Do Dogs Give Kisses – Why They Lick Your Face

man on couch with puppy licking face

Do Dogs Give You Kisses?

I’m sorry to break it to you, but the answer is no. When your pup gives you a lick on the face, it is tempting to think that it is doing so because it wants to show us that it loves us. From a human perspective, we interpret it as a kiss because we typically only reserve the gesture for someone we are intimate with. Although, in some cultures, a quick peck on the cheek can be a greeting. But typically, we don’t walk around kissing every person we like cause well, that would be inappropriate and uh, awkward! 

However, when we look at it from the perspective of the dog, light is shed on several different meanings to the ‘kiss.’ Here’s what they are:

Survival Instinct

In the wild, to stimulate feeding, infant pups instinctively use this kind of licking behavior with their mother to stimulate the flow of milk. At 5 weeks old, they will lick the muzzle of the adult’s mouth to help them regurgitate pre-digested meat so they can feed right from their mouths. This is called redirected behavior. 

Puppy Rottweiler licking mom Rottweiler in the muzzle

Pacifying Behaviours

After the infantile stages and the transition to solid food. The pup sometimes will try soothing an opposing adult by licking their muzzle, asking for acceptance and security. To appease them. Another pacifying gesture is the lip-smacking, where it looks like they are licking the air while making lip-smacking noises. 

Greeting Ritual of Submission

Puppies will signal to adult dogs that they are harmless and come at peace by licking the muzzle and nudging their nose. A form of communication that the adult dog will understand. Some adult dogs may do this, as well.

Reinforced Habit

Your dog will repeat a behavior if it is worth it, meaning if you give him a positive response such as praise, affection, play, or a treat each time he behaves a certain way, he will keep doing it to elicit that same response. That is why if you wanted to, you could teach him to associate that gesture with the word Kiss. Although he still won’t understand the meaning of the word, it makes for a cute trick to show others. 

To Kiss Or Be Licked!

Licking your face isn’t the MOST horrible habit your dog could learn. But if you’d rather be the one to give a kiss on the top of its head instead of his slobbery lick on your face, then I can understand that. If you’re afraid of dogs, then I can see why you wouldn’t want a big dog coming at you with his tongue hanging out. Either way, in the end, you can be assured that your dog loves you.

A portrait shot of a rottweiler licking his mouth.