Canine Behavior/dog licks

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Question
there is a Shish Tui dog in my neighborhood who I have 'hit it off' with....basically I'm the only one who lets him lick me.
This dog , thouugh, somehow his licks gravitate to my eye sockets.....I keep my eyes tightly closed when he does that, but why do some dogs like to lick near the eye sockets?
I heard that he is a very friendly, people-person dog.
Another Shish Tsu in the neighborhood doesn't do that & I have a great rapport with that dog also

Answer
That's a good question. I can't tell you for absolute certain why some dogs gravitate toward the eyes or ears while licking a person (or other dog). But my guess is because there are interesting smells or flavors in those areas. Eyes create tears, which are salty. Dogs are attracted to salty flavors and so it's reasonable that they would find the eyes a source of interesting flavors.

Some people believe that dogs sniffing ears (or your fingers after you've been scratching in their ears) are checking for infection. That's probably true, along with just finding it an interesting smell. Every orifice in the body (eyes, ears, mouth, nose, genitals) produce smells of various kinds and some dogs find those smells particularly enticing while others are not as interested.

It is not a breed-specific behavior (being drawn to lick one particular body part). It's as individual as taste for certain foods is in humans. Example: I love sushi and would eat it 3 times per week if I could. My sister finds even the thought of eating sushi repulsive. We share DNA as we have the same parents. We were raised in the same house. But we have vastly different tastes when it comes to foods, flavors and textures. This is true in the dog world as well. Though both dogs in your neighborhood are Shih Tzu's, they are as individual as my sister is from me.

Another potential, which may or may not hold for this particular dog, is that the licking begins at your mouth or cheek and just in the excitement of the activity, the dog's licks become longer strokes and the dog sort of meanders around the face to get new (dry) skin and so ends up at the eyes every time.

I have one dog who often ends a lick-fest at one of my eyes (the last lick). My previous dog would give a single lick, and it often was directed at an eye. Between the naturally occurring tears and the "sleep" goop that people develop in their eyes, my guess is that it's an interesting smell that draws some dogs to taste it - maybe because they like the flavor. Maybe because they are checking the health status of the individual. Maybe they're just trying to clean you. Or maybe they like the reaction they get when they lick there - giggles and cuddles and more happy interaction. Often these behaviors become learned precisely because the dog happened to do it once, but really enjoyed the reaction he got when he did it and so he continues to do it whenever the opportunity presents so that he can get that same reaction again and again....

I know I haven't provided you with any kind of definitive response, but I hope thi hypothesizing has helped provide some possible insights into this particular dog's motivation.

Please feel free to followup if I can be of further asssistance.

Jody Epstein, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behavior Specialist
http://NutzAboutMutz.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.

Experience

I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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