Despite thousands of years of domestication, there’s a lot we don’t know about dogs. Sure, we understand their basic needs and have tons of information about giving them a happy home. But when it comes to oddball canine behavior habits?
Dogs can be quite the enigma!
Your furry friend does all kinds of things that can have you scratching your head in confusion. For the most part, those quirks are innocent enough.
You might look at your dog funny and let them go about their day.
But what happens when those strange habits take a rather disgusting turn?
There’s no doubt that you’ve seen your dog do gross things. One of the most common practices that can turn your stomach is watching your dog lick anothers’ urine.
Urine-licking is something many dog owners see when going for daily walks.
Your pup might stop by a piddle puddle or even stick their nose in a damp grass spot.
Whatever the case may be, it’s undoubtedly a behavior that gets many dog owners worried. So, why do dogs do that, and should you be worried?
Understanding Canine Urine Tasting
Let’s break down some misconceptions about this strange habit.
The most important thing you need to remember here is that this phenomenon is entirely normal to dogs!
I know what you’re thinking: It’s gross and not something you want you ever see again.
While it might be a little crude by human standards, it’s perfectly reasonable for dogs. In fact, it’s one of the ways they gather information about other dogs and their surroundings.
Let us explain:
You already know that dogs have a powerful sense of smell. They sniff everything they can to gather as much information about the world as they can.
In doing so, they can stay alert and aware at all times.
You can blame their strange affinity for trash and other strong odors for their love of all things smelly! But when it comes to urine, things are a little deeper.
Canines use a unique biological function to learn about whatever dog left that urine behind.
Experts believe that the vomeronasal organ is to blame. Also known as the Jacobson’s organ, the vomeronasal organ is part of your dog’s olfactory system.
It works alongside their ordinary sense of smell. However, the vomeronasal organ also acts as a receptor for semiochemical signals.
Without getting too deep into the biological sciences, it essentially picks up moisture-borne odor particles and pheromones.
Curiously, some humans have a vomeronasal organ! However, it’s undeveloped and non-functional.
Many still debate this organ’s function for early humans. However, we know that canines and other animals have a functioning vomeronasal organ that they use pretty frequently.
So, where is this mysterious organ that’s somehow causing your dog to lick pee?
It’s near the arms of the vomer bone, which is a plow-shaped structure that divides the nasal cavity. The entry to the organ is just behind the upper incisors on the roof of the mouth.
The Flehmen Response in Dogs
Ever see the famed Flehmen response from your dog?
It’s that somewhat dumbfounded look that mammals make when utilizing the vomeronasal organ. You’ve probably seen it before without realizing what was happening.
When your dog uses the organ, they curl the tongue up to the roof of the mouth and inhales.
They usually freeze in place, making a funny face in the process!
It almost looks like they’re savoring the taste. However, what your dog is actually doing is decoding the information.
Your pooch will lap up the urine, press their tongue onto the entrance of the vomeronasal organ, and read the information from it.
Think of it as using every available source on the Internet to find information about a person.
As humans, we might use everything from Google to social media platforms. However, dogs can get it all from that vomeronasal organ.
Some compare this act to reading an unspoken language that humans don’t understand.
Your dog is getting tons of data in a split second. But to us? It just looks like some gross pee-licking habit!
Other Potential Reasons for Canine Urine Licking
Most dogs lick to learn about other canines. But, that’s not the only reason why you might see this behavior. The following factors can play into your dog’s urges, too.
Believe it or not, dehydration could be to blame.
When your pooch can’t get enough hydration, its survival instincts will go through the roof. You might see them attempting to lap up any form of moisture they can.
That includes urine!
Hopefully, your dog never gets to that point. Always make sure that water is available around the clock. It’s not uncommon for newer dog owners to forget the basics.
Don’t let yourself fall into the habit of not filling up your dog’s water bowl. Without hydration, no animal can survive.
Of course, other issues can cause dehydration, too.
Many health conditions will cause problems with water retention. Even if you provide water daily, you might not realize how quickly your pup went through it.
No matter the cause, bring your dog to the vet for some medical assistance.
Urinary Tract Infections
UTIs are more common in dogs than most people think.
Symptoms can vary wildly. Some pups will urinate more frequently. Others will cry out in pain when they pee!
You might also see blood, discharge, and all kinds of other signs.
One overlooked symptom is urine licking.
UTIs can force dogs into thinking they need more water. It’s not necessarily linked to dehydration, but it can certainly be a byproduct of the infection.
Instead, the urge to drink more is about thirst levels.
Your dog could be perfectly hydrated, but the condition is causing them to turn to drastic measured to satiate their need for more.
