I asked a friend recently if she kisses her dogs. She’s a big-hearted dog lover and regularly rescues and fosters animals in her suburban, Los Angeles home.
She told me that she does kiss some of them, but others were not receptive, and one in particular would probably become violent if she tried to give any kisses because this rescue dog takes kisses as a major insult or threat.
Her answer is an almost picture-perfect lesson on the subject. Is it okay to give your dog kisses? It’s really all about who your dog is, who you are, and what everyone is comfortable with.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re deciding whether or not to smooch your pooch.
Why Do Some Dogs Like Kisses?
From the dog’s perspective, kisses are a very specific form of communication. Dogs who do enjoy it have learned, probably from puppyhood, that kisses brings positive results.
In fact, this natural behavior is important to survival. In the wild, wolf and fox puppies will greet their mother’s return from hunting with lots of licks to the face, and sometimes the mother will regurgitate food for her young.
Gross? Maybe. But it’s much easier for that four-legged mother to bring food in her stomach than it is for her to drag a fresh kill all the way home.
Within the pack, face licking is another form of communication. Experts call it “active submission.” Subordinate members of the pack, will lick the face and mouth of their superiors.
Many dogs will continue this behavior as long as their mommies and pack leaders — human or otherwise — are receptive to the attention.
Why Do Some Dogs Hate Kisses?
Dogs who are not receptive to kisses, feel that way for equally specific reasons.
Dogs who are dominant will find most intrusions into their personal space to be an insult, or worse, a challenge.
This is why we teach our children not to pet animals that they don’t know. The animal may be subordinate and submissive with their humans but feel that strangers, especially children, are below them in the pecking-order.
It’s hard sometimes for humans to read a dog’s behavior, especially a dog they don’t personally know very well. Wagging tails and direct eye contact can be easily misunderstood. Both children and adults put themselves at risk when they accidentally violate a dog’s social rules.
As my friend the dog lover in Los Angeles knows very well, some dogs may enjoy all kinds of affection, but draw the line at “kisses.” The aversion may have been taught to them early by either a dog or human reacting negatively to their kissy, puppy love, or it may simply be too intrusive for them.
Humans have their own opinions on dog kisses. I know lots of fabulous, loving dog parents who would never allow their dogs to lick them and would find the idea of kissing a dog to be disgusting, and I know others who submit themselves to what they call “dog facials” on a regular basis.
What About Germs?
So, how disgusting are dog kisses?
First of all, we know that kissing can be good for humans. It generates the happy hormones called endorphins, promotes bonding, lowers stress, and as some point out, burns calories — now, that’s a stretch. Of course, with an ongoing pandemic, you might be taking more of a risk than those benefits are worth.
The jury on germs from doggy licks is still out. Germaphobes will refute the old saying that “a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s,” and they would be right.
The fact is, that a dog’s mouth is really quite similar to our own. There are a lot of different bacteria noodling around in there. For the most part, none of the microbes are any more dangerous than what’s living in your significant other’s mouth.
The difference between your dog and your significant other is that your significant other probably didn’t nibble on a squirrel carcass this morning after they thoroughly licked their private parts. Of course, I don’t really know your significant other that well, but I assume that they didn’t.
If you know that your dog hasn’t eaten anything out of a litter box and the only other treats they had in their mouth were out of a biscuit box, then you can use what they call “common sense hygiene” and kiss away. In fact, there is some evidence that it can boost your immunity.
There are some cautions for folks with compromised immune systems, but otherwise, between consenting canines and homo sapiens, it’s a personal choice.
For the record, I’m a big time doggy kisser and regularly indulge in pooch smooches.
Do you kiss your dog? Do you let them kiss you back? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!