We humans love to shower each other with affection. We hug, kiss, express our feelings verbally, and the list goes on. It only makes sense, then, that we’d show our canine counterparts this same level of affection. After all, they’re family, right?
While those words may be true, it turns out that our dogs might not always appreciate the gestures we offer in our attempts to show them we care. Hugging, which is something people do quite often, is actually quite threatening in dog language. While in many cases they put up with it because they love us so much, they might not be as happy about it as we think they are.
Another example of human affection that we share with our dogs is kissing. The canine version of kissing is quite different than ours, and though we don’t lick our dogs to show them we care, many of us kiss them the human way on different parts of their bodies to express our affection.
But do our dogs actually like to be kissed? If it were up to them, would they seek out this behavior from us? And if they do enjoy being kissed, where is the best place on their bodies to do it? These questions and more will be answered for you in this post.
Where Do Dogs Like to Be Kissed?
The short answer to this question is honestly anyone’s guess. That’s because dogs are individuals just like we are, and what one dog likes another might not. You know your dog better than anyone, and if you read their body language, you’ll probably get your answer. The long answer to this question is what the rest of this post is for, so keep reading. Let’s break it down by body part, so you’ll know whether it’s a good idea next time you think about smooching your pooch!
Just like parents kiss their children on the forehead or the top of the head, many dog owners do the same with their fur babies. I personally do this with my dog as part of our greeting routine when I come home, and while she doesn’t seem to mind it, she doesn’t actively seek it out, either. However, after years of being together, I’ve become quite adept at reading her body language. If I noticed any signs of stress (ears back, lip licking, yawning), I’d stop.
If your dog appears comfortable with kisses on the head (relaxed ears, tail neutral or high, loose body language), then go for it. Don’t be surprised if they lick you in return, though. This might be a sign that they’re returning your affection but can also be an anxiety response to get you to stop. Either way, keep your mouth closed at a minimum! If they don’t reciprocate, that’s ok, too. As long as they don’t seem uncomfortable with it, it’s probably ok to do.
A quick yet important note here: if your dog has recently joined the family, kissing them on the head (or anywhere, for that matter) may not be the best idea. Until you’ve established a solid bond with each other, your dog may see this behavior as threatening. You’re putting your trust in their paws by putting your face so close to theirs (read: in bite range), and without a pre-established bond, this might not be a smart move! Take the time to get to know your dog for a while first.
While it might seem like an odd place to kiss, dogs’ ears are often irresistible to us humans. They’re soft, warm, and many dogs just love having them scratched, rubbed, or petted, so why not kiss them there? Well, to start with, a dog’s hearing is at least twice as sensitive as a human’s, meaning the mere sound of the kiss itself so close to their ear canal might be too much for them. This seemingly simple gesture of affection might cause discomfort, anxiety, or even pain in extra-sensitive dogs.
Certain breeds of dog are literally designed to have extra sensitive hearing, such as herding breeds and terriers, for example. This is because their purpose was to be on high alert for predators or vermin, and though many of them are now simply family pets, their DNA remains the same. However, any dog can be sound sensitive, so it’s important to be aware of your individual dog’s traits and personality.
As discussed earlier, learning your dog’s body language cues can be a big help in deciphering whether your dog likes this form of affection. Loose body, relaxed ears, and moving toward you (versus trying to get away) all indicate that your dog is happy to continue with what you’re doing. Their ears are pretty close to their face, however, so proceed with caution — don’t try to kiss them while your dog is sleeping or agitated for any reason. Respect their personal space just like you expect them to respect yours!
A kiss on the cheek is one of the most common forms of human affection, and many of us share this with our dogs. As with the head and ears, the muzzle and cheek on a dog are about as close to their mouth as you can get, so this leaves many dog owners wondering if it’s ok to kiss them there, and if their dog likes it when they do. Kisses don’t translate to dog language very well, but is this a reason to avoid kissing your dog’s irresistible muzzle? Let’s find out.
The muzzle is one of a dog’s most sensitive areas, partly because that’s where their whiskers are. Whiskers are designed to sense changes in the environment, and our dogs rely on them heavily to determine their surroundings. With that said, gently kissing your dog on the muzzle might not be the worst thing, it’s just important (again) to gauge their reactions through body language. Pulling away, tense body, and ears pulled back are all signs your pup doesn’t dig muzzle kisses — and should be respected.
