Why Do Dogs Give Kisses?

Dog lovers around the world are well-acquainted with the wet-nosed, slobbery affection of doggy kisses.

But have you ever paused mid-lick to ask: why do dogs give kisses?

Are these slobbery signs of affection purely a show of love, or is there more to it, buried deep within their wolfish ancestry?

The act of a dog “kissing” its human is a layered behavior, steeped in instinct, emotion, and social dynamics.

So buckle up, dog lovers, as we dive headfirst into the heartwarming, and slightly damp, world of dog kisses.

This journey might leave you with a newfound appreciation for your pet’s loving licks, and a deeper understanding of your furry best friend.

The Common Misconception: Are Dog Kisses Really Kisses?

Understanding Dogs’ Natural Behaviors And Communications

From an evolutionary and biological standpoint, licking behavior has deep roots in the dog’s family, Canidae, which includes wolves, foxes, and other such animals.

For instance, wild canid puppies lick their mother’s mouth as a signal for her to regurgitate pre-digested food.

This behavior is vital for survival in their early life stages.

So, when your dog licks or ‘kisses’ you, it could be manifesting a behavior that has been passed down for thousands of generations, an instinctual behavior that has persisted even in domesticated dogs.

Anthropomorphism In Interpreting Dog Behaviors

Our understanding of dog behavior is often influenced by our human perspective, a phenomenon known as anthropomorphism.

While it’s easy and natural for us to project our human emotions and motivations onto our pets, this can sometimes limit our understanding of their behaviors.

Dogs, unlike humans, rely heavily on non-verbal communication.

They don’t perceive the world in the same way we do, so their ‘kisses’ might have a different meaning from what we think.

Unpacking The Psychology Of Dogs

How Dogs Express Their Emotions

The world of dogs is full of expressions and signals.

Their emotions manifest through various channels: their body language, vocalizations, and even their eye movements.

Licking or ‘kissing’ is one such expression.

A dog’s ‘kiss’ might be an expression of submission, respect, excitement, or a simple request for food or attention.

Observing your dog’s overall behavior while it ‘kisses’ can provide useful clues about its emotional state.

Understanding Canine Body Language

Dogs have a complex language of their own, and understanding it can bring us closer to our pets.

For instance, when your dog ‘kisses’ you, observe its body language.

Are the ears relaxed?

Is the tail wagging loosely?

Are the eyes soft and relaxed?

This could mean your dog is comfortable and happy.

But if the licking is paired with other behaviors like yawning, panting, or avoiding eye contact, it could mean your dog is anxious or stressed.

Therefore, understanding this body language can help you discern what your dog is trying to communicate.

The Role Of Instincts In Dog Behaviors

Just as instincts drive much of human behavior, they also govern many of a dog’s actions.

Licking or ‘kissing’ is not just a learned behavior but one that’s instinctual and hardwired into their brains.

Canine species, such as wolves, use licking as a powerful tool for communication.

It serves to maintain pack hierarchy and to strengthen social bonds.

So when your dog ‘kisses’ you, it could be an instinctual display of respect or affection.

Dominance, Submission, And Affection

Licking or ‘kissing’ can also be a sign of submission.

In the wild, lower-ranking members of a pack lick the more dominant ones as an acknowledgment of their higher status.

In a domestic setting, your dog might lick you to acknowledge your role as the leader.

Conversely, licking can also be a way for dogs to show affection and strengthen their bond with you.

This behavior triggers the release of endorphins, providing a sense of comfort and happiness for the dog.

The Biological Factors Behind Dogs’ Kissing Habits

Benefits And Potential Risks

The act of a dog ‘kissing’ has several benefits.

One of them is wound healing.

The enzymes in dog saliva can help clean out wounds, which might explain why dogs often lick their cuts or scratches.

But it’s crucial to be aware that dog saliva can also harbor harmful bacteria and parasites, so allowing a dog to lick your face or an open wound isn’t always advisable, especially for people with weakened immune systems.

How Dogs Use Their Tongues

Dogs don’t just use their tongues for eating or drinking; they use them as a tool to explore their environment.

