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Pet Advice
 What’s in a lick?
Caroline Fardell gives her answers to your questions
 Why do dogs eat grass?
Dogs are omnivorous and able to absorb nutrition from both animal and plants. I often give my dog raw vegetables such as carrot and broccoli and she is partial to pilfering a raspberry off the bush in the vegetable patch. Most of the dogs I’ve owned enjoyed snacking on the young wheat shoots in the spring, as well as munching grass.
Generally speaking, then, dogs eat grass because they find it tasty. It is also thought that dogs eat grass when they feel under the weather and need to purge their systems and whilst this is indeed sometimes the case, it is more usual for dogs to eat grass because it tastes nice, because they’re bored or under-stimulated or when they are missing nutrients in their diet. So, when my spaniel seems to spend more time than normal eating grass (which tends to make her constipated) and I suspect she’s feeling run down, I offer her organic spirulina powder. This wonder stuff supports a healthy digestive tract, boosts the immune system, supports healthy skin, coat and joints. It is regularly selected for dogs who are
recovering from surgery, have sensitive tummies and have arthritis and allergies.
Why does my dog sometimes stare at me?
If a dog stares at another dog it means they wish to engage with them. This engagement could be playful or confrontational depending on the rest of their body language. It’s not quite the same as when they stare at humans.
Dogs stare at us for a number of reasons but mostly it’s because they want or need our attention. They have learned that if they stare (and stare) we will eventually acknowledge them and fulfil their need which might be food, to go in the garden, walkies or simply attention and affection. Our attention, therefore, is usually a reward. We all spend far too long looking at phones and screens these days and when dogs stare, they are essentially waving their paws in the air and saying “hello, I’m still here!”
Dogs sometimes stare at us, and usually cock their heads on one side, when they are trying to understand us better. Sometimes they look to us for direction. It is worth noting, however, that eye contact with a dog can be confrontational under certain circumstances and they may feel vulnerable or uncomfortable. So, it’s safest to keep your eye contact soft and avoid staring back.
Why does my dog lick me? Is it affection or do I taste nice? And why do some dogs not like to lick humans? Dogs are born with the instinct to lick. They lick to clean themselves, and bitches will lick their pups not only to clean them, but to stimulate blood flow when newly born and to encourage bowel movement. Puppies will lick both dogs and humans as a greeting and sign of affection but most stop licking other dogs as a greeting when they grow up. However, dogs sometimes continue to lick humans as they grow up because – more often than not – humans have rewarded the gesture with attention or reciprocated affection. Even if the human doesn’t like being licked and makes a fuss, the dog is still getting the attention it craves. They may also lick us after we’ve had a run or a workout because they enjoy (or need) the taste of salt on our skin. (Dogs need sodium to help balance body fluids and to keep nerves functioning properly).
We often refer to dog licks as kisses and, indeed, it is a form of affection because if a dog wants attention from us, it is generally a sign that they actually like engaging with us. If a dog doesn’t like to lick humans it could be that they have been punished for doing that in the past (and have learned it’s not safe to do so), or they are not relaxed enough to exhibit such behaviour.
“. . . it is more usual for dogs to eat grass because it tastes nice, because they’re bored or under- stimulated or when they are missing nutrients in their diet.”
 If you have a question for Caroline please contact
Caroline Fardell at Hound Solutions caroline.fardell1@btinternet.com 07530 504340
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