If you enjoy kissing, hugging, and just generally snuggling your dog, you’re not alone!
It’s very common for humans to express their affection for one another with smooches and squeezes. And there’s nothing quite as wonderful as having your favorite canine furball snuggled up in your arms while you’re watching television or just relaxing on the couch.
But while we humans ENJOY expressing our affection with kisses…
… It’s important to take a step back and observe your dog:
Does your dog ENJOY being kissed and hugged?
When he licks you, is he expressing his affection for you?
Or is he perhaps communicating something else?
7 Reasons Why Dogs “Kiss” You
Reason #1: Instinct
First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that dogs who lick each other (and humans) are often doing so out of instinct.
You can TEACH a dog to “kiss” as a show of affection.
(Or, at least, kiss to receive positive attention from you.)
But it’s essential to understand the licking we interpret as “kisses” from our dogs could be fulfilling a wide range of purposes.
Reason #2: Learning About Their Environment
Similar to sniffing, dogs learn about their environment through licking. Whether it’s to gather more information about where you’ve been without him or to enjoy a taste of what you had for lunch off your fingers, dogs lick to explore and understand.
Reason #3: Greeting Between Dogs
Dogs will lick one another as a form of greeting.
Frequently you’ll see the dog who is more submissive showing deference to the more dominant dog trough licking.
It’s another way of demonstrating their submission.
So when your dog is licking you, he may be showing his deference to you.
Reason #4: Sign Of Affection Between Dogs
Yes, dogs ALSO lick one another to demonstrate affection…
So YES, there’s an argument to be made that your dog is KISSING you, too!
Just be cautious because, as you can see, dog kisses are more complex forms of communication than many people understand…
… If you misinterpret a dog’s body language and lean in to kiss the top of his head or cheek, you could be setting yourself up for a bite!
Reason #5: Prevent A Fight
A submissive dog might lick a more dominant dog to de-escalate a situation and prevent a fight.
If the dog is particularly stressed, the licking may indicate a level of discomfort and anxiety that could lead to a BITE.
This is another reason not to let children hug or kiss other people’s dogs. Or, perhaps, even your own family dog!
Reason #6: For Pleasure
Licking is a pleasurable activity for dogs; endorphins are released.
This is why some dogs develop impulse control issues around licking and become obsessed with repetitive licking.
(If you need help curbing this nuisance behavior, check out Impulse Control, which deals with compulsive licking, among other things like barking, chewing, jumping, etc.)
Reason #7: A Sign Of Stress
Licking can be a sign of stress …
By licking you, your dog is trying to “de-escalate” a situation.
Pay close attention to other body language cues, because if your dog’s boundaries pushed any further, the situation could escalate to shows of aggression.
If the dog is particularly submissive, it could escalate quickly to a BITE.
Because the dog is warning you to BACK OFF.
What Does Your Dog THINK When You Kiss Him?
As you can see…
… Licking as a form of communication between dogs can be more complicated than expressing simple affection.
That’s why, especially with strange or less familiar dogs, offering hugs and kisses isn’t a good idea.
And children should be taught to NEVER hug or kiss dogs.
Even the dogs we live with may not enjoy this kind of attention…
Or TOO MUCH of this kind of attention.
A child can easily miss the warning signs when a dog’s boundaries are pushed too far, and the family pet who often accepts kisses from YOU may suddenly turn and nip or BITE a child who they view as inferior to them.
Some dogs will ALWAYS jockey for pack position in a family home, especially with small children.
Our children could be one hug away from a bite to the face if it turns out we’re misreading our dogs.
Can Dogs Be Taught To Enjoy Hugs & Kisses?
Yes, some dogs—raised by your family, from puppyhood—can be taught to see giving and receiving kisses as a positive show of affection.
But just a children’s temperaments are different, some are shy while others are more extrovert, some are more outgoing while others hang back, dogs are different too.
Breed traits combined with individual personality traits mean that some dogs will NEVER enjoy receiving kisses and hugs, because they view it as a show of dominance.
Dogs adopted as adults from rescues or even other homes should be handled with care…
Approach with caution until you’re certain the dog ENJOYS these displays of affection from you.
Certainly, never allow a CHILD to hug or kiss your adult adopted/rescue.
(You can never know the history.)
But of course, dogs are smart!
And they can learn from your positive feedback that you enjoy their licks and kisses, and they can learn to do this to get positive attention and affection from you.
If you’ve raised a dog from a puppy, he’s more likely to be in tune with your kisses and enjoy them.
Older, adopted dogs may have trust issues—and triggers—that make kissing and hugging them riskier.
Again: approach adopted dogs more carefully and be observant.
Don’t allow children to risk a bite. And certainly, avoid allowing people and children from outside your home to hug and kiss your dog.