Receiving slobbery kisses from our canine companions is part of the dog-loving package, but do you ever wonder why they do this?
Turns out, there are lots of reasons dogs like to put their tongues on you, ranging from instinct, to affection, to stress. Let’s take a look.
Dog Kisses Are Instinctual
Dog licking is a form of communication and stimulation for dogs. What we term “dog kisses” are an instinctual urge that starts at birth.
According to dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell, “Why is the dog licking? Right from birth that is how the mother communicates with her new puppies, how she stimulates them to start breathing and how she cleans them when they are born, so it's very important to the survival of puppies. In the wild and in domestic dogs, you'll find they will lick around the mother's mouth as newborns and puppies still retain that instinct. It's also sort of a submissive gesture — the more subordinate members of a pack will lick the more dominant members and that's important in maintaining pack harmony.”
They Show Affection
Just like you imagine, doggie kisses are also forms of affection. That is, it’s affectionate when combined with butt wiggles and other signals of happiness. For example, when you come home after a long day at work, your dog wants to say “Hi Mom! I’m so excited you’re home!” Then, the doggie kisses are a natural show of affection.
“Licking for affection causes your dog to release endorphins that calms and comforts him and makes him feel secure. You are the most important person in his life and he wants you to know.” (Source)
While affection is nice, there are other reasons your dog may lick you.
Your Dog Likes the Way You Taste
Dog experts at the AKC share another reason for pup kisses, “It seems gross to us, but our sweaty, salty skin can be intriguing to dogs, who tend to explore the world with their mouths and are comforted by the scent of their caring owners. It’s the same reason they often steal our socks and underwear.”
In other words, your dog loves you and is comforted by your smell and taste. Unlike people, they aren’t put off by sweat and odors; rather, they’re intrigued.
“In general, if a dog licks you, they are showing affection. However, if the dog licks someone who is agitated or excited this could be a symptom of stress. By licking that person, they are trying to relieve their stress because they know this is a welcome gesture.
If the dog licks you from nerves and not for love, you can recognize this behavior thanks to other calming signs. Signs such as lifted ears, head tilts and anxious movements.” (Source)
So, if you’re visibly upset, your dog may try licking you to calm you down. Or, if your dog is feeling stressed, then licking you can help calm THEM down by releasing those endorphins and send a cascade of positive feelings through their bodies.
As you can see, there are many reasons your dog might give you kisses. The question becomes, does your dog give more kisses than you’d like? Some people find they have an excited dog who can’t accept attention without exchanging pets for kisses. Other dogs simply want to kiss everyone they meet!
In such cases, you may need to train them that their slobbery kisses aren’t always wanted. Dogs thrive on positive interaction and if their kisses are ignored, then they’ll eventually stop. A dog trainer or canine behavior therapist can help you establish boundaries and ease any concerns on your dog’s behalf. Contact your family veternarian for more information.