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Why Does My Dog Stick the Tip of His Tongue Out? Asked & Answered - PawSafe
Dog Behavior

Why Does My Dog Stick the Tip of His Tongue Out? Asked & Answered

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Have you ever wondered, “Why does my dog stick the tip of his tongue out?” Dogs are known for their adorable and sometimes quirky behaviors. Tongue sticking is a common sight among dogs, and pet owners often wonder whether there’s a deeper meaning.

There can be several reasons behind a dog sticking the tip of its tongue out, some being more severe than others. Solutions range from stuff you can do at home, like improving oral care with brushing and dental rinses. Other incidents may need help from your vet.

Many instances of the tongue tips sticking out are natural, although they could indicate health issues, especially dental ones. We have consulted the book Canine Behavior Insights to shed light on this topic. 

9 Reasons Dogs Stick Out the Tip of Their Tongue

There are many things dogs do, like sighing and grunting, that make us wonder what they’re trying to say. While dogs sticking their tongue tips out is relatively harmless and pleasantly funny, it’s best to fully understand the context before concluding. This is true for all dog behaviors, including when dogs refuse to eat food but not their treats.

If your dog is sticking his tongue out excessively or has other concerning symptoms, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian. They can help determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment. 

These nine reasons for canines sticking the tips of their tongues out will help you know the steps to take. 

  1. Hanging Tongue Syndrome

Hanging Tongue Syndrome is a condition where a dog’s tongue protrudes out of their mouth, and they cannot retract it. This condition can occur due to various reasons, including nerve damage, and trauma. Genetics in small and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds also increases susceptibility. This is because these dogs are more likely to have tongues too large for the oral cavity, or have severe underbites or overbites that can cause the tongue to hang out.

This means you often see hanging tongue syndrome in small dogs like Chihuahuas or Pugs just because their tongue is a bit too big for their mouth.

Dental disease causing partial or complete tooth loss is one of the biggest causes of this syndrome. 

Dogs with this condition may have difficulty eating and drinking, and they may drool excessively. In some cases, Hanging Tongue Syndrome can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease.

  1. Blepping

Blepping is a behavior where a dog sticks out the tip of their tongue for no reason for a brief moment and then retracts it back into their mouth.

This behavior is usually harmless and can occur when a dog is relaxed or content. Some dogs may also blep when they smell something interesting or when they are concentrating.

Check out this cute pup sticking out her tongue for no reason: 

  1. Flehmen Response

The Flehmen Response is a behavior where a dog curls their upper lip and sticks out their tongue to get a better sense of a particular scent. 

This behavior allows them to transfer the scent to the vomeronasal organ located in the roof of their mouth. This organ helps dogs to detect pheromones and other chemical signals that can provide valuable information about other animals in their environment.

  1. Brachycephalic Dogs

Brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers, have short snouts and flat faces that can make it difficult for them to breathe, causing lots of wheezing. As a result, they may pant more frequently and stick their tongues out to help regulate their body temperature.

A study also showed that macroglossia (enlarged tongue) is one of the soft tissue conditions affecting short-snouted breeds. This is why almost every Frenchie or Bulldog you picture has a tongue sticking out.

  1. Dental Decay and Tooth Loss

Dental issues and abnormal jaw structure can make a dog’s tongue stick out. This is because when dogs lose their teeth, the jaw shrinks to fill in the space left, causing less room for the tongue. 

 If a dog is sticking their tongue out excessively or for extended periods, it is essential to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

  1. Neurological Issues 

Rarely, certain neurological conditions can lead to tongue protrusion, but this is generally associated with more severe symptoms. For example, several dogs experiencing a seizure are seen sticking their tongue out, or flicking their tongue like a snake. This is called an epileptic focal seizure. 

  1. Sleeping

Dogs are known to stick their tongues out while sleeping, and this behavior is quite common in dogs of all breeds and sizes. The reason for this behavior is not fully understood, but there are a few theories that can help explain it.

This happens because the mouth relaxes when a dog is asleep, and their long tongues inevitably stick out. The tongue-tip protruding during rest is almost always harmless. Other things dogs do include whimpering in their sleep.

  1. Breed-Specific Traits

Certain dog breeds have unique physical characteristics that may cause them to stick their tongues out more often than others. For example, brachycephalic breeds with their abnormal jaw structures and longer tongues.

Other breeds, such as Greyhounds, Whippets, and Afghan Hounds, have longer snouts and narrower mouths that may make it more challenging to keep their tongues inside their mouths. Additionally, some breeds, such as Chihuahuas and Pekingese, have smaller mouths and shorter tongues, which may cause their tongues to protrude slightly.

  1. Using the Tongue to Communicate

During playtime, some dogs might stick out their tongues as part of their playful expression. This occurs with other body language cues like a relaxed posture, a wagging tail, and a relaxed mouth. This dog is sticking out his tongue in playful anticipation of the ball:

Note that dogs can also stick out their tongue when stressed and anxious. Here, when a dog’s lips their lick and yawns, like in the picture below, it is a common sign of stress and nervousness.

Puppies may also stick their tongues out to lick the air or lick your face (or another dog’s face) as an appeasement signal to show they want to be friends. This behavior is rooted in early puppy development, when they lick their mother’s mouth so that she will regurgitate food for them.

Now when a dog sticks their tongue all the way out to lick their nose, it is what we call an ambivalent signal. It means a dog is unsure about something and experiencing conflicting feelings.

Why does my dog stick the tip of his tongue out while sleeping?

One theory is that when dogs sleep, their mouth is relaxed, allowing the tongue to poke out, especially in small dogs or dogs with short noses. This is because the tongue is a large muscle that takes up a lot of space in the mouth, and when the mouth is relaxed, it can easily slip out.

