it is bored, anxious, has skin problems (often caused by allergies), or it could be in pain. Make sure your dog has enough stimulation, and you can rule out any infections or allergies by a visit to the vet.
When your dog licks you it is expressing its affection for you. It also means it likes the taste of salt on your skin. It is important to realize that dogs learn to lick humans as a habit, especially if their licks are met with a positive response. If licking becomes excessive and you want your dog to lick less, the experts suggest leaving the room after your dog licks you, to teach your dog that licking means you leave the room. Or if your dog starts licking you when you pet it, stop the petting and walk away.
By the way, the most slobbery and biggest lickers among dog species are labs and retrievers. In contrast, the sighthounds, such as greyhounds, afghan hounds, whippets, etc., are the breeds least likely to lick.
Allowing your dog to lick your mouth is probably not a good idea. You don’t know where the dog’s mouth has been, and contrary to popular thought a dog’s saliva is not antiseptic. Dogs will lick themselves to heal superficial wounds but their saliva can still carry bacteria that may be harmful to humans.
Panting: Did you know that panting is how dogs cool down? Dogs sweat only through their paw pads and noses, so panting is the primary way they cool down. When a dog is hot its respiration rate increases and it begins panting. The cool down happens because water evaporates as air flows into the mouth, lungs and nasal passages of the panting dog. It requires large amounts of water so that is why dogs are often thirsty after they pant.
Taste: Did you know that dogs have far fewer taste buds than humans? Their taste buds are primarily set on the tip of their tongue and, like people, they can taste bitter, salty, sweet and sour flavours. But smell is far more important to dogs than taste. If it smells good it will likely be gobbled up.
Here are some random dog tongue facts:
- The bigger the mouth the larger the tongue
- Dog saliva helps prevent canine cavities
- Cuts on a dog’s tongue will bleed profusely but heal quickly
- Over 35 dog breeds are prone to having spotted tongues
- Dogs curve their tongues backwards into a ladle shape to lap water.
So there you have it. The next time your dog licks you, pants, or laps water you will know that its tongue is a wondrous thing with many uses.
Sources and more reading: