Why Such A Lack of Common Sense About Dogs?


I can’t believe what I am seeing in dog food advertisements. Good old Rover is shown licking people on the face, once even licking a child on the lips. This is so disgustingly unhygienic to me that I have to wonder if there is something going on here I don’t know about. Doesn’t the present generation of pet owners understand where else that dog might have been licking moments earlier? Do I have to spell it out?

We all used to know that dogs carry parasites that can be transmitted to humans. By parasites I mean worms. Yes I know that the well-cared for pet dog is routinely wormed and medicated just like children are, but you don’t want any dog licking your child on the lips. The risk is too great. If you don’t believe me, read any straightforward discussion of animal hygiene and note how widespread is the problem of humans getting worms from pets, especially dogs.

I am constantly amazed at people who get so distraught over the idea of using composted dog manure for garden fertilizer but who think it is just so cute when cuddly little Bow-Wow drools all over them. I think the problem traces directly to the lack of experience in husbandry that our present culture suffers from. You can deify or humanize pets if you wish and provide them with luxuries even lots of humans can’t afford, (and then complain about paying taxes to help people on welfare) but in the end, an animal is an animal and it does not think like a human. Dogs have been known to pick up a baby and shake it to death in innocent play.

The kind of society that thinks its okay to let dogs lick children on the lips is the same society that wants to tell farmers how to raise livestock. Granted that some farm practices are unnecessarily cruel to animals and need to be changed, the kind of mind that allows face-licking dogs should be humble enough to listen to what farmers have to say too about animal care. I have dehorned calves, docked lambs, castrated pigs, scraped maggots out of a sheep’s hide, punctured a hole in a bloated cow with a pocketknife to save its life, and watched my wife sew up animal wounds with darning needle and thread. I will be blistered for saying this, but I must stand by my experience. Animal pain and discomfort is not like what humans feel. When you catch a pig to castrate it, it will let loose ungodly squeals and continue to do so as you do the castration. But the split second you let loose of it, the castrated pig quits squealing and RUNS away. Once I took a lamb to the vet to fix a bulging rupture in its groin. He put it to sleep of course, fixed the rupture, and I took the lamb home. A human so operated on— I’ve had two rupture operations myself— would need days to recuperate. I took that lamb out to the pasture, let it loose, and it BOUNDED across the grass as if it were halfway through a beer party.

 We hear much about too much crowding of livestock in buildings and indeed this has become a problem. But the full picture must also be recognized and taken into account. As I write this, my sheep are by their own volition crowded together cheek to jowl in the barn because they feel more comfortable there than slumbering under the trees in today’s cool May breeze out at the pasture’s edge. In winter, even when the temperature drops below zero, they will prefer to sleep outside the barn in the snow. It doesn’t make sense to us but it does to sheep.

Condemn me for what I am trying to tell you if you wish. But before you do, get some experience in the real world of animal husbandry. And please, please, do not let dogs lick you or your child on the lips.


Animals obviously feel pain, but they certainly don’t think about the pain, what caused it, whether it is going to last for days, or whether it is going to ruin their plans to play golf or go dancing next weekend. They don’t worry about what this portends for their future, or spend much time imagining whether the pain could get worse, or if it will heal properly, or if it will leave a scar, make them more ruggedly handsome, or leave them disfigured. They also don’t have to worry whether castration will be covered by medical insurance, or whether it will be considered elective surgery. Animals feel pain just like we do – but they don’t experience it the same way. I am pretty sure of that.

Cesar Milan is an idiot. Dogs lick for a variety of reasons…to taste the salt on skin, to express affection, to clean, to comfort (themselves and others), and some do it just because they like to do it. Some submissive dogs lick faces, but some dominant ones do too.

But now I think we are way off Gene’s point 😀

I guess what I’m wondering is … why the heck kiss a pet? Let ’em lick you mouth? Would you do that at family reunions? But I digress. What are the humans getting out of this? Are the people starved for a slobbery kiss? I reckon the dog is getting the last vestiges of the last meal the human ate. I’ve never seen a dog kiss another dog out of affection. I just found this Contrarian and I’m liking this site already. I’ll bow out now.