Another theory is that sticking the tongue out while sleeping allows dogs to cool down. Dogs do not sweat like humans do, so they rely on panting to regulate their body temperature. By sticking their tongue out, dogs can increase the surface area of their mouth, allowing them to release more heat and cool down more efficiently.

It is also possible that sticking the tongue out while sleeping is simply a comfortable position for some dogs. Just like humans, dogs have their own unique sleeping positions and preferences, and sticking the tongue out may be a way for some dogs to feel more comfortable and relaxed while sleeping.

What is it called when a dog sticks his tongue out

There are different terms used to describe this behavior. These include, 

Blepping

Blepping is a term used to describe when a dog sticks his tongue out slightly and leaves it there. It’s usually a relaxed, non-threatening behavior and can be seen when a dog is feeling content or sleepy.

Flehmen Response

The Flehmen response is a behavior in which a dog curls his upper lip and inhales through his nose. This behavior helps them detect pheromones, which are chemical signals that animals use to communicate with each other. 

Hanging Tongue Syndrome

Hanging Tongue Syndrome is a condition in which a dog’s tongue hangs out of their mouth and can’t be retracted. Various factors, including dental problems, neurological issues, or breed-specific traits, can cause it. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian if you notice your dog’s tongue hanging out for an extended period.

Panting

Panting is a normal behavior that dogs use to regulate their body temperature. It involves rapid, shallow breathing with their tongue hanging out. If your dog is panting excessively, it could be a sign of heat stroke, anxiety, or other health issues.

Licking Motions to Communicate

Dogs also use licking motions to communicate with their owners or other dogs. For example, if a dog licks his owner’s face, it could be a sign of affection or an attempt to get attention. If a dog licks another dog’s face, it could be a sign of submission or an attempt to establish dominance.

How Dogs Use Their Tongue To Communicate?

Dogs use their tongue to communicate in various ways. One of the most common ways is through licking. Licking can be a sign of affection, a way to show submission, and a method for temperature regulation.

Lip licking is a common sign of stress and discomfort in dogs. It is often accompanied by yawning and can be an early sign that a dog may escalate to aggressive behavior. Nose licking is another form of communication that dogs use when they are showing ambivalence or inner conflict. 

The Chihuahua below is sticking their tongue out in a clear signal of discomfort and stress. We can tell this by the fact that the ears are pinned back and the gaze is slipping down.

A clear indication of stress or anxiety is when a dog sticks their tongue out to lick, and also averts their gaze. You will also see a stress yawn in these situations, or a “kiss and dismiss.”

The tongue is also used for temperature regulation. Dogs do not sweat like humans do, so they use their tongues to pant and release heat. This is why dogs often stick their tongue out when they are hot or after exercise. When the tongue “lolls” out the mouth, and the mouth is relaxed, the eyes are soft, and the ears are relaxed, then the dog is happy, like in the picture below.

Licking can also be a sign of affection. Face licking or licking your nose is typically an affectionate gesture that dogs use to make friends. It is a way for dogs to show that they are not a threat and want to be friends.

When to Consult a Veterinarian About Your Dog Sticking Their Tongue Out

While sticking their tongue out is normal behavior for dogs, there are certain situations where it may be a cause for concern. If your dog is sticking their tongue out excessively or in an unusual manner, it may indicate an underlying health issue. Here are some signs that you should consult a veterinarian:

  • Breathing difficulties: If your dog is panting excessively and has difficulty breathing, it may be a sign of a respiratory problem. This can cause your dog to stick their tongue out in an effort to catch their breath.

  • Excessive drooling: If your dog is drooling excessively and sticking their tongue out, it may be a sign of dental problems or gastrointestinal issues.

  • Changes in behavior: If your dog is sticking their tongue out and showing other signs of discomfort, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or vomiting, it may indicate a more serious health issue.

  • Foreign object ingestion: If your dog is sticking their tongue out and pawing at their mouth, it may indicate that they have ingested a foreign object that is causing discomfort.

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can perform a thorough examination and diagnose any underlying health issues that may be causing your dog to stick their tongue out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my senior dog stick his tongue out?

Senior dogs may stick their tongues out due to dental, neurological, or respiratory problems. It is best to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

Why does my dog stick his tongue in and out like a snake?

Dogs may stick their tongues in and out like a snake as a way to cool down. This behavior is known as panting and is a normal physiological response to regulate body temperature.

Why does my dog repeatedly stick his tongue out?

Repetitive tongue sticking may indicate anxiety, stress, or discomfort. It is essential to observe your dog’s body language and behavior to identify the underlying cause and address it accordingly.

Why does my sick dog have his tongue hanging out?

A sick dog may have his tongue hanging out due to dehydration, respiratory distress, or fever. It is crucial to seek veterinary attention to diagnose and treat the underlying illness.

Why does my newborn puppy have his tongue sticking out?

Newborn puppies may have their tongues sticking out due to underdeveloped muscles and nerves in the mouth. This is a normal developmental stage, and the tongue should retract as the puppy grows.

Why does my dog keep sticking his tongue out and swallowing?

Frequent tongue sticking and swallowing may indicate nausea, acid reflux, or respiratory issues. It is best to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

Why does my dog’s tongue hang out the side of his mouth?

A dog’s tongue may hang out the side of his mouth due to a congenital defect, dental problems, or neurological issues. It is necessary to consult with a veterinarian to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

Final Thoughts

Dogs stick their tongue tips out for various reasons, including playfulness, hanging tongue syndrome, resting, and medical issues. It’s essential to observe your dog’s behavior and determine whether the tongue sticking out is a sign of a health issue or normal behavior.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.