Let’s Talk: Do You Let Your Dog Lick Your Dirty Dishes Clean?

I've been known to let my dog "prewash" my plates. How about you? Or have I just completely turned you off?

Maria Goodavage  |  May 30th 2012


I’m not big on doing dishes. But Jake is crazy for the chore. If it were up to him, he’d lick every dish clean after a big family meal, and all I’d have to do would be put them back in the cabinets and keep from bragging about his feat when we have company over for dinner on those same plates.

In my younger days, I let my Airedale, Joe, lick the dishes after I ate. Afterward, I’d give them a thorough handwash, trying to remove all that icky slimy stuff dogs can leave on dishes. (What is that slime all about? Last time I checked, dogs were not related to snails or slugs.) I survived those years just fine, with nary a scary disease I could directly attribute to this practice. When I got a week-long stomach bug, I never looked askance at Joe. After all, his mouth sparkled with germ-free virtuosity compared with the mouths of his human counterparts — or so I thought.

At the time, few people questioned the popular notion that dogs’ mouths were cleaner than ours. In fact, the word in some dog-park circles was that if you had a wound, a dog’s saliva could actually help heal it. So what harm could there be in letting Joe do the prewash?

But then common sense crept in. My prewasher’s tongue (the equivalent of a sponge in this situation) was the same one that licked parts of him I would not want touching the same plate on which I was about to have my pasta. And his mouth was the same one that would devour horse poop or cat poop the instant he found it.

That’s about the time that I heard the more logical, scientific conclusion: that dogs’ mouths were far from antiseptic, and, in fact, were completely filled with the kind of bacteria you would not want to meet in a dark alley.

So Joe got fired from the gig. And for 15 years, I didn’t let our dogs have a go at our plates. Then over this past Memorial Day weekend, I accidentally left the dishwasher open with the bottom rack pulled out. We’d had company, and I’d thrown in the plates coated with all kind of goodies, hoping the dishwasher could tackle the mess.

But I didn’t have to worry about it, because when I came back into the kitchen and saw the dishes again, they were all gleaming, and Jake was sitting there smiling, looking at me expectantly, apparently hoping I would pull the top rack out for him to continue the job.

I wasn’t concerned about what he’d ingested. It was all perfectly good, nongreasy, nonspicy food. I was just a little taken aback by his enthusiastic washing of the dishes — especially when our company also saw what he’d done. But our friends assured me that their dog licks all their dishes (a family of five, no less) after every meal that doesn’t involve things like chipotle peppers.

I ran the dishwasher in extrahot mode, and never had to so much as touch the slime coating. The dishes came out as brilliant as the day they were born.

I realize many Dogster readers never let their dogs have human food, so this week’s Let’s Talk question might not be relevant. But for those of who do: Do you ever let your dog lick your plates and bowls when you’re done with a meal? Or is that just completely gross? And if your dog does help you clean your plates, do you do anything special to wash them after?

Jake is hoping that everyone says, “Of course I let my dog lick my plates! What kind of jerk doesn’t?” and that I’ll be influenced to include him in the aftermeal proceedings from now on. I don’t think that will be the case, but I’m looking to forward to learning what you do in your household. So is Jake.

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