When we are injured, it is normal to want to be with our dogs for comfort and companionship. Cuddling them is a guaranteed way to lift our spirits. But sometimes, our dogs take it upon themselves to try and help. One such behavior is the habit of licking our wounds when they see or smell them. But why do they do this, and should we even allow it? Let’s find out!
So, why does my dog lick my wounds? Your dog licks your wounds as a way to show care for you as a member of its pack. A dog’s natural instincts when injured are to lick at the injury in an attempt to clean and care for the wound. Dogs will do this to people they care about. Although, it could be that your dog likes the taste and wants more of it!
If you have had this happen to you, you are probably wondering why your dog would be interested in licking your wounds.
Besides, it seems kind of gross to you and me.
Especially if it’s bleeding heavily or there is pus!
But dos are not so particular.
And there are reasons and benefits of this behavior, as we will find out in the following sections.
And do keep reading.
We’ll be exploring whether it’s dangerous for a dog to do so and some practical ways of stopping it.
Why Do Dogs Lick Human Wounds?
Dogs lick human wounds mostly out of instinct. Just as they would lick wounds of their own, they feel a draw to lick the wounds of humans they consider to be part of their pack. Also, some dogs may actually like the taste of the salt and other minerals found in blood and around wounds.
Let us now explore each one a little further:
To Support Healing
When a dog injures itself, it will lick at the wound to stop bleeding and attempt to heal the wound. This may or may not be successful, depending on the injury.
However, instinctually dogs don’t just care for themselves.
All dogs, even ones that are raised as pets, have a pack mentality which means they are designed for living and caring for each other in groups.
In a pack, there is a clear hierarchy between pack members.
Members lower in rank may attempt to care for dogs above them.
As such, your dog may attempt to care for you by licking any wounds it sees or smells.
For The Taste
Another reason dogs may lick human wounds is because of the salt and trace minerals in human body fluid, especially blood.
Dogs have a different taste palette and also different preferences for flavor.
A dog that enjoys the taste of the fluids found around a wound will be more likely to lick at the wound.
Your dog likely does not lick a wound to be annoying or rude.
It is simply acting the only way it knows how when it spots an injury on a family member.
Is It Good For A Dog To Lick Your Wounds?
While there are some studies that show a dog’s spit has antibacterial properties, it is still not a good idea to let a dog lick your wounds. An innocent lick here and there by a well-meaning pooch isn’t going to cause most injuries a serious problem. However, excessive wound licking can irritate the skin around your injury, introduce bacteria, and slow healing.
In ancient times a dog was often encouraged to lick at a human’s wounds.
People had observed dogs that licked their own wounds and had success with the healing of injuries. They then believed that a dog’s lick could help heal their own cuts and scrapes.
But in time, and as our knowledge and understanding of bacteria, hygiene and recovery have improved, this is now not something we should actively promote.
Here is why.
Risk Of Introducing Bacteria
It is true that dog spit has some antibacterial properties, but for just about every bacteria dog saliva prevents from infecting a wound, it introduces a different one.
The potential disinfecting benefits of a dog’s lick can not compare with modern-day antibacterial soaps and medicines.
If you have a wound that needs cleaning, you are much better off washing it with typical hand soap than letting a dog lick the surface of your injury.
Risk Of Further Irritation/Damage
A dog’s tongue is not entirely smooth.
The rough texture can pull at scabs and tissue around the wound, leaving it irritated and painful.
In order to heal, wounds need to be left alone to scab over, and the skin needs rest to repair.
Once your dog has started licking a wound, it is likely to try and continue licking the injury. This will only serve to irritate the wound and make it take longer to heal.
Dogs who excessively lick their own wounds often cause themselves problems.
This is why you see dogs wearing the notorious “cone of shame” – or Elizabethan collar – around their heads after a medical procedure.
A lick from their tongue is only helpful to a certain extent.
If your dog does find that you have a cut or scrape and gives it a gentle lick or two, don’t panic.
While we don’t recommend encouraging your dog to lick your injuries, one or two swipes of their loving tongues aren’t going to cause much damage.
If you notice your dog licking at your wound, simply move away, wash the wound with soap and water, and bandage the injury.
If you have a dog that is trying to lick every scrape you get, you may want your dog to stop paying so much attention to your injuries. Let’s talk about how to prevent your dog from licking your wounds.
How To Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Wounds
The best way to prevent your dog from licking your wounds is to keep your wounds covered with a sterile bandage. You can also prevent a dog from licking your wounds by making sure they sit and lie on the opposite side of your body from any noticeable cuts and scrapes. If your dog is persistent about licking your wounds, you can train them to a command such as “all done,” where your dog stops their current activity when they hear your command.
Protecting The Wound
By covering your wounds with a band-aid or clean gauze, you not only discourage the dog from licking the wounds, but you also protect the wound from any bacteria an unexpected lick may introduce.
Keeping wounds covered and well cleaned is the best hygiene for an injury, even when a dog is not present.
If your bandage is clean and covers your injury well, your dog will become less interested in licking it.
Protecting the parts of your body that are injured from coming in contact with your dog may mean having your dog only rest and cuddle on your uninjured side.
If your dog cannot access your wound, it cannot lick it. Also, if your dog is far away from your wound, they may not notice it and feel as inclined to lick at your injury.
Finally, if you have a dog who is persistent in his attempts to lick your cuts or scrapes, you can try to use the “all done” command to discourage the behavior.
All training is best done under the care of a certified dog trainer. However, you can usually teach the “all done” command easily at home.
To teach this command, you may want to put your dog on a leash.
Let your dog start showing interest in an activity or item. Then say firmly but kindly, “All done!” and give your dog’s leash a gentle pull away from the item.
As soon as your dog changes their interest away from what they were doing, reward the dog with a treat. You may also reward them by giving them a favored toy to chew on.
Over time, whenever you say “All done!” your dog will stop what it is doing and change activities.
It associates changing its behavior with a positive reward. This means if your dog begins to lick at your wounds, you can say, “All done!” and they will be more likely to switch to a more desirable activity.
This training takes time and patience but may be worthwhile for a stubborn wound licking dog.
As you have read, dogs often lick wounds in an attempt to care for themselves and others.
It’s just one of the many things they do.
At least at first.
But you will get there eventually.
When it comes to licking wounds specifically, they don’t mean for this behavior to lead to further problems, but it certainly can.
A gentle lick to a scrape now and then is unlikely to cause you problems, but excessive licking or the licking of large wounds can cause skin irritation and lead to infection.
It’s not something you really should allow.
Thankfully, you can prevent your dog from licking your wounds by keeping them covered and, if necessary, training them to stop licking on command.
That would be the approach to take.
And do stock up and apply germolene instead.
That’ll prevent any infection and ensure your wound repairs promptly.
So do buy some – from Amazon is probably easiest 👇
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.