It can be irresistible to scoop up a pudgy pup and shower them in kisses, but do dogs like being kissed? We often think of our dogs as our children, leading us to treat them that way. But while dogs are family members, we should never forget that they are not human beings.
This means that human actions such as being kissed or hugged don’t always mean the same thing to dogs as they do us. In fact, dogs can understand human displays of affection very differently. So let’s look at how dogs feel about being kissed and how to best show our dogs we love them.
Do Dogs Like Being Kissed?
Yes, dogs like being kissed. Studies show that kissing our dogs raises their level of oxytocin (the bonding chemical) and lowers their cortisol (their stress chemical). What’s more, kissing our dogs does the same thing for us. So it’s mutually beneficial. Still, that doesn’t mean kissing is the best way to show our dogs we love them or that we should even do it.
Dogs are good at reading us, and they usually know when we are being affectionate, such as when we kiss them. Because they love affection from us, most dogs do like being kissed. However, they don’t like the act of being kissed but rather that we give them attention and show affection.
Of course, many people will not kiss their dogs for hygiene reasons, even if we rinse our dog’s mouths out with dog mouthwash every day (which we should). After all, we all know our dogs eat far more than just their designated dog food. And dog’s mouths are full of germs that lead to dental diseases that may even cost them their teeth.
But hygiene isn’t the only reason we should hold back from kissing and consider other ways of showing our dogs love.
How Do Dogs Understand Kisses?
There are two basic ways that dogs interpret kisses, and it depends on your dog’s individual temperament and genetics. An easygoing dog with an excellent temperament will likely take your kisses in stride and simply see them as affection. They should return your kisses with a few loving licks of their own.
However, more dominant dog breeds, such as Akitas, Rottweilers, and the dreaded Chihuahua may view kisses differently. When a dog licks another dog’s mouth, it is usually an appeasement signal. It is something a submissive dog does to try to get a more dominant dog to be nice to them.
If you are kissing a dog with dominant tendencies, this may signal to your dog that “appeasing” them and that they are your leader. Dogs without gentle but firm leadership from their owners are more prone to issues with anxiety or aggression.
Remember, dogs are pack animals and they thrive with a pack leader they can trust. This does not mean you need to bully or intimidate your dog, only that every dog needs to trust that their owner is in control to feel safe.
To know if your dog is taking your kisses as a sign of submission, pay attention to their body language. Look for signs like sitting still, raising their tail, or puffing their chest out.
On the other hand, if you have a small Chihuahua that shows signs of agitation when you kiss them, such as snarling and snapping or being fearful, do not press the situation. It may seem funny to have a little dog act fearsomely when you give them kisses, but a dog in distress should never be a source of entertainment.
Another point to keep in mind is where you are kissing your dog.
Do Dogs Like Being Kissed On The Nose?
Yes, most dogs like a kiss on the nose. One reason is that human kisses are similar enough to dog kisses to mimic the way dogs lick each other during grooming. Another reason that they like a quick smootch on the nose is that you are likely making eye contact with your dog when you do it. Mutual, loving eye contact with your dog raises oxytocin levels for both dog owners and their dogs.
But make sure it’s a loving stare, though. A hard stare with prolonged eye contact can be a sign of aggression.
Is Kissing Your Dog On The Head Okay?
So long as your dog has no issue with it and you don’t mind any potential hygiene problems, it’s fine to kiss your dog on the head. The top of the head is the best place to kiss your dog, as it puts your head above theirs, indicating leadership and affection.
Avoid kissing your dog on the mouth, not just because of hygiene but because it is a submissive gesture between dogs.
Do Dogs Like Kisses And Hugs?
According to studies, dogs get a massive rush of oxytocin when they get kisses, so they like being kissed. However, Dr. Stanley Coren found that about 80% of dogs show signs of stress when hugged. This includes ears pulled back, lip licking, yawning, pulling away, or growling and nipping.
The fact is, dogs don’t like hugs as it feels unnatural and restrictive. Dogs generally hate being restrained, which is why they fight in situations such as baths. We will discuss appropriate ways to show our love to our dogs below that don’t include hugging.
Do Dogs Understand Hugs?
No, dogs do not understand hugs the way humans do. Most dogs will tolerate them, especially when we are upset. However, some dogs will show signs of distress and may even nip or bite.
