Karen B. London
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Etiquette With Dogs
The silverware question
Acceptable or revolting?

A friend stopped by while I was preparing a Kong to put in the freezer for later. After stuffing in some treats, some kibble, a biscuit and the canned food to hold it all together once it was frozen, I cued Super Bee to wave. When she lifted her paw properly in response, I held out the spoon I had used to scoop the wet food in and she began licking it. She looked so dear to me as she daintily (there’s no other word for it!) used her tongue to remove what was stuck to the spoon.

Still smiling at the sight of her lovely face, I looked up at my friend, whose face looked significantly less lovely at that moment. It had a look that combined horror and disgust. She asked me, “Is that a spoon you plan to use to eat?”

“Yes, after it goes through the dishwasher,” I answered. She still looked aghast, so I added, “We wash all of our silverware after anybody uses it. Then it’s clean so we can use it again.” This made such sense to me that I felt silly saying it, but obviously my friend found it troubling.

She went on to tell me that most people with dogs or cats would never share their spoons with each other. She said she didn’t mean to make me feel bad, but that what I was doing seemed really gross and didn’t I agree? I did not agree so her speech didn’t make me feel bad, but it did surprise me.

I don’t want to use a spoon after my kids (or any other humans) have used it without washing it first, but then I treat it as clean and ready to go, and I feel the same way about spoons that dogs have used.

Are your dogs ever allowed to lick your silverware?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Matt | July 13 2013 |

My dog eats off my spoon. And he drinks out of my cup. As my mom always says, "I'd rather kiss my dog than most people."

Submitted by Rebecca | July 13 2013 |

I agree with Matt!

Submitted by Ellen | July 13 2013 |

Of course I offer my dogs licks from my forks,spoons,etc. Why not ? I do it all the time. I've done it for years, and I'm still alive !

Submitted by Lisa | July 15 2013 |


Submitted by Debbie | July 15 2013 |

..and lick my ice cream cones, share from my bowls.....I've always shared with my pups and I'm 56 years old and crazy healthy. They lick my face and mouth too (I think it prevents wrinkles) My dogs are family.

Submitted by Frances | July 13 2013 |

Oddly enough, I have no problem with letting my animals lick a spoon and then washing it and returning it to the cutlery drawer, but I do keep a separate stack of dog bowls... Partly, I think, because by the time the dogs have finished it is often hard to tell the used bowls from the clean ones!

When I make liver biscuits, there is always competition to "help" by licking the bowl clean - I scrape it out with a spoon, and the cats and dogs sit and take turns to lick the spoon. Good practice in polite waiting, and means nothing is wasted!

Submitted by Stacey | July 13 2013 |

Absolutely, the share almost every healthy treat with me...they are family!

Submitted by Nancy | July 13 2013 |

Absolutely, and bowls, plates or anything else that needs some extra attention before going in the dishwasher. The dogs are very helpful that way!

Submitted by Lisa Brown | July 13 2013 |

Just laugh. My oldest son taught our girls to eat off a spoon and fork. Never has there been a more daintier, prim and proper sight. Modern dishwashers have a improved over time and all dishes are sanitized when washed in dishwasher or by hand.
The problem your friend has the antique notion of pets being nasty creatures. Just let it go and chuckle. It's your house, enjoy it.

Submitted by bettysketty | July 13 2013 |

I absolutely have the same philosophy as the author. As opposed to my husband I do draw the line at sharing an ice cream cone with our beloved pups. ;)

Submitted by Sandi Fuller | July 13 2013 |

I use my spoons to scoop dog food and my dogs lick them. As long as they are washed afterwards, who cares?

Submitted by Jane Brackman | July 13 2013 |

Given the choice, it's always safer to share dirty utensils with dogs, that is, if you're a human. Humans are not susceptible to most diseases dogs might harbor.

Submitted by JanC | July 13 2013 |

In my experience, people like your horrified friend are not pet owners, or the pets they own are relegated to the backyard. The ignorance many people display about pet vs. people germs comes from lack of experience with animals as members of the family, coupled with a general lack of knowledge of how bacteria is transmitted. Wrapped up in all that is a belief that pets are somehow simply *ickier* than humans, and I beg to differ. I love the natural smell of healthy dogs and cats. The odor of most human breath, not so much!

Submitted by Keiko | July 13 2013 |

Heck, yeah. We eat off the same spoon at the same time, when I'm sharing my yogurt with them. If you lock tongues with humans, whose mouths are dirtier, why would you be squeamish about a dog? Your friend sounds like one of those people who are so precious, they won't pee in the ocean.

Submitted by Carolyn | July 13 2013 |

Oh yeah. I wash all dishes and silverware after people or dogs use them. Common sense right? That's what the dishwasher is for. Makes things clean. I do admit to getting a bit grossed out by my friend who washes her toilet brushes in the dishwasher on a regular basis ...

