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Should I Wash My Hands After Petting My Dog?

by | 29 May 2024

Ever found yourself wondering if you should wash your hands after petting your dog? It’s a common question among pet owners, and opinions vary widely. Today, we’re diving into this topic to explore the pros, cons, and everything in between. So, should you wash your hands after petting your dog? Let’s dig in!

The Importance of Hand Hygiene

The Case for Washing Hands

At Oh Crap, we’re all about responsible dog ownership and hygiene. Petting your dog can be a delightful experience, but it’s also worth considering the potential health implications. Dogs can carry bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can transfer to humans through contact.

Bacteria and Parasites

Dog fur can harbour various bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella, as well as parasites like hookworms and roundworms. While not all bacteria are harmful, some can cause infections and illnesses if they come into contact with your skin or are ingested.


Viruses like parvovirus, which is highly contagious among dogs, can be present on their fur. While parvovirus is not typically harmful to humans, it highlights the importance of maintaining good hygiene to prevent the spread of disease among pets.

The Case for Not Washing Hands

On the other hand (pun intended), some argue that exposure to everyday bacteria can actually strengthen our immune systems. After all, humans and dogs have coexisted for thousands of years, and many people enjoy the close bond that comes from cuddling and playing with their pets.

Building Immunity

Exposure to a variety of microbes can help build a stronger immune system. This is particularly true for children, who can benefit from developing a robust immune response early in life. Some experts suggest that living in a sterile environment may do more harm than good by not allowing the immune system to develop properly. After all, our ancestors used to roam the plains and be in contact with all kinds of animals all the time.  

Petting Your Dog: When to Wash Your Hands

After Handling Food or Waste

Always wash your hands after handling your dog’s food, dog poop bags/waste, or anything that may have come into contact with their bodily fluids. This is crucial to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and parasites.

Or if you have got dog poop on your hands for some reason, here is a quick guide for what to do.

Before Eating or Preparing Food

It’s a good idea to wash your hands before eating or preparing food. This helps to ensure that any bacteria or germs transferred from your dog do not end up in your mouth or on your food.

After a Walk or Outdoor Play

Dogs love exploring the outdoors, but they can pick up all sorts of germs and dirt along the way. Washing your hands after a walk or play session can help keep those outdoor contaminants at bay.

The Health Risks Involved

Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted between animals and humans. According to Dr. Kate Stenske, a clinical assistant professor at K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, about 75 percent of emerging diseases are zoonotic. This means they are transferrable between humans and other animals. Diseases like antibiotic-resistant E. coli can be shared between dogs and their owners, particularly if hands are not washed after petting.

Allergies and Skin Irritations

Pet dander can cause allergies or skin irritations in some people. Washing your hands after petting your dog can help reduce the risk of allergic reactions and keep your skin clear of potential irritants.

Cleaning Techniques: How to Wash Your Hands Properly

Step-by-Step Guide

Washing your hands properly is key to removing germs and preventing illness. Here’s a step-by-step guide to effective handwashing:

  1. Wet your hands: Use clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands: Rub your hands together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands: Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  4. Rinse your hands: Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands: Use a clean towel or air dry them.

Hand Sanitiser

If soap and water are unavailable, use a hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol. Apply the gel to the palm of one hand and rub your hands together, covering all surfaces until your hands are dry.

Balancing Hygiene and Bonding

Finding the Right Balance

While it’s important to maintain good hygiene, it’s equally important to enjoy the bond you share with your dog. Here are some tips to balance both:

  • Set boundaries: If you have concerns about germs, set specific times for petting and cuddling, followed by handwashing.
  • Keep your dog clean: Regular grooming and bathing can reduce the number of germs on your dog’s fur.
  • Educate your family: Teach children the importance of washing their hands after playing with pets, especially before eating or touching their faces.

The Role of Regular Vet Check-Ups

Regular vet check-ups can help ensure your dog is healthy and free from parasites or infections that could pose a risk to you and your family. Keeping up with vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and deworming treatments can also reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases.

FAQs: Common Questions About Petting Your Dog and Hand Hygiene

Why Wash Hands After Touching Dog?

Washing your hands after touching your dog helps remove any bacteria, parasites, or allergens that may have transferred to your skin. This practice reduces the risk of infections and allergic reactions.

What to Do After Petting a Dog?

After petting a dog, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially before eating, preparing food, or touching your face. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitiser.

Can I Eat Food After Touching My Dog?

It’s best to wash your hands before eating to ensure that any germs or bacteria from your dog do not end up in your mouth or on your food.

Do You Wash Your Hands After Petting a Dog?

Many pet owners wash their hands after petting their dog to maintain good hygiene. However, some people believe that occasional exposure to germs can help build a stronger immune system.

What Percentage of Pet Owners Do Not Wash Their Hands?

While specific statistics may vary, studies suggest that a significant percentage of pet owners do not consistently wash their hands after petting their dogs. Educating pet owners about the importance of hand hygiene can help reduce the spread of germs.

Conclusion: Keeping Clean and Staying Close

Petting your dog is one of the joys of pet ownership, but it’s important to balance that joy with good hygiene practices. Washing your hands after petting your dog can help prevent the spread of germs and keep you and your family healthy. At Oh Crap, we believe in responsible pet ownership and maintaining a clean environment for everyone. So, next time you give your furry friend a pat, remember to wash up and keep those germs at bay!

Do you have any tips or stories about pet hygiene? Share them in the comments or on social media. Let’s keep the conversation going and our hands clean!

Featured image by Pexels from Pixabay

<a href="" target="_self">Henry Reith</a>

Henry Reith

Henry is proud to be one of the crapologists at Oh Crap, and specialises in crap jokes & sharing paw-some content.

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