Why Do Dogs Stick Their Tongue Out? Is It An Instinctive Behavior Or Are There More Reasons To It?

why do dogs stick their tongue out?

It’s amazing that while humans have domesticated dogs for thousands of years, we’re yet to understand them fully. Which is somewhat weird, considering that dogs should be man’s best friend. I mean, shouldn’t friends endeavor to learn more about one another?

If you’ve owned a dog for the longest time ever but are still struggling to figure out the reasons behind some of his behaviors, just know that you’re not alone.

And maybe you’ve even asked yourself one of the most frequently asked questions among many pet parents – ‘why do dogs stick their tongue out?’

The main reason why dogs stick their tongues out is that it’s an instinctive behavior which helps them to cool down.

Now, you must have noticed that your dog mostly sticks his tongue out while panting. That’s because as dogs pant, their breath generates moisture, which evaporates and cools down their tongue. The moisture not only cools down their tongue, but also their blood and subsequently, their entire body.

But as you shall find, there are numerous other reasons why dogs stick their tongues out, and this post shall attempt to highlight some of them.

Possible Reasons Why Dogs Stick Their Tongue Out

One of the most common questions by pet parents is, why does my dog’s tongue stick out? As we’ve just indicated, dogs stick their tongues out instinctively as a way of cooling down their bodies.

So, why do dogs stick out their tongues on hot days? Again, this has a lot to do with the fact that the dog is trying to cool his body down. And the same answer might help to address another frequently asked questions related to this phenomenon, which is ‘why do dogs stick their tongue out and pant?’

But we’ve also pointed out that there could be other reasons causing your dog’s tongue to hang outside of his mouth.

As a caring and responsible pet parent, you should familiarize yourself with all the possible reasons why your dog sticks his tongue out.

That’s particularly because besides being a natural response to a surge in body heat, sticking out of the tongue could also be a symptom of a severe medical condition.

blue heeler dog

The following are other possible reasons why your dog might be sticking his tongue out from time to time;

1. Dehydration

Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do. While humans have sweat glands spread all over their skin, dogs have sweat glands on their paw pads.

So, instead of sweating through their skin, dogs would naturally sweat through their paw pads.

But the paw pads are not efficient at cooling a dog’s entire body, thanks to their relatively small size. The effectiveness of paw pads in cooling a dog’s body is reduced even further when the animal is in a standing position. So, as a response to an increase in body heat, dogs would simply stick their tongues out.

As the tongue hangs out, it releases saliva and heat. Evaporation removes much of the heat and some of the saliva from the dog’s tongue.

When more heat than saliva evaporates, it’s a good thing for the dog. But in the process of sticking their tongues out, dogs also tend to lose a lot of saliva. The saliva might evaporate along with heat or simply drip down.

Loss of saliva causes a substantial loss of body fluids, which makes the dog dehydrated. With less saliva on their tongue, a dog’s mouth heats up even faster, causing them to stick their tongues out much longer. So, this is typically a vicious cycle that can be relieved more effectively by rehydrating the dog.

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2. Excess Physical Stimulation

Exercise is perfect for dogs. It’s the best natural way of tiring the animal down, and is particularly recommended for hyperactive dogs.

Enough physical and mental stimulation also goes a long way in reducing the risks of boredom and loneliness, which might help to keep separation anxiety at bay.

However, too much exercise and not enough hydration can cause a dog to heat up more profusely, making him stick his tongue out.

If you realize that your dog sticks his tongue out unusually longer when exercising or playing with other animals, you might consider shortening his exercise or play periods.

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3. Mouth Injury or Deformities

An injury to a dog’s mouth will almost always cause him to stick his tongue out. That’s especially if the injury also affects his tongue.

The dog will feel more comfortable with his tongue hanging freely, as opposed to having it squeezed inside his mouth.

In addition to mouth injuries, certain oral and dental deformities might also make your canine friend stick his tongue out.

Examples of such deformities include;

  • An overbite
  • An underbite
  • Missing teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Misaligned teeth or jaw
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4. Certain Medical Condition

You’ll realize that most dogs stick their tongues out from time to time but can pull them back whenever they wish. But in some rare cases, it could also happen that your dog sticks his tongue out but is unable to pull it all the way back.

In such instances, your pooch might be suffering from a medical condition known as Hanging Tongue Syndrome (HTS).

Hanging Tongue Syndrome is a debilitating canine disease that causes excruciating pain. That’s because the tongue is always sticking out, which means it doesn’t receive adequate natural moisture from the dog’s mouth. As a result, the tongue may dry up and crack, leading to festering wounds.

1 year old Akita Inu dog

The most common symptoms of Hanging Tongue Syndrome include swelling, cracks, or bleeding of the dog’s tongue. If untreated with the urgency it deserves, Hanging Tongue Syndrome might lead to a wide range of other medical conditions.