    Homegrown, Cesar Millan says that when dogs lick your face it’s a sign of submission. They are acknowledging you as their leader. So he recommends letting them. It’s true, I’ve watched dogs in our neighborhood, and often the more submissive ones will lick the faces of more dominant dogs.

They are just wiping off the tongue. Need it clean for the next taste.

I just had a flash from the now distant past. I seem to remember growing up with the conventional wisdom – and maybe even scientific – that canine saliva had antiseptic properties. If we got cuts or wounds while at the barn or in the field, we intentionally let the dog lick it. It obviously didn’t kill me. As I recall, it did seem to alleviate some of the pain and soreness. There might be some who would argue that there is detectable mental damage but I choose to ignore them.

I must say as a dog lover, first I don’t let my dogs lick (jump on, bite…) anyone and I work on obedience daily. It’s my responsibility to teach my dogs how to navigate the human world. Dogs play complicated roles in our lives. In a harried and disconnected world, I see so many people who use their dogs as anchors, the only real connections that they have. Still no excuse for bad behavior, human or animal.

On another note, I too am about 3/4 of the way through Sanctuary of Trees. And I’m soOoooo glad that you’re working on more books. Gene you’re like a very fine bottle of wine, every book gets better and better. Keep ’em comming!
Love to you and Carol.

Checked with my expert…a vet whom I’ve trusted for decades. Her comment? “Dogs do NOT shed worm eggs in their saliva.”

    This is true. BUT, a lot of parasitic routes are fecal-oral. And dogs do lick themselves in some awkward places and if they did that recently it could transfer to you. Like I said above, the risk is minimal but it is something that should be kept in mind. I have definitely had dogs lick my face before and all is well.

Reblogged this on Traditions & Skills of Every Day Life and commented:
This is so true. Also cats can transmit TB to humans, don’t let them like you or your dishes!

While researching Crohn’s disease recently for a friend, I read of a promising treatment using whip worms, from pigs I believe. That species of worms could not reproduce in the human body so repeated dosages were used. The idea being that Crohn’s is an autoimmune disorder that affects more people in developed countries because we are too clean. People in undeveloped countries with a baseline load of parasites supposedly don’t get Crohn’s disease.

Just something else to muddy the waters. This post promises to be more controversial than chickweed; we’ll get to read lots more here on this subject I’m sure.

“When you catch a pig to castrate it, it will let loose ungodly squeals and continue to do so as you do the castration. But the split second you let loose of it, the castrated pig quits squealing and RUNS away.”

What, exactly, would you expect a human to do in that situation??? How many humans have you castrated as a comparison? I could be wrong, but I suspect you’d see something similar. Though you might not live all that long after your test subjects get their revenge!

    “What, exactly, would you expect a human to do in that situation???” Now there’s a great conversation starter.
    As distressing as it is for me to even consider the event that would lead to the unknown response, running seems like a pretty painful way to react. Extracting revenge might seem suddenly pointless in a world without testosterone poisoning. Proving one’s un-manhood by achieving Alpha eunuch status might also seem not worth the effort. Slinking away whimpering comes to mind. Whatever the response, showing up at the feed trough a couple hours later like nothing ever happened doesn’t seem very probable.
    One thing I feel very confident about is not “ bounding away like you were halfway through a beer party”. Great line Gene.

“but in the end, an animal is an animal and it does not think like a human. Dogs have been known to pick up a baby and shake it to death in innocent play.”

