You Had Me at Woof

What’s good about today? Dog kisses!

Selfie by Ellen Epstein

By Ellen Epstein

There are lots of reasons dogs like to put their tongues on you, ranging from instinct, to affection, to stress. Why?

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.”

Licking may help maintain pack harmony:

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. Like when you come home from work.

Your Dog Likes Your Smell:

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.

Stress Reduction:

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 that person’s or their own 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.

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 endorphins and sending a cascade of positive feelings through their bodies.

There are many reasons that dogs give 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!

What do you think about dog kisses? I think they are the BEST KISSES!

Ellen Epstein is Top Dog @ Bow Wow Meow Pet Care ellen@bowwowpets.net • 703-850-5559