Your dog is part of your family. You might even feel Fido is one of the kids. Naturally, when you bring home baby, you want your dog to greet those charming chubby cheeks and tiny toes just like the rest of you do. Still, while human kisses and snuggles are appropriate, it may not be wise to let Fido indulge in baby kissing.
Here are twelve reasons to consider not letting your dog lick your baby.
1. No mouth contact!
This look-at-me behavior is a sign of dominance in Fido. Touching a human with their mouths is also a controlling behavior in some dogs.
No animal should be allowed to exhibit signs of dominance over a child, especially a baby.
It is best to train dogs not to initiate human contact using their mouths. Consistently using the command “no lick” in a firm voice will show the dogs that licking and other mouth contact is unacceptable.
If you are diligent and are able to catch your dog every time that you see them trying to lick your baby, then they will hopefully give up the behavior relatively quickly.
Make sure that you’re not being selective about your commands. If you’re not going to allow your dog to lick your baby’s face, then you shouldn’t allow them to lick yours or anyone else’s face either.
You might feel bad for stopping your dog if you feel like they are just trying to be friendly. But, when it comes to your baby, you should always err on the side of caution.
2. Mother’s instincts
This maternal behavior may be endearing, but consider what could happen if the mothering is taken further.
Dogs don’t treat puppies as we humans treat babies.
They carry them by their heads or necks, nip them when they misbehave, and have no qualms about stepping on them, growling at them, and even snapping or pawing at them to make them behave in a pack-friendly manner.
A dog should never be allowed to treat a human baby as a puppy, including licking its face and bottom, for fear the mothering could extend to dangerous behaviors.
Your dog may mean well, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to your baby’s safety. Your dog should not come to see your baby as their puppy. You need to make it clear that your baby is yours to take care of and to discipline, that it is not your dog’s place to do so.
The best way to do this is to stop such mothering behaviors before they even have a chance to start. Keep your baby away from your dog’s face from day 1, and you shouldn’t run into this problem down the line.
3. Dog’s germs
Not only do animal mouths harbor multiple bacterial strains, but dogs are less hygienic than people.
They eat garbage and feces, and they lick their backsides and genitals. Also, they don’t brush, floss, rinse and spit as religiously as people do.
When your dog licks the baby’s mouth, nose or eyes, potentially harmful bacteria enters the baby’s system. The same happens if the dog licks the baby’s hands or feet, which the baby then sucks on.
Infants and young children have less-developed immune systems and poorer hygiene than older children and adults, so germs that might barely affect a healthy adult could prove serious to babies.
Some people might argue that a child’s immune system can benefit from early exposure to germs. This is true to a certain extent, but nonchalantly exposing them to the germs in a dog’s mouth takes this idea to an unhealthy extreme.
You might never have gotten sick from your dog licking your face, but this doesn’t mean that your baby won’t. Take a day to pay attention to the various things that your dog licks, and you’ll never want their tongue near your baby again!
4. Bacterial threat
While some of the bacteria that thrive in the acidic environment of the human mouth will not survive in the more alkaline mouth of a dog, the opposite is not entirely true.
Dog bacteria will survive in the human mouth.
A 2011 Japanese study revealed that numerous periodontal bacteria, that occur rarely in humans but frequently in dogs, were present in humans that were consistently in close contact with the infected animals.
Such bacteria can lead to aggressive gum disease which can then result in heart trouble, kidney problems and diabetes.
You don’t want your baby exposed to gum-attacking bacteria before the first teeth have even popped out. This can lead to gum, teeth, and health complications for the rest of their lives.
The interesting thing about infants and toddlers is that they are not born with their own unique collection of microbes, called a “microbiome.” Instead, they slowly acquire these microbes by about the age of 3.
If you let your dog near your baby’s face and mouth, then a good portion of their microbiome may end up being composed of harmful bacteria from your dog.
Racoons and other animals which rummage or urinate in areas your dog frequents could transfer the leptospira bacteria to your pup, causing leptospirosis.
This is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transferred from animals to humans.
If infected, dogs and humans suffer kidney impairment or failure, and possibly meningitis. Due to their weaker immune systems, children are the most common victims.
While leptospirosis and some other zoonotic diseases aren’t usually transferred through a lick, it has happened, so why take the chance?
There’s no such thing as being overly cautious. Your dog may be carrying leptospira bacteria without showing any symptoms whatsoever. Don’t assume that a dog is perfectly healthy just because they may not be visibly sick.
Different bacteria affect different species differently. Individuals in the same species may even show different symptoms. One dog might be visibly sick while another can carry the same bacteria and be as happy as always.
Leptospirosis is more common in tropical areas, but can occur almost anywhere, so don’t think you’re off the hook if you live in a cold climate.
This puts them at risk for contracting worms. Some worms, such as roundworms, can be transferred to humans.
It is possible, although rare, for an infected dog to lick its backside or contaminated soil or feces and then lick your baby, which increases your baby’s chance of getting worms.
While worms can be treated, they can also occasionally lead to blindness and other problems in children if not noticed and treated in time. If your child displays symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, or even itching around their rectal area, then you should take them to see a doctor right away.
De-worming the dog regularly and practicing proper hygiene minimize risk. It is particularly important to de-worm new puppies, as this gets rid of worms that the puppy could have acquired in the womb.
You should also make sure that you always check your dog’s backside when they come in from a walk or from being out in the yard. Don’t allow them to come in to the home and risk contaminating surfaces that your child might touch.
