Sometimes we forget that our dogs display affection in a different way than we do. While humans display affection through gestures like hugging and kissing, dogs display through licking, jumping, snuggling, and tail wagging.
As a dog owner it’s important to give your dog the right kind of affection at the right times. With the help of Animal Wellness Magazine and The Pet Professional Guild we’ve compiled some information for you and your dog to speak the same language…love!
Kissing vs. licking
While important among people, kissing and hugging are not in a dog’s behavioral repertoire! On the other hand, licking one another is important to dogs, but not something humans normally do! If your dog licks you, most of the time it is a sign of affection and attachment. Dogs probably don’t understand the equivalency of kisses and licks so try to keep this in mind!
How do you know what kind of affection your dog likes?
The best way to know is to observe their behavior! If your dog enjoys the petting or the scratching, they will remain relaxed and not tense up. Their ears should stay forward and the tail high. If your dog tries to move away and avoid you, then they probably don’t like it. If your dog wants you to continue, you should expect them to move toward you and show a behavior that has worked in other contexts to get what they want such as pawing at you or leaning against you.
Most dogs learn to accept or tolerate hugs from familiar individuals, but because they cannot hug one another, it is unlikely they recognize this as an affectionate behavior. For a dog, a hug can resemble the social threat of having another dog place his paws on or drape his neck overtop her shoulders in an act of dominance.
Being hugged is probably confusing for dogs. When dogs are confused or uncertain in situations, they may display displacement behaviors. The most common canine displacement behaviors are lip licking and yawning. If a dog shows any of these behaviors when being hugged or kissed, it’s a clear sign to stop, because they are not enjoying it!
During an interview with Mother Nature Network, Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell talks about reading your dog. “It’s good to be sure how your dog feels when you hug him or her, and how he feels when strangers go in for a hug, especially since hugs mean putting your face next to a sharp set of teeth. If a dog barely tolerates hugs, then the wrong hug at the wrong time could mean the dog snaps at the hugger. No one wants that. Thankfully, dogs make their thoughts abundantly clear through body language.” As long as you know what to look for, you will know what your dog thinks of a love-squeeze.
If your dog goes stiff, closes their mouth, or licks their lips they might be anxious, concerned, or think they did something wrong!
Better understanding your dog’s likes, dislikes, and body language can help you communicate to one another how much you care! Sometimes a nice scratch or rub behind the ears or under the chin, or a belly rub can say a lot more than a hug or kiss!