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Understanding Dog Affection: The Reasons Dogs Give Kisses

written by Tori Holmes

Every dog has a unique way of expressing their emotions, but one of the most common gestures is licking or “giving kisses.” While it might seem like a simple action, there's often a lot more going on beneath the surface of these sweet smooches. Understanding why dogs give kisses can provide valuable insights into their behavior and strengthen the bond you have with your four-legged friend.


Affection and bonding

One of the most common reasons dogs give kisses is to express affection towards their loved ones. This licking behavior often begins in puppyhood, where it is a means for puppies to solicit attention from their mother. Dogs are social animals, and just like humans, they crave interaction and bond-building with those they love. When your dog showers you with kisses, you usually respond with affectionate gestures, such as cuddles, verbal praise, or even treats – just like their mother would. This reciprocal exchange of affection forms the foundation of a trusting and loving relationship.


Giving kisses also triggers the release of endorphins in both dogs and humans. Endorphins are hormones associated with pleasure and well-being, creating positive feelings and reinforcing the bond between the dog and their pet parent. Next time your dog licks your face or hands, you’ll know that it's not merely a random action; it's a deliberate gesture rooted in their instinctual need for social bonding.

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Seeking attention

Licking can also be a way for your dog to get your attention and initiate playtime or cuddles. This behavior is ingrained in dogs from a young age – as we mentioned earlier, puppies lick their mother's face to solicit attention, food, and care. So if your dog is feeling bored or lonely, they may resort to licking as a means of seeking stimulation and companionship.


If your dog receives positive feedback or attention from you when they give kisses, they’re also likely to continue this behavior as a means of seeking affection and approval. This means that over time, giving kisses becomes a learned behavior that reinforces the bond between you and your dog.


Communication of boundaries

Contrary to popular belief, not all dog kisses are a sign of affection – in some cases, licking can be a form of communication to express discomfort. Dogs have their own personal boundaries and may use licking as a way to establish or enforce them. If a dog suddenly starts licking excessively when being petted or hugged, it could be a sign that they are feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable with the level of physical contact. In these instances, the licking serves as a subtle way for the dog to communicate their desire for space. To learn more about how your dog may communicate their boundaries, take a look at this blog.


Understanding why dogs give kisses involves decoding their body language and interpreting their intentions. By observing your dog's behavior closely and responding appropriately, you can strengthen your bond and ensure a happy and healthy relationship with your furry friend. So, the next time your dog plants a wet one on your cheek, take a moment to appreciate the deeper meaning behind that slobbery smooch!

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