Nearly every human knows the value and meaning of a kiss, but do dogs like kisses? And do dogs understand kisses? Keep reading to find out!
Any dog owner has likely showered their furry canine friend with kisses at one point or another. You may even receive some licks and head nudges in return. If you have ever wondered if your dog understands human kisses, this article is for you.
For animal lovers, giving their pets a kiss and cuddle is something that comes as second nature. But do dogs feel and understand when you kiss them?
Do Dogs Understand When You Kiss Them?
Before we can answer this question, we need to answer: do dogs know what kisses are?
Kissing is a behavior rooted in our genes and mostly, it is unique to humans. We kiss our partners, our family members, and our children to signify our love for them. Since dogs are already part of the family, human shows their love to the dogs by hugs and kisses too.
But dogs don’t kiss each other. And they certainly don’t understand why humans put their mouths against their faces.
When a dog is kissed, it means bringing our face very close to the dog’s face, and this is something that not all dogs are comfortable with.
So let’s face it: as humans we expect our dogs to sometimes behave in human-like ways and we, therefore, may subject them to things that aren’t a normal part of their behavior repertoires.
However, dogs communicate very differently from humans. Therefore, we should never interpret a dog’s behavior in human terms.
The answer to ‘do dogs understand when you kiss them’ is NO. The act of kissing is something that’s completely foreign to them. In the body language of dogs, kissing is something that doesn’t exist.
Dogs don’t understand the nuanced nature of the human expression of love. As a result, they do not understand what a kiss represents within our culture.
Of course, licking is often viewed as a sign of affection between canines. While the act does produce some feel-good vibes between two dogs, it’s not necessarily meant to convey feelings of love like you would imagine.
When dogs lick one another or their human companions, it’s not really kissing, even if that’s what we call it. From a biological standpoint, licking is something that dogs need to do to survive.
Dogs are exposed to canine licking from the minute they are born. This immediate exposure teaches the young pup how important the act of licking is to canine communication right from the jump. Their tongues are used to help them gather information about their surroundings and other dogs.
Therefore, while canines do enjoy to licking each other, having another human come up to their face is an entirely different situation. In fact, some dogs don’t like kisses at all and only learn to tolerate them for their owner’s sake.
However, most domesticated dogs who have found a home in loving households seem to understand that human kisses are associated with affection, attention, and gentleness. From an early age, their owners shower them with human kisses and gentle tones, sending the message that human kisses are a positive thing.
As it’s well known, dogs can sense your feelings and mood. So, they simply recognize that human kisses are a positive thing, but they do not recognize the significance of a kiss.
At the same time, dogs who have never experienced human kisses before don’t quite know what to do with it and they do not know what it means. Because of this, when you kiss a young puppy, you may not notice any signs of recognition at all because they haven’t yet learned to associate the kisses with affection.
Is It Safe to Kiss a Dog?
Let’s start with the uncomfortable but obvious truth: Your pet’s mouth is filthy. Dogs use their mouths for a lot of less-than-sterile activities. As a result, your pet’s mouth is coated in all sorts of unsavory specimens that it’s kind of gross to imagine squirming around in your mouth.
So, dog mouths have a large number and a wide variety of bacteria. Fortunately, most of it doesn’t make us sick, but some can. Parasites like hookworm, roundworm, and giardia can be passed from dog to human through licking. Salmonella, too, can be passed from your dog to you, or vice versa.
Therefore, people with weak immune systems should simply avoid kissing pets.
Another concern is around dog bites, which happen to 4.5 million Americans each year. Though we humans believe these things to be signs of affection, to your pup, kissing your dog on the head or even hugging it can seem like an aggressive act.
That means when we hug and kiss our dogs, we may also wrap our arms around them which removes the dogs’ ability to leave.
Studies have shown that bending over a dog, putting the face close to the dog’s face, and making eye contact (all behaviors taking place when kissing a dog), often led to bites directed towards the central area of the face.
Dogs may take eye contact as a challenge, or a sign of aggression. The same is true of greeting them head-on and getting up close to their face. Your dog might skip the signs of aggression altogether and go straight to a bite when a stranger tries to get close to their face.
Kissing is not a natural part of doggie behavior, although many do learn to enjoy it. However, just because dogs don’t innately understand kissing doesn’t mean they can’t learn what it means.
Over time, they may begin to associate kisses with the attention and closeness of their human companion, which makes them happy.
However, keep in mind that even if your dog allows your kisses, it doesn’t mean that they’ll accept any from someone else. Your dog is not going to treat other people the same way they treat you. Therefore, it’s best to avoid letting kids and strangers kiss your dog altogether.
And last but not least, getting sick from dog kisses is not impossible but unlikely. According to an article in The New York Times, you may be putting your health at risk. So, if you can’t resist those puppy kisses, it’s safest to keep them away from the face.