First, it can cause a full-blown infection on a dog’s tongue, making it difficult for the animal to eat or drink. HTS could also lead to frostbite, especially if the tongue hangs outside for too long during chilly weather.

Worse yet, the syndrome may increase your dog’s risks of blood-related infections, particularly in the case of cracked tongues. Note that with these cracks, it becomes easier for disease-causing microorganisms to enter the dog’s bloodstream.

In addition to Hanging Tongue Syndrome, various other medical conditions might cause your dog’s tongue to stick out. That’s particularly true for neurological conditions like seizures, which affect the neurons responsible for voluntary movements.

Oral cancer may also cause a dog to hang his tongue out unusually longer.

Not to mention, anxiety. Anxiety manifests in dogs nearly the same way it does in humans. One of the symptoms of anxiety is a sudden surge in body heat which results in excessive sweating, also medically known as hyperhidrosis.

For humans, sweating manifests in small water droplets all over our body. Whereas in dogs, the sudden increase in body heat causes them to hang their tongues out.

cute pug dog panting with his tongue out

5. Nose Licking

Dogs have an inherent tendency for licking their noses. Nose licking is another way our canine friends cool themselves off. A wet nose also plays a crucial role in helping a dog pick up scents better.

Experts also claim that nose-licking is one of the many ways dogs communicate with each other. For instance, it could mean that a dog is a bit uncertain about a situation but isn’t really threatened by it.

Regardless of the reason why dogs lick their noses, one thing is for sure – they’ll usually stick their tongues out while doing it.

Other possible reasons why dogs stick their tongues out include;

  • Genetics – For instance, breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs have tongues that are disproportionately larger than their mouths, hence hang out.
  • A side effect of certain medications
  • Response to the bitter taste
  • Overexcitement
  • Decadent relaxation
  • Tasting the air for specific scents, such as receptive females
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Other Frequently Asked Questions on Why Dogs Stick Their Tongues Out

What are the reasons behind a dog sticking his tongue out and shaking?

If your dog often sticks his tongue out and shakes, you should first understand that there are two different phenomena involved. While it may not be immediately clear as to why your pooch hangs his tongue out, you can always attribute his shaking to cold weather.

If your canine friend shakes despite the conditions not being too chilly, then he could be having fever or chills, both of which are indicative of an underlying medical condition.

Why do dogs stick their tongue out when they sleep?

Your dog will most likely stick his tongue out while sleeping if he has an underbite or overbite. It could also mean that the dog is suffering from Hanging Tongue Syndrome.

After ruling out a medical condition, a dog sleeping with his tongue out might simply be dreaming. That’s especially if this only happens when he’s sleeping.

chihuahua dog sleeping with his tongue out

Why do dogs stick their tongues out when you scratch them?

Some pet parents often wonder, why does my dog stick his tongue out when I pet him? Well, this could mean that the animal is super excited, especially if you scratch him in a place he wouldn’t normally reach.

However, observe what happens when you stop petting or scratching the dog. If his tongue remains outside of his mouth, then you should rule out excitement.

Why do dogs stick their tongue out in the car?

This could also mean that your dog is excited. Dogs are great fans of the outdoors and the idea of being in a car may get them overexcited.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a dog sticking his tongue out in a car might mean that the animal is anxious. Maybe it’s his first time driving in the car.

Another possible reason is that your pooch might find the car unbearably hot.

More interestingly, sticking of the tongue while the car is in motion allows more air to flow over the dog’s olfactory membrane. As that happens, various odor molecules settle on the dog’s scent receptors, allowing him to relish a cocktail of different scents.

Why do dogs stick their tongue out in the car?

Why do newborn puppies stick their tongue out?

The most logical explanation as to why puppies stick their tongues out is that it’s an instinctive feeding response. Puppies are born blind, which means that they would stick their tongues when scouring for the nearest tit to suckle.

Puppies also tend to stick their tongues out when relaxing or sleeping.

Final Word

For the most part, there shouldn’t be any cause for alarm if you discover your dog sticking his tongue out. However, you should be concerned if this behavior persists unusually longer, without any apparent triggers.

You can manually check the dog’s mouth to determine if he has any oral injuries or deformities. If there doesn’t seem to be any problem with his mouth, consider calming the dog down if he’s visibly anxious or overexcited.

Also, ensure that you offer your pooch enough food and water to prevent him from sticking his tongue out due to dehydration.

And if it comes down to it, consult your vet for further insights. Your vet will examine the animal and establish whether he’s suffering from Hanging Tongue Syndrome or other medical conditions that could be causing his tongue to stick out longer than usual.

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Passionate lover of dogs and proud owner of a friendly, mischievous and energetic golden retriever named Beethoven! I’m incredibly excited to share my experiences on how best to care for your beloved pet. The more we know, the happier we and our canine friends will be!

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