Last Updated on October 5, 2021 by Marco C.
Dogs behave like humans in a lot of ways but our instincts are also diametrically opposite in some cases. So, you might be wondering, does my dog understand kisses or not? After all, there are some human behaviors that dogs often misunderstand such as continuous eye contact and approaching your dog from the front.
For us, such behaviors are perfectly normal, however, for dogs, they are signs of aggression. Does the same apply to kisses? We know that many dogs are ok with kisses but is this because they recognize them as a sign of affection and like them, because they tolerate them, or are they just confused by our strange behavior?
Does My Dog Understand Kisses As A Sign Of Affection?
Before we can determine whether dogs like kisses, we must first answer the other question – do dogs know what kisses are? We know that dogs show affection to one another and to us in various ways – licking, tail wagging, playful scuffling, nibbling, and more.
However, they don’t really “kiss” the way we do. The closest thing to kissing they do is licking but that’s quite different. In fact, no other animal other than humans and a couple of primate species kiss with their lips as a sign of affection. Even in humans, kissing is believed to be a cultural phenomenon that only some cultures have developed instead of an instinctual act.
According to a study published in the American Anthropologist journal by the University of Nevada and Indiana University, less than half of human societies and cultures actually use kissing as a romantic gesture or a sign of affection. The researchers examined 168 different human cultures in detail. They determined that only 77 of them or 46% in total used kissing to show affection. For the other 91 human cultures, kissing was considered gross, abnormal, and inappropriate.
So, while today most people and cultures in the world view kissing as a nice gesture, that seems to be something we’ve created ourselves. As Justin Garcia, one of the co-authors of the study puts it – “It’s a reminder that behaviors that seem so normative to us often do not occur in the rest of the world. Not only that but they might be viewed as strange.”
So, on the question of does my dog understand kisses as a sign of affection, the answer is – not instinctively, no.
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Natural Instinct Or A Learned Behavior?
For any canine, the first kiss on the forehead or the nose is guaranteed to be entirely confusing. However, just like people, dogs are smart enough to eventually learn that kisses are a sign of affection. With enough repetition and positive reinforcement, a dog can easily learn that kisses are done out of love.
So, if you’re also wondering “Does my dog know I love him when I kiss him?” the answer here is – it depends on how you taught your dog to view kisses. If you only ever kiss your dog in situations of positive emotions and if you never force your kisses upon your dog, the pooch will easily learn that kisses are a sign of love.
However, if you start kissing your dog when it doesn’t want to be kissed or if you bother the dog when it’s looking for some personal space, the dog can easily learn to resent your affection.
In theory, you can even teach your dog to view kisses as something bad. If you only ever kiss your dog forcefully and as a part of a negative reinforcement routine together with scolding and a shock collar/tightening harness, your dog will quickly learn to hate or fear kisses.
It’s all about how you introduce your dog to kissing.
Do Dogs Like Kisses Or Do They Just Tolerate Them?
This will depend on the dog. If your dog has grown to be affectionate and loving, and if you show your dog that kisses are a good thing, the dog will likely love them. Many dog breeds such as Labradors are big people-pleasers and are ecstatic to see that their humans love them.
However, there are more unaffectionate dog breeds out there too. Such almost cat-like dogs like their personal space and only rarely look for human contact or attention. So, even if such a dog knows that kisses are a show of love, it will often just tolerate them rather than enjoy them.
Still, most dogs are quite affectionate and will actively enjoy receiving kisses from their family members.
Teaching A Dog To Like Kisses
Getting a dog used to kisses is all about positive reinforcement. If a dog has never received a kiss or worse – has grown to associate it with negative emotions because of an abusive previous owner – you’ll have to work to “reeducate” your dog.
The way you can go about it is to start creating as many positive experiences for the dog. This means treats, new toys, extra playtime, frequent hikes, and more – whatever your dog enjoys. And, every time your dog is enjoying itself, start introducing kisses as a part of the overall positive experience.
Observe A Dog’s Body Language
If you’re still wondering “Does my dog understand kisses?”, you might want to take a closer look at your pooch’s body language as you kiss him. If your dog is displaying the classic signs of fear when you approach for a kiss, this means that the dog isn’t feeling good about the whole thing. Such signs can include:
- Shaking or trembling
- Retreating away from your touch
- Attempting to hide
- Restlessness and others
Obviously, if your dog is actively barking or growing at you, you should never attempt to kiss it. Instead, give the dog some space and try again at a later time when the dog is feeling better.
Should I Try To Kiss Dogs That Aren’t My Own?
If you encounter a dog in the park, you may be tempted to pet and kiss them. Either of those should only ever be done with the dog owners’ presence and approval, however. If a dog isn’t used to your petting and kissing, it can easily view them as a sign of aggression. Think about it – if a stranger approaches you from above and starts kissing you, how would you react?
In Conclusion – Does My Dog Understand Kisses?
For dogs, kissing is an alien gesture that they don’t find instinctive. However, they can learn to understand, accept, and even love it, if your approach is correct. Most of the time you wouldn’t even have to think about it. If you’re raising a pup well and you’re kissing it affectionately, the dog will likely grow to appreciate the gesture. It’s only in the special cases of abused, poorly trained/socialized, or just unfamiliar dogs that kissing can be problematic.
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