Dogs have an organ called the Jacobson’s organ that allows them to ‘taste’ smells, giving them a much richer sensory experience than humans can imagine.

So, when your dog ‘kisses’ you, it’s gathering a wealth of information about you, your day, and your surroundings.

How The Dog’s Brain Processes Affection

When a dog ‘kisses’ you, it’s a deeply emotional experience for the animal.

Neurochemicals flood the dog’s brain, reinforcing the bond it shares with you.

Licking can also be a self-soothing behavior for dogs.

It’s a way for them to manage their emotions and stay calm, much like how some humans use deep breathing exercises to relax.

Oxytocin: The ‘love Hormone’ In Dogs And Humans

Interestingly, the act of ‘kissing’ can stimulate the release of oxytocin in both you and your dog.

Oxytocin, commonly known as the ‘love hormone,’ is released during moments of bonding and mutual affection.

This hormone promotes a sense of well-being and trust, strengthening the emotional bond between you and your dog.

Positive Reinforcement: Training And Dog’s Licking Behavior

Like any behavior, ‘kissing’ can be reinforced through positive feedback.

If you respond positively every time your dog ‘kisses’ you, it will quickly learn to repeat this behavior.

However, it’s essential to set boundaries, especially if you’re not comfortable with your dog licking your face.

You can gently discourage this behavior by redirecting your dog’s attention to a toy or a treat.

The Implications Of Dog Kisses

The Impact On Human-Canine Relationships

When we decode and understand the reasons behind dog ‘kisses’, it deepens our bond with our canine companions.

It allows us to appreciate their gestures and communicate effectively with them.

Understanding dog ‘kisses’ as a form of non-verbal communication broadens our perspective and enables us to navigate our relationship with our pets more empathetically.

It helps us comprehend their emotional state and their unique ways of expressing affection or submission.

Building Bonds

Dog ‘kisses’ can be an excellent way to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

As discussed, dog kisses stimulate the release of oxytocin in both parties, fostering feelings of trust and affection.

By accepting your dog’s ‘kisses’, you acknowledge its efforts to communicate and bond with you.

However, it’s essential to remember that each dog is unique; some dogs might not be ‘kissers’, and that’s okay.

They have their own ways of expressing their affection.

When Dog Kisses Are More Than Affection

Sometimes, dog ‘kisses’ might signify more than affection or submission.

Excessive or compulsive licking can sometimes signal underlying issues such as anxiety, stress, or health problems.

If you notice a sudden increase in your dog’s licking behavior or if it seems to focus on licking a specific area of its body, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian.

It’s important for dog owners to be alert to these changes in licking behavior, as it can be a critical clue in detecting health issues early.

The Pros And Cons Of Dog Kisses

While dog ‘kisses’ can be a wonderful way for our pets to express their love and affection, they do come with potential risks.

As mentioned, dog saliva can contain harmful bacteria and parasites, which can cause infections if it comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membranes.

For people with weakened immune systems, these ‘kisses’ might pose a significant health risk.

Therefore, it’s essential to maintain good pet hygiene and regular veterinary check-ups.

On the other hand, dog ‘kisses’ have several benefits.

They can act as a stress-buster, triggering the release of oxytocin and endorphins that can help us relax.

They can also offer valuable insights into our pet’s emotions and well-being.

In conclusion, dog ‘kisses’ serve as a window into the fascinating world of canine communication, behavior, and psychology.

As pet parents, when we learn to understand these gestures better, we can enrich our relationships with our dogs.

While accepting these ‘kisses’, we must also be aware of potential health risks and always ensure proper hygiene.

Remember, communication is a two-way street, so as much as we enjoy these loving ‘kisses’, we must also learn to ‘listen’ to our dogs and respond to their needs appropriately.

Whether your dog is a serial kisser or a reserved companion, it’s the love and bond you share that matters the most.

Before You Go…

Now you know why dogs give kisses.

If you want to learn more, read the following articles too!

Or watch this video:

Dimitra Kokologianni, DVM
Dimitra holds a Masters’s degree in public health and a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. She is a versatile professional with over 7 years of experience. Her passion for animal welfare and preventive medicine makes her an excellent resource for our readers.