It’s pretty embarrassing if you’re having a nice chat with a fellow dog owner and your dog is drooling at their dog. Hypersalivation (drooling) can happen for lots of reasons, but a common trigger is seeing or smelling another dog. Let’s look at some of the reasons that your dog might drool around other dogs, whether it’s normal, and when you should worry.
Is dog drooling a normal behavior?
Dog drool (saliva) is produced primarily as part of digestion – it contains enzymes that start the process of digestion even before the food has been swallowed. Just like us, dogs produce a small amount of saliva even when they aren’t eating. This lubricates the mouth and throat, and is usually swallowed.
Some dogs drool more than others. Breeds such as Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, Boxers, and Bloodhounds (in other words, dogs with droopy mouths) tend to drool more than other breeds. This is because the shape of their mouths and jaws cannot hold the saliva for swallowing. Instead, it drips from their lips or hides in their skin folds, waiting for an unsuspecting person to get too close.
Lots of things can increase the amount of drool your dog is producing, and some of these are more likely around other dogs.
Reasons why your dog could be drooling near other dogs
If your dog’s increase in drooling coincides with the presence of another dog, it’s possible that some of these reasons could be to blame.
Stress and anxiety
Many dogs find being around other dogs stressful. Just as not every human is comfortable going to a party and speaking to strangers, not all dogs want to meet other dogs.
This stress might be very hard to spot in some dogs, with subtle things like averting the eyes, yawning, or drooling more the only sign that your dog is upset. On the other hand, some dogs might show their anxiety more clearly, or even be reactive or aggressive towards other dogs in an attempt to gain some distance.
If your dog is drooling at the sight of other dogs, it could be that stress is playing a part in causing increased salivation.
If your dog is unneutered, it’s possible their excessive drooling is due to sexual frustration or desire. This is especially likely if you have an unneutered (entire) male, and the other dog is a bitch in season – but it can also happen even if the other dog isn’t in season. If your dog was neutered late in life, he might continue these testosterone-fueled behaviors even after his testicles are removed.
Jealousy can also cause your dog to start drooling, and you may notice other signs such as growling, attention-seeking, or getting in the way. Since jealousy is a form of resource-guarding, it’s important to talk to a behaviorist to make sure that this doesn’t turn into a more aggressive form of possessiveness.
Happiness and excitement
Dogs that are excited and happy to see other dogs may start drooling too! If your dog’s body posture is relaxed and their tail is wagging, it’s likely they’re pleased to see the other dog. Take care, though – not all dogs want to have a bouncy, drooling, excitable creature approach! In fact, drooling with the mouth hanging slightly open can appear quite aggressive, so some dogs will react badly to a drooling dog approaching.
Make sure the other owner agrees before letting your dog say hello, and be prepared to retrieve your dog if things aren’t going to plan!
Your dog is picking up unfamiliar scents/scents of food
Other dogs bring with them a whole range of new scents, including that of food. Whether your dog’s new friend has just been snacking on sausage, or their owner has a pocket full of dried chicken, it’s quite likely that the delicious new scents will make your dog start to drool.
Dogs also ‘smell’ pheromones using their vomeronasal organ. This is a specialized organ that has pheromone receptors. To get as many pheromones as possible into the organ, dogs breathe in with their mouths open – called the ‘flehmen response’. This strange mouth position can cause drool to pool in unusual places before spilling out of the mouth.
When to take your dog to the vet
There are lots of diseases that cause dogs to drool more, from dental disease to problems with the salivary glands. If your dog’s drooling isn’t only when they see another dog, it’s worth considering whether a disease could be causing their symptoms. In this case, it’s best to head off to your veterinarian for an examination to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
You should also head to the vet if your dog is displaying unusual behaviors that you can’t explain, especially around other dogs. Whilst it may simply be that they’re becoming sexually mature and need neutering, other medical conditions can cause dogs to display strange behaviors. These need ruling out before approaching a behaviorist.
Drooling is normal for all dogs, and some dogs will drool more than others. However, if your dog is experiencing extreme hypersalivation all of a sudden, it might be worth getting them a check-up at the vets. If your dog only drools around other dogs, some of these ideas might help you to get to the bottom of what’s going on.