Submitted by Carolyn | July 13 2013 |

Oh yeah. I wash all dishes and silverware after people or dogs use them. Common sense right? That's what the dishwasher is for. Makes things clean. I do admit to getting a bit grossed out by my friend who washes her toilet brushes in the dishwasher on a regular basis ...

Submitted by Stephanie | July 13 2013 |

Gosh, not too many people I know have separate silverware for people and dogs/cats. I think as a vegetarian I am more concerned with carefully washing the dog FOOD off the spoon than the dog saliva.

Submitted by Vivian Sophia | July 13 2013 |

Since most dishwashers kill any germs left over from a dog licking, you have science on your side.

But most people don't base their reactions on science. The response that it's gross to use a spoon a dog has licked whether it has been cleaned and sterilized or not is an emotional one.

You can't argue with people's feelings.

Submitted by Menagerie Manor | July 13 2013 |

Of course they are. I feed the dogs pieces of fish individually from a fork.
My way of thinking - the animals are around all the time and when I am out, who knows what the cats get up to - walking across benches, snuffling dishes on the draining board, etc - so the washed cutlery is probably cleaner :o)

Submitted by Leanne | July 13 2013 |

I adore my 2 dogs and cook all their food myself so I know what they're eating but I can't bring myself to use the same dishes and utensils. I had a friend who used to let his dog eat off all his plates and dishes that he also used for his family and friends. He never washed his hands before handling food and quite often he would wash the dishes just under running water. I'm sorry, but I just couldn't handle that and never ate at his place after that.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 13 2013 |

After a daily breakfast of Greek yogurt & Greek honey my dogs patiently wait to "pre-clean" the bowl

Submitted by Lyn deMartin | July 14 2013 |

My dogs eat from utensils on occasion and lick plates pretty regularly. Dog mouths are cleaner than humans. People who don't get dogs will never understand dog lovers.

Submitted by nicole | July 14 2013 |

Our dogs run a "prewash" service for dirty dishes being loaded in the dishwasher. From my perspective I'm being green because I don't have to use water to rinse the dishes :) My mother-in-law was horrified the first time she saw that happening. Hmmm... maybe that's why she now stays at hotels when she visits...

Submitted by KLD | July 14 2013 |

After I top off the Kong with canned dog food, I ask my dog to lick the spoon. The spoon goes straight into the dishwasher, and when clean, back into the drawer for whomever to use - human or dog. Gosh, I'm surprised your friend has such little faith in modern dishwashers!

Submitted by Kitty H | July 14 2013 |

Your friend would be completely grossed out in my house. I've been known to "share" a spoon with my dog. I let them kiss me so what's the difference.

Submitted by Carol Menke-Clark | July 14 2013 |

Good Grief!! I had to teach Dodger who came to live with me at age 7 or 8 to lick the spoon. He wanted to eat it!!!!! He now licks the peanut butter "knife" and LOVES it.

Submitted by Sierra | July 15 2013 |

I've never heard this! That's just weird. Once it's been washed, it's perfectly clean. We always let our cat or dog lick our dishes once we're done eating. (Anyway, I let my dog lick my ice cream cone, so maybe I'm not one to talk about this...)

What I don't do, personally, is use a regular spoon or can opener for dog food, but that's because I keep kosher. Because dog food isn't kosher, putting it on a regular spoon would make the spoon itself not kosher anymore.

Submitted by Kim | July 15 2013 |

Wow, your friend would really find me disgusting then! Not only does my dog Lily lick my spoon, she licks my plate when it is something suitable for her to eat. When I make peanut butter dog biscuits -- which, by the way, one of my human neighbors also enjoys with her dog -- Lily licks the spoon and the measuring cup I used for the peanut butter.

Submitted by Pam in Nashville | July 15 2013 |

LOL! Of course I use my flatware after my dogs. This sounds so much like what happened two days ag. A girlfriend stopped by and we were sitting on back deck. My mini doxie came running up to me with a dangling dingleberry (poo). I grabbed a latex glove out of the gardening basket and got if for him then wiped his back-end. I thought nothing of this but when it was over I realized my friend was aghast! I'm still laughing about it.

Submitted by Michele | July 15 2013 |

My dog licks the spoon under the same circumstances, and then the spoon is washed before anyone else uses it. I fail to see what the big difference is between a human mouth and an animal mouth in this situation. :)

Submitted by Sadie | July 15 2013 |

We let our dog (and cat) lick the plates and bowls sometimes and I'm pretty positive I've shared with them off the spoon as well. My mother, I know for a fact, also does this. We've never thought twice about it and my husband who had never been a huge animal lover before me never even thought to question me when I told him to put the plates on the ground for the dog. Your friend is likely just a germaphobe.

I definitely don't eat after them without washing the dish first, although my pets mouths are probably cleaner than my husband, who I do occasionally share food with.

