If you are unable to remove your socks without taking a good doggy lick on the big toe, you have probably wondered: Why do dogs like to lick our feet so much? And the truth is that there are several reasons.
Your dog knows when you cheat: science says so
First, your dog has an incredible sense of smell, and it uses its snout to gather information from its environment. And that, human or human, includes you. An elegant system of doggy olfactory engineering, which you learn to value even more when you read Being to Dog: Following the Dog into to World of Smell (something like Being a dog: entering the world of smell with the dog), from Cognitive Science Professor Alexandra Horowitz, and Director of the Canine Cognition Laboratory at Barnard University (Columbia).
In this book, Horowitz explains that your dog’s smell is associated with other common canine behaviors, such as licking. That is, those licks on your feet are related to smell. In fact, dogs (like other animals, such as felines, whose refined sense of smell explains why dogs cats prefer to drink tap water) have a second olfactory system, called the vomeronasal organ (or Jacobson’s organ) on the palate.
This system, or second nose, connects your dog’s nasal cavity with his mouth, allowing him to taste and smell at the same time. And that’s exactly what it does with your feet: when it smells, your furry comrade picks up the scents from the air; but this sensitive vomeronasal organ can detect the taste of molecules absorbed by the tissues.
In other words, with these licks, they collect much more information from their environment, “and dogs have a huge instinct to analyze us, that is, to gather information from the humans with whom they share life,” says Horowitz. [Aquí te contamos por qué deberías dejar a tu perro olisquear tranquilamente durante los paseos.]
No, your dog doesn’t care if your feet smell bad
Other times what attracts your dog to your feet is your body odor, explains veterinarian and ethologist Sandra Portals: “The feet tend to have a more intense body odor than other parts of the body, so they find it interesting,” she explains.
They may even find some satisfaction in that taste. When we have sweaty feet, they contain a higher concentration of salts (normal, when we sweat), which can be interesting for your furry friend: “That more intense smell, simply, attracts more attention; and it is even probable that they it tastes good “, says the canine ethologist.
Don’t you care if they smell bad? Not really. In fact, there is no such thing as an “unpleasant odor receptor” in the canine brain. It may be gross for you to think about sucking on smelly feet, but for your dog those feet are packed with information, and it tells them a lot about you.
In other barks: For your dog, these licks are simply a great way to gather information about his human or favorite human in the world.
Why does your dog lick your feet? It is also affection!
Still, there are more explanations for those doggy licks. “And one of them is that they also lick their feet as a sign of affection, just as they do with different parts of the body,” says Portals. Or, quite the opposite: other times, they do it because they are a little nervous, and licking relaxes them. “In the same way that it can give them to lick their paws, other times they lick your feet,” adds the veterinarian.
And get your attention!
And, no doubt: when your dog licks your feet, what he also gets is your attention. It is not strange: those licks make you laugh or give him some extra caresses. Even if they bother you, and you ask your dog to stop, your friend has gotten some attention (and that’s better than nothing). “In fact, as a demand for attention, dogs can lick not only our feet, but any part of the body,” says the veterinarian.
How to keep your dog from licking your feet? Try a licking blanket!
If every time you take off your sock, your furry comrade licks his feet with you, you might find this fun. Or that it simply doesn’t bother you or you don’t care. But what to do if this is not the case, and you would like your dog not to lick your feet, at least so insistently?
If you live with a very persistent hairy foot licker, the ideal is to offer an alternative behavior, and that is more interesting than your big toes, like a toy. Doggy great idea? Try licking blankets (sometimes called lickimat).
These types of silicone blankets are designed to suck. In them you can place their favorite tin or the wet food that they like the most, well crushed. “These types of toys make them not suck our feet, but suck their tasty silicone blanket; and on top of that we have them entertained!”, Concludes Portals.