No Dog Germs, Please

Friday, August 27, 2010

Question

My girlfriend has a little dog. Seems like it goes everywhere with her. I saw how close they were and made a point of making friends with this yappy little ball of fluff. The thing that bothers me is, she lets the dog lick her face. A lot. And you know where its tongue has been. Then she wants to kiss me. (My girlfriend, not the dog.) I find this disgusting. She tells me that the dog's saliva is sterile, but I don't see how this can be true. I have asked her to wash her face and brush her teeth before we make out or have sex. If I'm going to "swap spit" with somebody, I want it to be human! She thinks I am being a hygiene freak. I think her dog should learn to keep its tongue in its own mouth. What do you say?

Answer

I don't know very many dog owners who don't exchange kisses with their canine companions. And it is true that dogs lick their own wounds, and their saliva may have some healing properties. But it is far from sterile. If a dog licks its private bits or butt, it picks up all the germs that reside there, and contact with its tongue or mouth transfers those germs. Most (if not all) of the things that make dogs sick will not sicken human beings. Still, it's not a very pleasant thought, if you imagine culturing a dog's tongue and then seeing what grows on the Petri dish.

It sounds like your girlfriend may have fallen victim to "small dog syndrome," a human error by which a little dog is allowed to get away with bad behavior that would never be tolerated in a Rottweiler or other large breed. That could include barking, guarding territory or the owner, snapping or even biting, and generally assuming that the dog is the alpha of the pack. Dogs who become jealous of their owners' romantic attachments are in special need of extra training to adjust to the change in the power hierarchy that ought to govern their world. This is not being mean to the dog; they have evolved as pack animals and need to know where they stand, or they get neurotic. If you want, you can think of this as comforting the dog or taking your rightful responsibility toward it if the word "power" bothers you (or your girlfriend, hint hint).

Do you think you could get her to read a copy of the Monks of New Skete's excellent book, How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend? They make a convincing case for training your dog to understand that you are the alpha. This actually calms the dog down. The dog is not equipped to be the boss. Knowing that a larger and smarter human being will take care of anything problematic is calming to most canines.

Tell your girlfriend that you love her very much and want to kiss her for hours, but only if she makes out with you first. If the dog has gotten a crack at her face, she needs to clean up per your request. I love my cats like crazy, but if I have been petting them, I wash my hands before I have sex. It seems like common courtesy. I would do the same thing if I had been working in the garden or cleaning out the car.

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