Most dog owners have had the occasional day where their dogs started licking their feet after a long day of work. While some owners love it and find it cute and comforting, other owners may scorn their dog’s behavior and condemn this.
Regardless of if you don’t mind your dog licking your feet or not. The first thing to know is that dogs are not all that common to get sick from licking our feet, and it is generally safe.
Of course, that is true only if we make sure our feet are generally clean and don’t have any known foot fungus, bunions, or plantar warts. That being said, it’s not like the veterinarians recommend it. But they don’t necessarily say it’s a bad thing.
Nonetheless, it’s one of those things with some minor benefits, some small risks, and not a huge purpose. But our dogs love doing anyways. So pet owners must understand why their dogs lick their feet and the possible risks of carrying a disease that gets passed onto their pup.
While it is not super common for dogs to get diseases from licking our feet, there are still risks to carrying harmful bacteria that can be transferred to our dogs from our feet.
Some pet owners may not know that various human diseases can be transmitted to their canine friends.
If we carry a certain parasite, bug, or bacteria, this can get into our canines through our sweat glands when they are licking our feet or unclean hands. Some of the most common diseases that can be passed to our dogs are below.
While it may surprise some owners, dogs actually have the potential to catch the flu. If we are very sick and break out in sweat hives, our dogs may begin to lick our feet and faces leading them to get sick.
They often have many symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, achy muscles, lack of appetite, trembling, fatigue, and a possible fever. As with any flu virus, your pup will, unfortunately, have to ride out the illness.
It is essential to make sure they stay hydrated and keep nutrients in their body. In some cases, some may need a trip to the veterinarian for proper rehydration. While no trip to the vet is fun, this usually is just a simple hydrating IV that goes into the pup to give them their energy back.
Giardia is a common human intestinal parasite coming from dirty tap water, and this can be passed to your pup by their water bowl or by licking excess fluids off your body, such as your feet. Diarrhea and intestinal trouble are the main problems from this parasite, so your vet will probably have to prescribe medication.
Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that is more often than not passed from our dogs to us. However, it is still very possible for our pets to catch Ringworm from us.
In this case, dogs may lick where we have a likely ringworm rash, commonly found on the foot and ankle areas. This will usually need to be treated for both owners and their dogs with an antibiotic ointment. Symptoms of Ringworm in dogs include:
- Hair loss
- Darkened skin
- Ulcerate skin (ringworm rash area)
- Itchiness of rash and excessive crusting
MRSA (Staph Infection)
While it is not too familiar for dogs to get staph infections from humans, it is still possible and comes with many risks. MRSA staph infections have been found on the skin of feet before.
Of course, we hope any sane pet owner would keep this wound covered and free from their pet licking it. Of course, accidents and things happen, and if your feet somehow pass this staph infection onto your dog, it is essential to watch for these signs.
- Skin rash or boils
- Excessive Itchiness (including the rash and or boils)
- Pus blisters
- Scaly skin
- Loss of hair
Other bacteria infections and viruses:
These are, of course, just a typical list of diseases that could potentially be passed from your dog licking your feet. Almost any bacteria or virus that runs through our sweat glands could be transferred to our dogs.
These include the common cold virus, meningitis, mumps, and tuberculosis. We want to keep in mind many of these harsh-sounding diseases are not typical, and again, it is generally safe for dogs to lick their owner’s feet. Just be mindful that your feet are clean, not carrying bacteria, and that you are not sick.
One common reason dogs lick our feet is because we encourage this behavior. Whether consciously or not, owners may want to take a step back and make sure they aren’t unconsciously encouraging their dogs to lick their feet.
Dogs are great at reading subtle behaviors of people. So if you’re showing any enjoyment or affection when they are licking your feet, they are going to continue to do it.
Sometimes dogs can become obsessive. A few ways to get them to stop licking are below.
Distract them with toys
Sometimes our dogs and especially pups, are easy to distract. Use a toy to throw it away from their feet or wave it in front of their face.
Sometimes dogs lick our feet for attention. Scented toys like bacon balls or jerky-flavored toys will get your pup’s attention.
Walk Away from them
We know it is hard sometimes to put our pets down and to the side, especially when they are puppies. And our dogs hate to be ignored.
So they will eventually engage in other behaviors besides licking your feet. Sometimes walking away from our dogs is the best way to train them because they will realize they aren’t getting their desired attention.
Train with clicker
Using clicker is a great way to teach dogs about positive and negative reinforcement of behavior. This method works best when done right.
Especially if your pup’s licking has become excessive and uncontrollable, if your dog licks your foot, don’t use the clicker and don’t give them treats.
Try to get them to engage in other things. When they start to do other activities that aren’t licking your feet, use the clicker and treat them. Eventually, they will associate licking your feet with not getting treats, which will be a behavior they avoid.
Dogs are known to be constantly licking all over their owners. Usually, we love it, and it’s pretty cute, but sometimes it does get incessantly annoying.
Dogs naturally have strong scents and tastes of smell to process their external world, provoking them to lick and sniff more.
This desire for them to process their world, including the owner, is part of the reason you can catch them licking your feet. Check out below to see the most common reasons why dogs tend to lick our feet.
Way to Love and Affection
Dogs are naturally submissive. As their owner, you are the number one person they look to and respect.
A research study has shown that dogs use licking to express affection and care in relationships the same way humans use kissing and communication. Another experiment showed that when dogs were around other dogs, they licked each other to foster bonds.
This is a natural evolutionary behavior passed on from wolves and often what dog moms do to comfort their pups. So even if you don’t like when your dogs lick your feet, be kind about condemning them because it comes from a place of love. They try to show honor and respect in the best ways they know how and sometimes, as weird as it is, that is licking our feet.
Anxiety or Stress can lead to excessive licking.
A naturally learned trait that pups learn from their mothers is to be soothed through licking. When they feel anxious or stressed, they might lick your feet or anything in general, including their paws, to relieve themselves.
Sometimes, when dogs lick your feet, it may be because they feel stressed, which is their way of expressing it to you and trying to soothe themselves. If your pups licking of your feet or anything, in general, becomes too excessive, it may be good to go to the veterinarian.
They like the scent
We know it’s gross. But dogs actually love the scent and moisture of our sweaty feet. This scent is further amplified if we happen to have an athlete’s foot.
Pleasure hormones get released from this and also because they think of it as bonding. Dogs have an additional organ for senses compared to humans.
This is called the Jacobson’s organ and connects the roof of their nasal cavity to their mouth. This organ enables them to gather more information at once through multiple ways of sensory processing (taste and smell).
So, in general, it isn’t totally unsafe for your dogs to lick your feet. While it may be an odd but common thing your pup loves to do, vets don’t necessarily recommend it.
Feet come with their own set of risks and bacteria. So to prevent diseases and harmful infections, make sure your feet are clean and healthy if your dog does lick your feet on the norm.