When kissing your dog on the cheek — provided they don’t show any of the signs above — try your best to approach her from the side. Why? Because this is deemed “polite” in dog language; approaching head-on is a threatening posture, and one that dogs don’t generally do in the natural world (unless they’re challenging another dog). While of course we’re human and kissing is a human behavior, it doesn’t hurt to show your dog that you respect his space while you shower him with affection!
The nose of a dog is famously sensitive, mostly because their sense of smell is said to be 100,000 times more powerful than a human’s. Smell is the way that dogs navigate the world, and is more relied on than their eyesight, hearing, and taste combined. However, there’s another reason dog’s noses are so sensitive that doesn’t involve smell: their sensitivity to touch.
Back in the days of force-based training, one form of correction for bad behavior in dogs was a quick tap on the nose — either with a hand or a rolled-up newspaper. While the training world has largely evolved to understand that punishment-based training is damaging to dogs (thank goodness), there was a reason why this worked. Dogs simply don’t like having their noses touched for the most part, and any insult to this area is damaging to them, both physically and mentally.
While kissing your dog on the nose is obviously not a form of punishment, there’s a chance it’s seen as offensive in your dog’s eyes. Again, determining whether your individual dog appreciates it or not means relying heavily on their body language, so pay attention. If you do decide to smooch your pooch on their sensitive snout, do so with extreme care, approach them from the side, and be as gentle as possible.
A dog’s general body consists of its back, ribs, and torso areas. These aren’t super sensitive to the touch generally speaking, but your dog might have unique sensitivities that others don’t. For example, some dogs are fine to touch on the back, while others flinch and twitch. Some love having their sides scratched, while others might air snap and turn away. The good news is, you likely already know the sensitive areas on your own dog, so you can avoid them if necessary.
Kissing a dog on the back, ribs, or torso might prove a little more difficult than their muzzle, nose, or ears, simply due to their anatomy. However, if your dog is lying down on its stomach or side, these areas are more accessible for smooching. If your pup remains relaxed or otherwise unbothered by your kisses in these places, they’re likely ok with you doing it.
It’s a good idea to make sure your dog is awake when you approach them for kisses, though, especially if they can turn around and reach you with their teeth. Many accidental dog bites happen in cases where the owner (or the owner’s child) wakes their pup out of a deep sleep, simply because they’re not cognizant enough to process what’s actually happening. Knowing this beforehand will help you and your dog enjoy the kisses more, as well as keeping you both safe!
Belly rubs are a dog’s best friend, and volunteering for one is a surefire sign that your dog trusts you. However, rolling over and exposing their tummies is also a way dogs submit to one another, so it might not be an invitation to rub their belly after all. If you’ve got a solid bond with your pup and belly rubs are a regular thing, it’s probably a safe bet to say they enjoy them. But do they like it when you kiss them on their tummies, too?
This is a bit of a tricky question, because humans and dogs understand affection differently. While belly rubs might be your dog’s favorite form of doggy love, they might balk at you bending over to put your face on their sensitive tummy area. You won’t hurt them physically if you do, but it might tickle or otherwise agitate your dog’s physical reaction response, so just be careful and don’t make any super sudden movements.
If your dog’s reaction to tummy kisses is relaxed and essentially nonchalant, it should be fine to give them. But if they suddenly jump up from their reclined position, turn and snap at you, or otherwise seem obviously uncomfortable, it’s best to give this spot a miss from now on. You can still continue to give belly rubs when they want them, though — these are usually appreciated universally!
This is kind of an odd place to want to kiss your dog, but I’m sure plenty of people do! However, the tail is the part of the dog closest to his butt, so I wouldn’t recommend it personally. If you’re still wondering whether dogs like to be kissed on the tail, think back to how your dog reacts to her tail being touched in general. It may be something that doesn’t bother her, but it could be an area she’s more sensitive about, so just pay attention to that.
Tails are an important tool of communication for dogs and learning to read them can give us great insight into how our dogs are feeling. When we constrict their movement by holding, grabbing, or kissing them, it takes away the dog’s ability to express their feelings. This is another reason tail kisses might not be the best idea: it changes the message your dog is trying to send you.
If you’re intent on kissing your dog’s tail despite all this, be sure to respect your pup’s signals. If she tries to get away or turns around quickly when you touch her tail, kissing it is probably a non-starter for her. That’s ok, though, there are plenty of other places she’ll probably like to be kissed. If this is the case, you might want to thank her — she’s just saved you from up close and personal exposure to the ever-potent dog fart!