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Home > Dogs > Do Dogs Understand Kisses? What The Science Tells Us

Do Dogs Understand Kisses? What The Science Tells Us

woman kissing her shih tzu

Planting kisses on our dogs is one of the very human ways we express our affection for them, but do dogs understand this behavior? Experts say no—dogs don’t understand kisses as we humans understand them, but they can learn to associate them with positive feelings.

Let’s dive into what this means and how dogs perceive kisses.

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Dogs & Kisses: How They See Things

According to Dr. Mary R. Burch, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, “Dogs don’t understand human kisses the same way that humans do.” (As told to Newsweek1). Dr. Burch goes on to explain that kissing is not a behavior dogs perform among themselves or other animals—it is purely human behavior.

That said, many dogs begin to enjoy kisses once they make the association between the action and your feelings of happiness. Dogs are very receptive and responsive to human emotions and, when we kiss our dogs, we often pair it with a high, happy tone of voice and an abundance of cuddles.

These actions send signals to your dog that you are happy and excited to be around them, which allows them to make the link between kisses and something positive.

corgi kissing a woman
Image By: Elena Rogulina, Pixabay

Do All Dogs Enjoy Kisses?

No, not every dog welcomes kisses, and this is something that’s really important for dog lovers to know. While many dogs don’t mind or even enjoy getting kisses from their human companions, some may perceive the action of putting your face close to theirs as a threat. This is because of the way interactions take place in the dog world.

You may have noticed that when dogs meet one another for the first time, they tend to be cautious and go sideways instead of bowling toward one another head-on. If a dog approaches another dog in this manner, it may be perceived as aggressive behavior.

For this reason, you should always exercise caution, especially if you’re not familiar with the dog in question. If a dog doesn’t seem happy or excited when you kiss them, it is unwise to continue to do so. Many dog bites have occurred as a result of someone putting their face too close to unwilling dogs, so it is simply not worth the risk.

Signs a dog is okay with you kissing them include:
  • Wagging their tail
  • Licking you
  • Nuzzling you
  • Snuggling up to you

Why Does My Dog Lick Me?

Dogs lick humans for various reasons. Licking is an instinctive behavior for dogs; a behavior performed as a means of bonding, grooming, comforting one another, and communicating with one another. Therefore, if your dog licks you when they’re relaxed, happy, or excited, it’s most likely because they’re showing you affection in a way they understand.

If you’re feeling a bit blue, you may notice that your dog comes over to you and licks you. Dogs sometimes do this as a means of showing empathy and comforting you, as revealed in a 2012 study. Furthermore, puppies sometimes lick older dogs as a means of showing deference, so your dog may lick your face to show that they respect you.

Dogs also use licking as a way of exploring the world and picking up information about things. A tentative lick could mean a dog is curious about you and wants to know more. Another possibility is that your dog enjoys the salty taste of your skin caused by sweating or touching food.

Finally, your dog may simply want to get your attention and has learned that licking makes this happen! If your dog seems to lick you or themselves excessively, it would be best to get them seen by a vet to check for medical conditions like anxiety or a skin issue.

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Final Thoughts

In brief, kissing is a human behavior that dogs don’t understand, but they can learn to understand it as a positive gesture. Dogs have their own ways of showing affection to humans, including licking, wagging their tails, nuzzling, snuggling with you, and being excited and happy when you get home.


Featured Image Credit: antoniodiaz, Shutterstock

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