Of course, humans are just animals too, and a lot of them don’t always think “like a human” either. People have also been known to pick up a baby and shake it to death, sometimes in play, sometimes in aggravation. I always think it’s funny when Americans think humans aren’t animals. It’s like when I’m biking to work and people yell at me out their car window, “Do you think you’re a car?” Of course, I say, “No, I think I’m a person on a bike. Do you think you’re a car?” 🙂

And do you think people can’t get diseases from kissing other people? Heck, I get stuff from my kids all the time, and I never kiss them on the lips. We had our dog for 16 years and never got anything from him. I’ve had cats around most of my life and even with frequent scratches, I’ve never gotten anything from them either.

I think people don’t worry about dog kisses because 1) they don’t know about the problems, 2) they think that most of those problems are rare in a dog eating food as processed as most human food, 3) they believe that most of those problems are easily treated (because they are), 4) the dog is a member of the family and you’re more likely to die from a disease from another human member of the family, and 5) recent studies suggest that a wide experience of bacteria as a child protect you from many other disorders (mainly allergies) as an adult.

Widower + dog = some foolishness, but no French kisses or furniture sitting, or sleeping on my bed. Good dog, reasonable owner perhaps a bit over attached to her.

A dog just tore a baby’s legs off here outside of Charleston SC, which killed it. Dogs have become way too prevalent in society today, and owner etiquette has all but disappeared. I was living up in Northern California and everyone brought their dogs out, and most were poorly trained and undisciplined. People let their dog jump on you and follow you around off the leash. WTF. Then there is the worst cross section of dog owners: those who do not euthanize animals after they have bitten people. Once a dog has turned on a person it can no longer be trusted, and most will bite again. A dog bit the cuticle off my thumb and I later learned that it had been passed around between owners like a Canadian nickel. Draw blood and you are gone pup. Our family had four dogs growing up, but the one that turned on my brother was put down immediately. The other three were great pets. Dogs are great, but many owners nowadays are rude and disrespectful, and there kids are usually undisciplined brats too.

I have two things to say- As cool as it would be for the media to encourage us away from constant and complete sterilization in our homes (I subscribe to the notion that a little dirt does a body good), this is probably mostly a symptom of disconnect between civilized culture and the world of dogs rolling around in rotten fish guts. (My dogs favorite place on a hot afternoon is in the tall grass near the cleaning table where I pitch the innards)
Also, I am about 2/3rds of the way through Sanctuary of Trees, and while I am very much enjoying it, I am also wondering whether you intended it to be your last book? I really hope not. It is encapsulative in a way that no other book has been, seemingly written as an end to a long career. Is this something I should not be saying?

    John, no I don’t intend A Sanctuary of Trees to be my last book. Have started on another already. All depends on health. I hope to die writing. Gene

I’m a dog person. Actually, that would be Dog Person. I currently have six dogs in the house. All are trained and companions. Some are working stockdogs that help me manage the livestock. One is a terrier and master rodent killer.

Dogs lick. I personally don’t care to be licked and really don’t like to be licked on the face, not because I worry about germs or worms, but because dogs tend to want try to treat humans like other pack members. I love my dogs, but *I* am the leader, not their play pal and keeping them out of my face is part of gently reminding them who is in charge. Plus the stockdogs can be “face aggressive” as they instinctively bite noses on livestock that threaten them…so sticking your face in a working dog’s is not a good idea.

Do I worry about worms? Never. We’ve not had roundworms in my memory of having dogs (40 years). Tapes we’ve had once or twice and I deworm and that takes care of it. Bacteria? For sure. But I was part of a listeria study with OSU …they came up and tested food, fridge swipes, stuff off our shoes, the laundry and manure. No listeria. No e. coli. Really no dangerous bacteria worth worrying about. I found that quite reassuring as they were particularly interested in my goat’s milk (which we used unpasteurized).

I’m more likely to get sick having lunch at the local diner than from an accidental dog lick.

So, common sense to me is understanding the dog behavior and managing it, but not getting freaked out by minimal risks of worms or germs.

But maybe you were just using this concept to get across the idea of composting dog sh*t?? As nonsensical as that may be, I still think “ick” when considering using dog do in the garden. I just let the dogs spread it in the pastures to fertilize the graze.