Issues around heat season are more likely to plague males dogs than females. Furthermore, those who aren’t neutered are more prone to urine-licking.
The problem here is all about pheromones.
Females release potent pheromones whenever they’re in heat. Your male dog might detect those scents in the urine they leave behind.
Dogs can be calm and collected one minute and heat-crazed the next. All it takes is a whiff of those pheromones to send male dogs into a tizzy!
Not only will they lick the area and any remaining urine, but they might rub their face in and roll around. Some male dogs will also start humping things or drooling heavily.
Finally, your dog might turn to urine because of behavioral problems.
Canine minds are just as complex as humans’. They can experience a wide range of emotions and even develop mental issues.
For example, dogs often develop anxiety. Some can also experience symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression.
Any of those conditions can cause urine-licking and other oddball actions.
Some might develop an affinity for urine at a young age, leading to weird behavioral issues well into adulthood.
In some instances, the action is a product of their training.
Dogs can lick up their urine to hide accidents from owners. They fear the punishment and will do what they can to clean up the mess.
There are many possible links for urine licking. If you’re unable to find the root cause, consider speaking with your vet or a behavioral therapist for assistance.
Related read: Why Your Dog Drools Around the New Puppy
Is it Dangerous for Your Dog to Lick Another Dog’s Urine?
It’s the million-dollar question!
As humans, we would never think to drink urine. It’s so out of our scope that the mere thought of it is enough to make many people gag. But you have to remember that urine licking is normal, instinctive behavior for dogs.
But is it dangerous?
The answer to that question is: It depends.
You don’t have to worry about your pup getting sick in most cases. Your dog’s stomach is pretty tough, and the natural acidic nature of their gut will take care of most issues.
As long as your dog is vaccinated and healthy, it’s no major cause for concern.
We don’t recommend letting your dog drinks a lot of the yellow stuff, but the occasional lick isn’t worth the worry.
Now, there is one possible exception.
One type of bacteria can cause trouble. Spirochetes are harmful bacteria that your dog could encounter when drinking urine.
However, your dog is just as likely to encounter spirochetes in urine as they are from encountering them in stagnant water.
On the off chance that the urine does contain spirochetes, your dog can experience a Leptospirosis infection. Leptospirosis can cause a slew of unwanted symptoms.
Usually, canines will experience noticeable lethargy and fever.
The bacteria suck the energy out of them and cause them to feel ill. Their body temperature could rise to dangerous levels, so keep watch over their behavior and condition.
Some dogs also display symptoms of depression if they suffer from Leptospirosis.
In severe cases, Leptospiroses can cause vomiting and tissue inflammation. The mucous membranes around your dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth could turn red and swollen.
If you see any of these symptoms, bring your dog to a vet as soon as possible. Leptospiroses can cause kidney damage, so you want to address the condition as quickly as possible.
The good news is that the infection is curable with antibiotics.
Should You Stop Dog Urine Licking?
Learning about Leptospiroses is pretty scary.
But it’s important to remember that those infections are rare. Your dog can suffer from the illness if they drink water from a stagnant pond or an old bucket of water!
We understand that seeing your dog licking urine is pretty gross. But there’s nothing much you can do to prevent your dog from doing it.
That’s a simple fact.
This behavior is hard-wired into your dog. It’s a biological function that you can’t stop.
Trying to prevent your dog from licking anothers’ urine is like asking a child to stop smelling food or hearing sounds. It’s just unreasonable.
You’ve likely seen or heard owners scolding their dogs for licking urine.
We don’t recommend doing that. In fact, most experts agree that the last thing you should do in this scenario is scold your dog.
Doing so would only confuse them and instill an unnecessary sense of fear into everything they do.
Remain calm and guide your dog away.
If you want to prevent your dog from licking urine, the best thing you can do is avoid walking in areas that other canines use.
That can be pretty hard if you live in an urban environment. It’s pretty impossible if you visit dog parks and social settings.
You can try walking in less-frequented areas. If your dog notices a wet urine spot and tries to lick it, keep going. Don’t pull your dog too hard or yell at them for wanting a taste.
Continue walking, and your dog should lose interest as they follow you.
There’s no denying that pee-licking is a disgusting act by human standards. However, dogs don’t see it in the same way. To them, it’s nothing more than a way to learn about others.
It might as well be a handshake or a modern-day social media search.
Try not to let it gross you out too much. There’s nothing you can do to prevent an instinctive behavior.
You can control your dog’s environment to keep them away from urine. But don’t be too upset if your pup goes in for a taste!
Provide plenty of clean drinking water and maybe avoid kisses for the time being!
Also Read: 9 Reasons Why your Dog Can Act Like A Cat