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Unleashed: Give us a kiss!

Dog kisses are a bit like Marmite. Folks either love ’em, or hate ’em. Some folks will go all in to seek out a sloppy dog kiss, whilst others think it’s disgusting, such is life. However, most dog owners attribute a fair amount of meaning to such dog licks, suggesting they are giving us “affectionate kisses!” But how true is this…?

By Russell D Russell

Sunday 23 August 2020, 11:00AM

Photo: Tamas Pap / Unsplash

Photo: Tamas Pap / Unsplash

There are a number of reasons why dogs lick us. It certainly could mean that our dogs want to show affection, but it could also be that you simply taste nice, or that your dog has some manner of compulsive disorder. You might also notice particular triggers with your dogs licking you, such as wearing a particular sweet scented lotion (maybe sunscreen), or if you’re very sweaty (after your morning run).

As a general rule, dog kisses aren’t anything to really worry about, but it’s worth keeping an eye out to see if there is an underlying health issue. So if the licking appears compulsive, excessive or even self destructive (ie/ excessive licking and chewing paws), then it’s time to check with a behaviourist and your vet.

When analysing our dogs intentions, it best to look at the full context of the licking, including other signals our dogs may be displaying that we’re not noticing. For starters, who initiated the contact? Does your dog come to you, or you go to them? Does the dog have an ‘out’, a way to move away, or are they being held, and inhibited from moving away?

In instances where the option of flight has been removed, the dog’s kisses may be more of an appeasement tactic to hopefully ‘make you go away’, rather than the affectionate kiss we’re after. If your dog appears more tense, is turning away or showing more of the white of their eye, then these are signals that, in this instance at least, they are not enjoying the kisses and attention as much as you are.

The hard part for many of us dog lovers, is that putting our faces right up to a dog’s face, can be seen as incredibly invasive, rude and potentially aggressive to the dog. It’s one thing to do so with your own dog because they know you, there is an existing bond and level of trust in your actions. But as ‘friendly’ as your friend’s dog may be, it can be quite dangerous to go nose to nose. Most dog nips and bites (particularly on children) have come from this exact situation. The initial licks may appear to us to be kisses, but are the dogs way of saying ‘please leave me alone’, and when we don’t heed those signs, and especially if the dog has not way out, then things can escalate.

Oak Maedow Phuket

So, if you would like to have a close moment with your dog, invite them to do so with you, and if they want to come up to your face, they will – but if not, respect it when they say ‘no’. Obviously we want our dogs to be comfortable, so it’s important to be thoughtful of how we physically show emotions to our dogs, so that our dogs don’t feel pressured to appease us through kisses.

If you have a dog that tends to freely dish out licks and kisses to all and sundry, and you want to curb the behaviour, then you need to be proactive about it. If you see your dog approaching and know he’s about to lick you, then ask him to sit first as he approaches. You can then redirect his affection and energy to another channel, such as chewing a toy. Stuffed Kongs are awesome, but even a favourite teddy can help redirect your dog’s needs. 

Some basic level of control and guidance over your dog, such as a solid place to stay, can also assist as it creates distance between you (or your guests) and your dog, which removes the ability for your dog to lick people in the first place.

If you are having a hard time redirecting your dog or discouraging licking behaviour, then feel free to drop us a line. Remember that lip licking, or tongue flicks are generally signs of stress.

If you would like some more information on canine training, or behavioural issues, then please to contact us on 091 654 1960, email info@k9pointacademy.com, or check our website www.k9pointacademy.com. CPA is accredited with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator.

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