For 30,000 years, the relationship between dogs and humans has blossomed from hunting partners to pets. The one constant throughout this journey is dogs licking their owner’s face. While many think little of it, licking has its ups and downs.

Learned from birth

Dogs licking our faces is meant to be a sign of appreciation. Dogs learn this behavior from their mother. “Right from birth that is how the mother communicates with her new puppies, how she stimulates them to start breathing and how she cleans them when they are born, so it’s very important to the survival of puppies. In the wild and in domestic dogs, you’ll find they will lick around the mother’s mouth as newborns and puppies still retain that instinct,” dog trainer Victoria Stilwell told Animal Planet.

A way to transport germs?

Some people have equated licking to germ transmission. Unlike humans, dogs spend more of their time near some unsafe conditions. “It is not just what is carried in saliva. Dogs spend half of their life with their noses in nasty corners or hovering over dog droppings so their muzzles are full of bacteria, viruses and germs of all sorts,” professor John Oxford told The Hippocratic Post.

Fortunately, some of the most severe dog viruses can’t be found in humans. Over time, however, this could become a thing of the past. “Although there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza to people and there has not been a single confirmed case, these viruses do mutate so that they may be able to pass and spread among human hosts in the future,” Oxford also told The Hippocratic Post.

Licks that led to unthinkable situations

In 2016, an English woman contracted capnocytophaga canimorsus from her dog’s licks. This disease comes equipped with sepsis, which is blood poisoning. Ignoring this problem would lead to her organs shutting down. This case was peculiar since this disease is often formed after a bite or a scratch. “This is an organism carried in the mouths of dog and it causes a very bad sepsis infection. But it’s usually in people who are immuno-compromised and usually follows a dog bite. But this is unusual because it was a lick,” Dr. Bruce Farber told CBS News. Fortunately, her situation was treatable with the proper antibiotics.

In 2018, Wisconsin resident Greg Manteufel also gained capnocytophaga canimorsus from his dog. Unfortunately, extreme sepsis led to the amputation of Manteufel’s arms and legs. “It hit him with a vengeance. Just bruising all over him. Looked like somebody beat him up with a baseball bat,” his wife Dawn told WITI. So far, the family raised over $147,000 to cover his surgeries. While he’s in a horrific state, he still adores dogs. “[Greg] doesn’t want anybody to think he doesn’t love dogs anymore. He loves his dog. He wants to see his dog. It’s not the dog’s fault. It was just some crazy thing that happened,” Dawn told CBS affiliate WDJT.

It’s all your choice

Fortunately, these tragic incidents are rare. Allowing a dog to lick you has some benefits. The moment increases the intimacy between you and the pet. It also relieves stress for both participants. For maximum protection, the human face has to be free of cuts and bruises. “When dog saliva touches intact human skin, especially in a healthy person, it is extremely unlikely to cause any problems, as there will be very little absorption through the skin,” Dr. Leni K. Kaplan told The New York Times. Allowing dog saliva to enter a wound can lead to an infection. If you’re not into licking, train your dog to show emotion in another form. You could teach them to lick your hand or chin. In the end, you should make sure your relationship with your pet is first-rate.