It's incredibly presumptuous of your friend to speak for the majority of pet owners and I probably would have said something snarky back were it me in the situation. I know several pet owners who I have seen allow their pets to pre-wash a plate or spoon. I may know some who wouldn't think about it, but then unfortunately I know some people who don't treat their pets like furry children (that to me is crazy!)

Submitted by Alanna | July 15 2013 |

I know my dog is healthy and clean...other people not so much.

Submitted by samantha | July 15 2013 |

our dogs lick the spoons, clean the plates. everything gets washed that is how life has been since I was a little kid now at 44 still alive and kickin' and I have not contracted some weird dog related disease.

Submitted by Karen DeBraal | July 15 2013 |

I share. They get to lick everything. It isn't a problem. They aren't pushy, we all have fun and everything gets washed. What is the big whoop?

Submitted by Jane | July 15 2013 |

I feed my dogs occasionally off a spoon or fork. It doesn't bother me if it doesn't bother them.

Submitted by Brenda | July 15 2013 |

Of course they are. How silly to be bothered by something like that.

Submitted by Kayla | July 15 2013 |

All of the time. I always save 1 bite for each dog. After every one is done eating, I cue them "Does anyone want a bite?" and then they all can get their one bite off of the fork. Because we only ever give them anything after they have been cued, they really don't beg. I don't eat off of it without cleaning it (I do know people who do that, and that does gross me out). But after it's been washed, sure, no big deal. I would ask someone if they eat with silverware from restaurants, because I'm sure those are way worse than my dishes!

Submitted by Ashleigh | July 15 2013 |

Wow. I never even considered having special dog-only or cat-only cutlery! My dog licks the fork I use to mash her food and my cat licks the spoon I use to mix tuna with her pills. Both the fork and spoon are then either hand-washed or go through the dishwasher... and back into the cutlery drawer for me, my roommate, or our guests to use! Guess I better not advertise that fact too loudly though...!

Submitted by kimframes | July 15 2013 |

Mine shares with me. Certainly would rather share with her than eat fruit and veggies in the store without washing like I have seen people do! Eating them after all those other people touching them and leaving their germs...I'ii take my dogs germs any day!

Submitted by Doc's Mom | July 15 2013 |

We let our dog pre wash most of our dishes. He loves it and it saves me work. We don't let him lick the hot, spicy sauces or have onions or harmful foods.

Submitted by Tom Scruggs | July 15 2013 |

My dog licks my plate and licks my utensils after I'm done. When my sister's picky dog won't eat, she feeds him with a spoon. Once it goes in the dishwasher, what does it matter, anyway?

Submitted by marlene lavigne | July 15 2013 |

Of course I let my dogs prewash my dishes!! I don't get why people think that human mouths are so clean and germ free compared to their dog's.... They would be surprised if they knew what really lives in there.

Submitted by SueC | July 15 2013 |

Of course, yes.

Submitted by Diego | July 15 2013 |

Karen, I do exactly the same thing every day with my dogs, and have never had any health issues. They sleep in my bed, eat from my dish and spoon.
I guess it´s that we are dog´s persons! All my dog friendly mates do the same as well.........

Submitted by SJ | July 16 2013 |

I don't really think of my dog as "dirty," so yes, I will sometimes let her lick a spoon or dish clean. I think it was rude of your friend to criticize you ... but I do have an aunt in front of whom I'd never let my dog lick the silverware, because I know it bothers her delicate sensibilities.

Submitted by Megan | July 16 2013 |

I would definitely use silverware or dishes my pets have used, but my husband hates that sort of thing. He even, gets freaked out if I use a knife to cut my dog's food roll treats. While I think he's being silly, I do respect his opinion, I now have a dog treat cutting knife. Good thing he hasn't figured out I use our spoons to get wet food out of the can!

Submitted by Khyde | July 17 2013 |

My Molly loves licking peanut butter off a spoon!! After a dish washing it's good to go!

Submitted by Ann | July 28 2013 |

When I was growing up my father had such an odd view of animals. Never use bowls, spoons or cups we use for the animals. They had their own and these items had to be washed in the laundry room sink. I could never understand this.
I have always had animals currently 2 cats 1 dog. They eat what I eat. My dog just eats it raw. Cats prefer it cooked. So what if we use the same utensil for them as us. I don't think we are going to get a strange disease from this. I love them all and spoil them just like I do my kids and grandson!

Submitted by slooze | July 9 2014 |

My father in law was recently telling me how gross it is that I give my dog a bite off my fork (which he takes very daintily) and then take another bite off the fork myself right after. He, like many others just doesn't 'get it'. As long as my dog wasn't just outside eating something, or licking himself the germs he has can't hurt me. He is a member of the family and likes to sample my tasty veggie dishes. Before I was a dog owner, I too thought sharing a utensil, or letting a dog lick your face was a little icky so I get where people are coming from. Now I don't even think about. Like you said, I spoil him and treat him as I would like to be treated if I were in his position! How rude to let them be your companion, your bed warmer, your service dog, your guard dog etc but refuse to share a utensil with them!

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