A dog’s tongue: Yucky but useful

I’m just going to say it. I don’t like getting “kissed” by Teddy, our 8-year-old Lab.

I intensely dislike his big, sloppy tongue upside my head when he’s demonstrating his affection or when he wants to interrupt what I’m doing so I will focus on him. He sometimes licks my knees.

I know. Many of you love to be showered with those types of kisses from your four-legged pals, but I didn’t like it as a kid when our Miniature Schnauzer did it and I don’t like it now. To use a technical term, it’s yucky.

That said, Teddy’s tongue is amazing. It is an elongated muscular organ that plays an important role in how he interacts with his world. So, going beyond the “yuckiness,” here’s a brief primer on this amazing part of his anatomy.

As a pup, Teddy learned to use his tongue to communicate and interact with the world around him.

His mother used her tongue to clean and stimulate him when he was first born. She also licked him to prompt him to urinate and defecate.

As veterinarian Kasey Stopp at petmed.com writes, “With wild dogs, puppies lick their elders to communicate submissiveness, but also to induce the regurgitation of food that the older pack members ingested while hunting. Pups will lick one another to show affection and also to comfort themselves and their littermates.”

Teddy licks all of us to show his affection, but my husband Ed, his fearless leader, gets the lion’s share of it. And, believe me, I’m not the least bet jealous.

We’ll even catch Teddy licking our cat Pip once in a while, showing us he kinda, sorta likes his little feline brother.

Stopp says Teddy also uses his tongue to better smell what piques his interest, communicate anxiety or combat an upset tummy – almost like us using our hands to explore our world through touch.

Our Lab will thoroughly lick furniture, floors, you name it, if something strikes his fancy.

And he’s OK with Pip, as long as the cat isn’t getting attention. When Teddy sees me playing with Pip, he finds one of his toys and tries to entice me to play with him. When that doesn’t work, he’ll lie down and start licking his toy – one look at him and you can see he’s not happy.

When it comes to eating, Teddy has always had a sensitive stomach. When he’s licking and not devouring something, we know his system is off.

Teddy’s tongue also helps him stay cool. When he pants, air travels over his tongue and through his mouth and lungs, helping moisture evaporate. And since Teddy’s fur is black and this color absorbs more light, which converts into heat, he pants more than a lighter colored dog.

In warmer weather when Ed takes Teddy for walks, he watches for excessive panting and gets him to a cooler location if necessary.

Learning about how and why Teddy uses his tongue has given me a different perspective on his tongue and licking.

But I’m still glad he licks Ed more than me.

Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached at spicerkarin@gmail.com.


No, this is a myth. A dog’s licking can remove dirt and debris from in and around a wound, but a dog’s saliva contains bacteria that are normal flora in canine mouths but can cause dangerous infections in human wounds.

Source: www.petmd.com

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