Dogs display many behaviors that we, as humans, find hard to understand. Dogs and humans may not communicate using words; however, the two species do understand one another to a certain extent. Dogs are intuitive, perhaps more so than humans, so why does my dog lick my tears when I cry?
When your dog licks your tears, he is most likely showing you empathy. Of course, he may just like the salty taste, but that is not likely. Licking is both an innate and learned behavior in dogs, and they lick for various reasons. Beginning at birth, they learn licking is a way to express love and care for another.
This article will explore the reason your dog is licking your tears and delve into a dog’s ability to be empathetic and shed their own tears.
Why Dogs Lick People
Dogs lick just about everything they can get their tongue on, especially their owners. Dogs begin to learn licking behaviors as soon as they are born through their mother. According to Dr. Megan Maxwell, knowing why your dog is licking you depends on the situation (source).
Your dog may enjoy licking the water on your skin as you come out of the shower or lick you because your body lotion makes you smell good.
Licking is also a sign of affection and love. For instance, a mother dog licks her young puppies to encourage their nervous system to both defecate and urinate until their systems can do this without help.
A puppy will see licking as a sign of love and caregiving. The mother dog’s licking carries over into the way the puppy interacts with their owner. Not only are they showing you their affection, but they are also receiving a sense of security and comfort by licking you.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Face?
Licking another’s face is a dog’s normal social behavior, whether it is another animal or their owner. The licking may be an attempt to appease the one they are licking and show social deference.
While it was once a way to seek food — puppies would lick their mother’s mouth until they regurgitated the food — it became a greeting. Even among wild dogs, pack members welcome each other home by licking their faces.
Your dog may lick your face to show their affection for you, or they may be grooming you. You may also have a tasty morsel of food left on your face after having finished a meal.
Do Dogs Like the Salt in Human Tears?
If you are a dog owner, the first thing that will come to your mind when your dog licks your tears is how sweet they are kissing them away. In some way, this is true. Licking is a sign of affection. However, your dog may also simply like the taste of the salt.
Like humans, dogs have taste buds. The taste buds are found on the top surface of the tongue, the roof of the mouth, and the back of the mouth where the throat begins. The number of taste buds determines sensitivity. For example, a human has 9,000 taste buds to a dog’s 1,700 taste buds. Humans win taste sensitivity hands down (source).
Humans and many other species as well practically hunt for salt. Humans need salt to balance our diet, and not much salt is found in fruits and vegetables, so we go elsewhere to find it.
However, dogs are omnivores, with wild dogs leaning more toward carnivores. Meat has a high salt content, so dogs typically do not crave sodium.
Dogs have taste receptors for sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, plus one other sensor for meats, fats, and chemicals related to meat. Dogs, therefore, prefer the taste and flavor of meat in general.
Dogs also have a taste bud for water; they have this in common with cats, which resides on the tip of their tongue where they curl it to drink. Dogs can taste water, which is essential as they can become dehydrated quickly, especially in the wild, due to the high salt content in meat.
Are Dogs Empathetic?
Dogs are very empathetic animals and in tune with not only their owner but other humans as well. Two researchers, Dr. Deborah Custance and Dr. Jennifer Mayer from Goldsmiths College in London, experimented on whether dogs felt empathy when their owners were distressed.
The experiment tested 18 dogs and owners in their residential homes. There was always one stranger the dog did not know who sat six feet apart from the owner, and they both engaged in various activities.
The purpose was to determine if a dog responded to their owner’s tears. If the dogs responded to the owner’s tears, the dog was showing empathy.
During the test, 16 dogs responded to human tears, and, surprisingly, not just to their owner. If the stranger was crying, the dog would soothe them much like they did their owner.
The two researchers concluded that dogs are indeed empathetic. They have the same emotional level of a three-year-old human child.
Do Dogs Shed Tears?
Dog owners want to believe their dog is able to cry tears of sadness. However, that is one thing they do not have in common with humans. Dogs do not cry when they are sad but rather engage in other behaviors when upset or stressed. However, there are reasons you may see tears in your dog’s eyes.
Your dog may have allergies that cause their eyes to water. Blocked tear ducts are another reason you may see tears coming from their eyes. They may have an eye infection, a scratched cornea, or a speck of dirt or dust in their eye (source).
Dogs share so many emotions with humans and are highly empathetic. They feel happiness, joy, sadness, grief, and not just their own, but that of their owners.
They are always happy to see us and are ready to comfort us when we are in need. Dogs are empathetic not only to their owners but also to other humans when they are crying.
Dogs lick for many reasons, the salt in our sweat makes us tasty, but one of the biggest reasons is to show affection. Their mother licks them as a form of caretaking and affection. Your puppy takes what he has learned from his mother and transfers it to you, his new caregiver and companion.
Dogs love their humans unconditionally. When their owners cry, tears are not the only indicator of distress. Dogs know when we are sad. They want to comfort us.
They lick us because they have learned licking themselves is soothing, and they feel better. Licking is one way your dog shows you their infinite love and compassion.