7. Fleas and ticks
Animals respond to the discomfort of fleas by licking or biting at their skin.
They then can have flea or tick remains on their tongues which they transfer to the babies through licking.
If the flea or tick is a disease-carrier, known as a vector, the dog has just increased the baby’s chances of contracting the disease.
At the very least, the baby is ingesting bug particles. Regularly treating the dog for fleas and ticks can minimize the risk, as can training the dog not to lick people, especially the baby.
Be on the lookout for if your dog is scratching or biting themselves more than usual, as this can be a big tip-off that they’ve got something. Getting rid of fleas or ticks is trickier than simply giving your dog a bath, but it can be done.
Fleas and ticks will drown in water, but their eggs won’t, and they’ll hatch when your dog is all dried off again. To get rid of them for good you need to pick up some flea and tick shampoo.
You should even consider using the shampoo year-round in order to ward off any new infestations.
8. Waterborne Illnesses
Taking your dog to a local lake and diving in is a great way to have some fun with your pooch while getting exercise for both of you.
Rather than just tossing the ball in and letting them splash after it, dive in with them and apply the principles of Race Fetch to the water.
Just remember to keep your clothes and towel away from the spot your dog will exit the water, because you’ll quickly find a pile of soaked clothes once they shake off.
The only downside to this form of exercise is that your dog may contract a waterborne illness, which can in turn infect you or your baby. Stay away from any body of water that has official hazard postings.
Lakes and rivers can contain many different pathogens. Though most of these pathogens are not life-threatening, they can cause serious stomach problems such as diarrhea and vomiting, and may be especially dangerous to infants.
Pools are an acceptable substitute for lakes, and are much less likely to contain such waterborne pathogens. Just remember that dogs with thicker coats may clog drains and filters in a pool.
9. Strep dangers
Group A strep resides in the animal’s throat and can be transferred to humans by – you guessed it – licking.
Similarly, humans can transfer other strains of strep to dogs, such as streptococcus pneumoniae, a leading cause of bacterial pneumonia.
The animal can then reinfect the original carrier and continue the vicious cycle. Again, this is particularly dangerous for babies and small children with under-developed immune systems.
That’s a heavy price to pay for a few doggy smooches.
Strep is a nasty and painful illness that will make your child very uncomfortable and have you running around trying your best to make them feel better. It’s in everybody’s best interest to simply train your dog not to lick. This will help to keep your dog healthy as well.
As mentioned above, while a healthy dog may not be adversely affected by strep bacteria, puppies, older dogs, and dogs with weaker immune systems can get very sick. They may develop fever, pain, difficulty swallowing, and even pneumonia.
This is especially likely to happen if your dog and your baby keep re-infecting each other.
10. Parasitic illnesses
For example, a highly infectious parasite known as cryptosporidium causes severe diarrhea and a gradual wasting away as the body loses its intestinal cells through the reproductive activity of the organism in the host.
Dogs can also carry many other diseases such as canine herpes, parvovirus, ear mites, giardia, scabies, viral papillomas, and Malassezia Dermatitis.
In some cases, the dog has no symptoms of the parasite, so owners are not seeking treatment. These dogs can transfer the agent to people.
Most humans will not contract the condition from a dog, but immune-suppressed individuals, such as babies, are at risk of becoming severely ill.
Some parasite-related illnesses are very uncomfortable and difficult to treat, so prevention is key.
Preventing such illnesses is simple if you are aware of the dangers and committed to keeping your dog, your baby, and your whole family healthy.
Don’t let these potential illnesses make you feel like your dog can’t be a part of your family. Just make sure to get regular vet check-ups and to take your furry friend in if you ever suspect that they may have something.
11. Behavioral issues
While many pet owners trust their dogs implicitly, care should be taken when a small child or new baby is introduced to the scene.
Previously undetected instincts and behaviors may arise.
Also, dogs read body language differently than humans, and may react uncharacteristically to baby’s movements.
Behavioral changes could include protectiveness or aggressiveness, particularly in an old or territorial animal.
Also, a small child’s squeals, smell or movements could excite a dog. An excitable dog, particularly a young puppy, may move suddenly from enthusiastic licking to playful biting.
This poses a risk of getting bit, possibly causing facial damage or eye trauma.
Dogs are also not immune to jealousy, and may resent it that you’re suddenly giving so much of your time and attention to this new, smelly creature. Make sure that you take the time to lavish a bit of attention on your canine friend, even if your new baby has you all tuckered out.
Just keep your eye out for any of the troubling signs above and be ready to discipline your dog if it shows any ill-will towards your baby.
It’s simply poor manners to allow a dog to kiss people, especially their babies.
You may not know the health condition of everyone your dog licks, and you may be enabling your dog to inadvertently expose immune-compromised families to pathogens.
Even if the person your dog licks is not the baby, the disease can be carried home and shared.
Your dog’s feelings won’t be hurt if they are told “No lick,” and you might save relationships with your two-footed friends and their bundles of joy.
Dogs are amazing that way. They are much less touchy and resentful than people, and simply won’t take offense at being told that they can’t do something.
Just be clear, consistent, and confident in your commands, and your dog will be more than happy to find a new way to greet people.
You don’t have to give in to your dog’s every desire. You are responsible for your dog’s actions, so make sure that you are aware of the fact that not everyone likes dogs, and that even people who love dogs might not appreciate their saliva.