Being hugged is a restrictive and unnatural feeling for dogs, and children especially should be taught never to run up and hug a strange dog.
Toddlers who tend to babble in high-pitched voices while trying to hug a dog are often in danger of a nip, and parents should stop their young children from doing this. This is dangerous for the dog and the child, as not all dogs tolerate hugs. Nor should they be expected to.
Yes, dogs are intuitively empathetic when we are sad and usually give a crying person all their attention. This means that they often tolerate a hug from an upset person, and many people who have grown up with dogs have likely hugged a dog this way at least once. But this does not mean your dog is comfortable being hugged.
This is a mix of tolerance and empathy from a dog trying their best to meet us halfway. Being hugged is not natural to dogs, and most dogs intrinsically prefer not to be restrained. This is why dogs may destroy their crate and take time to learn to walk on their leash.
What Is The Best Way To Show My Dog I Love Them? Speaking Your Dog’s Love Language
The best way to show your dog love is by being aware of how to love them in a way they understand. Yes, we all want sometimes to squeeze our pups tight, shower them with kisses, and use a baby voice, but we also need to understand that this kind of affection is designed to make us feel good. It is not necessarily what our dogs need.
We need to speak their love language to show our dogs that we love them. Here’s a quick guide:
- Be present. A dog is a pack animal that does not have a phone or watch TV. Be home as much as possible with your dog, or make sure someone is with them for company. When you are with your dog, put the technology down and be present with your dog. Make sure you engage with them fully.
- Allow your dog to do what comes naturally. Do you have a scenthound like a beagle? Take them to tracking classes to use their nose. Do you have an active Border Collie or another herding breed? See if there are herding dog classes in your area. If not, make use of their natural athleticism with sports like agility. Allowing your dog to do something that channels their natural instincts is one of the best ways to show them, love, much like allowing a child who loves to paint to take art classes.
- Feed your dog a proper diet, give them plenty of exercises and keep them a healthy weight. Giving your dogs treats for no reason, forgetting daily exercise, or allowing them to become overweight is a form of neglect and not how to love your dog.
- Play with your dog daily. A study in Bristol found that frequent playtime dramatically increases your dog’s sense of well-being.
- Use touch and your voice. Petting your dog, particularly rubbing the ears, and running your hand over their body, mimics natural grooming. Speaking to your dog in a calm voice helps build a connection. Remember, dogs are very tuned in to the tone of our voice and can hear when we are affectionate and calm.
- Make eye contact. A study on mutual staring between dogs and their owners showed that oxytocin in dogs spiked 130% and 300% in owners. So when cuddling with your dog, make sure you gaze deeply and lovingly into their eyes.
- Work on communication and training. The best way to show your dog you love them is to have a good relationship with them in which you can communicate clearly. If your dog has a ton of unwanted behaviors driving you nuts, you will be distracted from showing them, love. It is much easier to show love to a well-behaved dog who responds to your commands.
- Take the time to groom your dog. Even if your dog has a short coat, keeping ears & eyes clean, trimming nails, and cleaning teeth are physical ways to maintain your dog’s long-term well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do Dogs Like Being Pet?
Unless a dog is feral or fearful of people, they like being pet. Petting, especially gentle, calm petting, mimics the feeling of being groomed by their mother and releases endorphins and oxytocin in the dog’s brain. When petting a dog, always be cautious of areas that may be painful, such as lumps on older dogs.
Do Dogs Like When You Talk To Them?
Dogs do not understand when we talk to them, but they understand our tone. If our tone is calm and affectionate, they generally like when we talk to them. If our tone is too high-pitched or angry, they likely will not respond well. Dogs will also like the sound of sentences they understand, such as “do you want to go for a walk?” or “Do you want a treat?”.
Why Do Dogs Like Their Necks Kissed?
Asking why dogs like their necks kissed is similar to asking, “do dogs like affection.” Dogs like any display of affection and love from their owner, including neck kisses or belly rubs. The area around the neck and back can also be itchy, so sometimes a dog may prefer a scratch to a
Kissing your dog is okay, so long as you’re fine with the hygiene risks. However, it’s important to understand that dogs don’t understand kissing like we do. For instance, kissing on the mouth signifies submissiveness among dogs.
So if you have a strong dominant dog, it’s probably not a good idea to give the idea that you are being submissive. If you want to show your dog you love them, take steps to meet their needs as canines first.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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