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Do Dogs Understand Human Kisses? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Any dog owner has likely showered their furry canine friend with kisses at one point or another. Although most domesticated dogs respond positively to this gesture, do they understand human kisses? After all, kisses aren’t something that dogs do or receive in the wild.

It is safe to assume dogs don’t fully understand human kisses, but they do associate kisses with affection and gentleness, causing them to love human kisses. There are plenty of signs that dogs associate human kisses with affection and love, showing that they at least understand the basics of the human kiss.

If you have ever wondered if your dog understands human kisses, this article is for you. Read on to find out more about what science says about dogs understanding human kisses.Divider 1

Signs Your Dog Understands Human Kisses

Domesticated dogs in happy households learn human kisses from their owners. From an early age, their owners shower them with human kisses, pets, and gentle tones, sending the message that human kisses are a positive thing. For this reason, many domesticated dogs learn that human kisses are positive affection, even though they aren’t biologically evolved to understand kisses from their birth.

With that being said, dogs who have never experienced human kisses before don’t quite know what to do with it and they do not know what it means. Because human kisses are not something that dogs have evolved to understand, puppies and abused dogs simply don’t understand this behavior.

It’s All in Their Body Movements

Since dogs cannot be analyzed and questioned, science relies on their body mannerisms to determine if dogs like, dislike, or understand certain human behaviors, such as human kisses. According to science, most dog body movements and mannerisms suggest that dogs understand the basics of the human kiss, but only if they have been introduced to it from an early age.

Most domesticated dogs who have found a home in loving households seem to understand that human kisses are associated with affection, attention, and gentleness. This can be seen in how dogs often start wagging their tail, cuddling with you, and looking you in your eye when they are receiving human kisses.

Dogs who have received human kisses from an early age are especially prone to these positive body movements, such as tail wagging and licking. All of these behaviors express reciprocated affection and relaxation in dogs, showing that they understand that they are receiving some sort of positive attention when you kiss them.

Image Credit: JACLOU-DL, Pixabay

Common Signs Your Dog Likes Being Kissed

  • Acting excited
  • Being alert
  • Jumping up
  • Licking
  • Nuzzling or cuddling up to you
  • Tail wagging
  • Tilting head
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Do Dogs Really Understand Human Kisses?

Even though dogs often learn human kisses are associated with positive behavior and show bodily mannerisms to express their joy when receiving human kisses, do they really understand human kisses? In other words, do dogs actually understand the behavior, or are they just responding to attention?

To answer the question directly, dogs don’t really understand human kisses. They don’t understand the nuanced nature of the human expression of love. As a result, they do not understand what a kiss represents within our culture.

So, dogs are responding to the positive affection they are receiving whenever they receive a human kiss. They simply recognize that human kisses are a positive thing and that they like the kisses, but they do not recognize the significance of a kiss.

They do understand the most basic facts of kisses – they are positive affection, and that’s the most important thing of all!

How to Train Your Dog to Like Kisses

If you want your dog to respond positively to kisses, you can train it to do so. Since human kisses are associated with gentle behavior, dogs tend to love human kisses and are quick to respond positively to them.

  • Start Early On – The best way to train your dog to like human kisses is to expose it to the behavior early on. Whenever your dog is a puppy, cuddle up to the puppy and give it kisses. This will train it from an early age to associate human kisses with positive affection. As they grow older, your dog will simply find human kisses irresistible.
  • Start Slow with Older Dogs – If your dog is a rescue and you didn’t have the opportunity to kiss it as a puppy, you can still train it, but you need to be more careful. Do not simply put your face to the dog, or else they may associate the behavior with aggression.You can begin by gaining the dog’s trust by giving it treats and other tokens. Once your dog begins to trust you, you can start cuddling with it more. Start by kissing away from its face, such as on its back. As your dog trusts you more and more, you should be able to kiss it more freely.If your dog was abused or underwent some other traumatic experience, it may not ever get accustomed to human kisses. If that’s the case, don’t force kisses on it. The last thing you want is to inflict more trauma on your dog.
  • Use a Gentle Voice – Whether your dog is young or old, make sure to use a gentle voice as you kiss it. A gentle voice is the easiest way to show your dog that you are not being aggressive. Instead, it shows that you are even-tempered and trying to express affection.

How to Train Your Dog to Kiss You Back

If your dog likes human kisses and is easy to train, you might want to teach it how to kiss you back. This is a cute little trick that can make other dog owners super jealous. You would train this trick just as you would any other.

Begin by showing your dog the behavior you are trying to teach it. You can do this by leaning into it for a kiss. Every time its nose touches your lips, praise the dog a lot and give it treats. This will cause your dog to associate the behavior with treats and rewards. Eventually, your dog will pick up on the trick and start kissing you back.

terrier licking woman
Image By: DavideAngelini, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Even though dogs don’t understand the nuances behind a human kiss, domesticated dogs learn early on to associate kisses with positive affection and cuddles. As a result, dogs understand the most important part of a human kiss – that it represents affection and love.

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Featured Image Credit: Konstantin Zaykov, Shutterstock

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