Kissing is one of the fondest ways of showing affection among humans. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a peck on the cheek or a French kiss; the intention is always to display love and adoration.
Since we exchange kisses among our family and friends almost on a daily basis, it’s not unusual to come across a pet owner kissing their dog as a sign of affection.
Indeed, it’s a profound way of expressing our deep love for these furry, little friends. And since dogs are known to repay every good deed, you may even see them responding by licking their owner’s face or nudging their head in return.
However, we should remember that dogs communicate differently from humans. And while a kiss may be intended to express our deep affection for our canine friends, the dog may interpret it to mean something else altogether.
In this post, we will explore how dogs understand a human kiss. But first things first; do dogs like kisses, to begin with?
The perfect answer to that question is “not necessarily”. As you may already know, kissing isn’t a natural phenomenon among dogs. As a matter of fact, it’s only after months of rigorous training that most dogs come to learn and enjoy kissing.
That means before your pooch understands what kissing is, you may be sending all the wrong signals whenever you kiss and cuddle it. Don’t be fooled into believing that a dog licking your face in return is an indication that it likes to be kissed.
In most cases, the dog is trying to communicate completely different messages, such as expressing submission, relieving stress, or showing affection.
Do Dogs Understand Kisses?
To answer this question conclusively, we should first investigate how dogs communicate.
As we’ve already pointed out, dogs communicate very differently from humans. Therefore, we should never interpret a dog’s behavior in human terms.
For instance, a dog may bark and whine to their owners or other dogs. However, those actions shouldn’t be construed to imply that the dog is talking or necessarily angry.
While humans primarily rely on verbal and sign language as their major modes of communication, dogs use facial expressions and body posturing to express their ideas and emotions.
In an attempt to understand how dogs communicate, we may compare them with some of their wild relatives, such as wolves and jackals.
Indeed, recent research indicates that some dog breeds, such as Huskies, have retained most wolf-like language traits. But for the most part, the dogs’ ways of communication have evolved from the time they were first domesticated by humans.
And since some dogs have retained the language traits of their wild ancestors, it becomes difficult for different dog breeds to communicate effectively. That means it’s even more challenging for us to understand a dog’s way of communication.
👉 Therefore, it’s logical to say that dogs don’t innately understand kisses, at least not the way humans perceive them. A dog would need to be trained to learn about the meaning and symbolism of a kiss.
How Dogs Communicate
One way to answer the question “do dogs understand kisses from humans?” is to explore the different ways dogs communicate with humans as well as other dogs.
The following are some of these ways.
1. Eye Contact
Eye contact is one of the common ways dogs communicate their ideas and emotions. If a dog maintains constant eye contact with you, it might be trying to display affection, trust, and submission.
On the other hand, a dog will avoid eye contact with you if it’s uncomfortable or scared of you. Most dogs avoid eye contact with their owners as an expression of cowering and self-guilt after engaging in naughty behaviour.
2. Sneezing and Yawning
You may be forgiven for thinking that a dog only sneezes when it’s down with flu, or yawns when it’s about to sleep.
A misplaced sneeze or yawn among our canine friends is usually a sign that the dog is stressed or uncomfortable around unfamiliar people or other pets.
However, dogs may also yawn when they feel perfectly content being around you. To decode the message, you should establish whether the yawn is appropriate or misplaced.
3. Belly Exposure
A dog rolling on the grass while baring its belly is usually a message that the dog is trying to appease you.
Perhaps, it’s challenging you to come play the game of fetch. Belly exposure is also a sign of passive resistance to a real or perceived threat.
4. Tail Exposure
Most dogs wag their tails when they’re generally happy and pleased to have you around. When the intent is to express excitement, dogs tend to shake their tails so vigorously that their butts also wiggle.
However, dogs may also use their tails to communicate a different range of emotions. For instance, dogs wag their tails slowly when they’re cautious and nervous. When the tail is stiff and held high, it could mean the dog is on high alert.
A tucked tail may demonstrate feelings of fear and anxiety. Lastly, a low tail could denote contentment being around their owners.
5. Tongue Flicking
Dogs tend to flick their tongues to pass across a series of messages to their owners or other dogs. Tongue flicking could mean anxiety or a desire to appease their owners.
6. Raising a Paw
Dogs may raise their paws to communicate their desire to get your attention. Sometimes, the behaviour could be accompanied by a gentle tap on your legs.
While adult dogs will raise their paws gently to appease their owners, puppies communicate the same intention by pawing the air repeatedly.
7. Bringing Things to You
Fetching objects, such as balls, sticks, and toys, is mostly interpreted as an invitation to play.
However, if a dog brings something it usually cherishes and drops it at your feet, the dog could be trying to express affection and appreciation for having you as its owner.
8. Play Bowing
Play bowing is another gesture we mostly associate with an invitation to play.
In this gesture, your dog will typically approach you from the front and dive into a bow, usually with its front legs laid flat on the ground and the butt raised in the air.
9. Leaning against You
Dogs cuddle their owners by leaning against them. It’s their unique version of hugging us. If the leaning is accompanied by some rubbing, it could indicate the dog is also trying to scent-mark you while being affectionate.