Gene, you’re a cool breeze in hell for me and this post proves it once again…
I work for a farm market that sells freezer meats. While I applaud the local food movement and the patrons that are concerned with how their food is raised, one of the most asked questions I get each week is, “Do you raise happy chickens?” It’s not that I don’t understand the context to this question, but it’s the arms length appeasement that is unsettling to me. Because in the end, as the customer glances at the whole chickens they reach for the nondescript boneless skinless breast, and I wonder quietly to myself if this “movement” is just a passing fad.

I think dogs are most unhygenic! Also, I wonder why people don’t realize that they can’t wipe themselves after they poop, then they go into the owners house and sit all over the furniture, etc. They don’t have the courtesy to put their tails down first, so you have dog fecal matter all over the place–ugh! Also, ever notice that when someone pets a dog, there is hair floating in the air? This ends up in the owner’s food, etc. Yuck!

Gene, while I agree with your post in many respects, after forty years in nursing and over sixty dealing with animals, I think animals do experience pain just as we humans do. What I see is instinct overcoming the pain in the flight or fight reflex, as in the two situations you describe. Toddlers in a hospital who are in pain will often seem to be very active, but everything I have seen and read indicates these kids are trying to get away from the pain with their activity. Adults may do the same thing by trying to distract themselves with TV or social activities, but it doesn’t mean they don’t hurt (and if you ask them they will tell you so). Animals just keep going despite the pain, but they often show signs in other ways; they may be irritable, off feed or otherwise show changes in behavior. I’ve seen people who had minor surgery and from their behavior they act as if they were dying, while others who have every reason to cower under the whiplash of severe trauma just get up and go, especially if adrenalin is involved. As for dogs licking people, while I agree that it’s not to be encouraged, a healthy immune system can handle it. Unfortunately there are far too many people these days who have poor immunity from sugar overload, stress, toxins, pollution and unhealthy diets.

As a veterinary student who has just finished up a Parasitology course, I have one word. Yes. There are a multitude of zoonotic parasites that are absolutely disgusting. Yes most animals are dewormed regulary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t minimize the risk. If a dog accidently licks my face am I going to freak out? No, but I don’t invite it up there for a french kiss.

I think there is a lot of confusion from the public when it comes to farming practices, but they do have the best intentions in mind. And I don’t agree 100% with you on the fact that animals and humans experience pain differently. They have all the same nerve endings. Most of the animals we raise for food are prey animals and it was an evolutionary necessity to mask pain to an incredible degree. Birds for example, are amazing at masking painful injuries. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t experiencing pain… it just means that they don’t show as many outward signs. If they did, they would be picked off immediately by predators.

Additionally, things like dehorning/castration/etc are painful but (sometimes) necessary. However, you can do little things like local anesthetic in order to reduce this pain. Why would you do that? One big reason is that animals tend to eat more and fend off disease much better if they are not in pain. When you are castrating and dehorning the animal is in a critical period of growth and possibly immune compromised. I would want to give my animals pain management if it was economically feasible to help both myself and the animal.

Just my two cents, I do like the sentiment of post!

“This is so disgustingly unhygienic to me that I have to wonder if there is something going on here I don’t know about.”

Well. . .what’s going on is that people are amazingly stupid about animals, quite frankly. That’s about it. Most people’s connection with the animal world is now so remote, that people have almost no grasp of it. Dog food commercials are just one example. Indeed, basically a dog will eat, for example, about anything under the sun and they particularly like eating things that are, well, disgusting. Just like they like to roll in disgusting. Anyone who has trailed cattle has seen a dog in delirium enjoying rolling in cattle byproducts, and then eating the same. It’s all part of our glass and steel removal from nature, that’s making us so unhappy.

Perhaps it has something to do with the hygiene hypothesis? The fact that children who have more exposure to parasites and bacteria end up more healthy in the long run than children who are kept clean and away from animals?

Nah, I’m giving the advertisers WAY too much credit.

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