Many dog owners kiss and snuggle their dogs frequently. As humans, we see kissing as a strong sign of affection. It’s only natural that we would kiss our precious pups, often while snuggling with them or speaking to them in a cute little voice.

But have you ever stopped to wonder, do dogs know what we are doing? Dogs can’t physically kiss anyone, so it’s not a natural action for them. Do they understand kisses as a sign of affection? Do they even like them?

Let’s find out!

woman kissing a cockapoo puppy

Kisses From a Dog’s Perspective

Have you ever kissed a puppy? Or an older dog who has never been kissed before? Your innocent sign of affection may have been ignored or even not well received, especially by the older dog.

Why is that?

Let’s think about kisses from a dog’s perspective for a second. Kissing is not a natural behavior for them. Physically they can’t pucker up and plant a kiss of their own so it certainly isn’t instinctive for them.

Of course, dogs will lick and touch one another to show affection but they tend to approach one another from the side, not head-on. The action of a human face suddenly coming close to them is strange and can be perceived as an intention to bite.

What makes matters worse is that many owners will hug the dog at the same time, thus unintentionally removing the dog’s ability to escape. More than one person has received a nip in the face from a dog who was simply defending himself from a perceived threat.

Can Dogs Learn to Like Kisses?

But some dogs seem to enjoy being kissed by their owners. They come running to greet their owners when they arrive and snuggle up, ready to receive the shower of affection they know is coming.

That’s the key idea here — the shower of affection they know is coming.

Dogs may not naturally understand kisses as affection, but they can certainly learn that’s what they are. When you snuggle and pet your dog while showering them with kisses and talking to them in a little baby voice, they learn to associate kisses with love.

And if there’s anything dogs love, it’s love.

However, keep in mind that not all dogs will be happy with this arrangement. Some may be totally content to accept your kisses as affection, whereas others may find the action too strange to get used to.

This is dependent in part on the dog’s personality, but a big part of it is how they’ve been socialized. If they receive kisses from the time they are small puppies, they are more likely to tolerate or even love your kisses.

However, introducing kisses to older dogs, especially rescues, can be much more challenging — even dangerous. It feels uncomfortable or perhaps even scary to them. Any dog that has not had a positive history with humans will absolutely not welcome a face, particularly the mouth, coming close to them.

A girl and her dog. Sometime words are not needed to express the love one feels.

Why Do Dogs Sometimes Yawn or Sneeze When You Kiss Them?

Dogs that aren’t used to kisses may feel stressed or endangered by the action. They won’t always bite, but they may exhibit other signs to signal their distress.

Yawning is a natural appeasement sign that dogs use with one another. They’re saying “I’m not a threat, I don’t want to harm you.” If your dog yawns when you give him a kiss, he is probably feeling stressed. He may be scared or think you want to dominate him and he’s letting you know he’s no threat so you can back off.

So what does a sneeze mean?

Sneezes are kind of like little dog laughs. They may find the behavior puzzling or strange and are laughing at your antics. However, sneezing could also be an appeasement signal.

In short, if your dog has these reactions when you kiss him, it may be best to stop. Your affection isn’t being received as affection and may actually be making your dog feel stressed.

But don’t feel bad or take it personally. Your dog still loves you, he just doesn’t understand your confusing (to him) actions as love. There are plenty of other ways you can show affection without making him feel stressed.

Training Your Dog to Like Kisses

The good news for you is that most dogs can learn to understand and enjoy kisses. This is especially true if you introduce the behavior to them when they are young.

Snuggle and kiss a puppy and you’ll notice that they may not react much — either positively or negatively. However, over time, the puppy will understand that kisses come with pets, belly scratches, and other actions that they do understand as affection. Eventually, the kisses become an extension and some dogs even seem to enjoy them.

Other dogs may need a little more encouragement. If your dog seems nervous with kisses, try offering your dog a treat or toy whenever you give them a kiss. This is doggie speak for “it’s okay, this is something nice.” With time and patience, your dog will learn to associate kisses with something positive and may start to enjoy them!

However, not all dogs will enjoy kisses, and that's okay! Some dogs are just more independent and don't like being smothered with affection. Other dogs may not have the best history with humans and, though they’ve accepted you, they feel uncomfortable with your face so close to them.

If your dog doesn't seem to enjoy kisses, don't force it – instead, try giving them a belly rub or scratch behind the ears, which they're sure to love.

How Dogs Show Affection

Some people take the kissing thing one step further and teach their dogs to “kiss” them back. Since dogs can’t pucker up, this means a nice sloppy lick.

But dogs have lots of other ways they like to show affection. It’s good for you to understand the signs so you can feel your pup’s genuine affection, even if they don’t particularly like your kisses.

  • Physical proximity or contact (nuzzling, snuggling, lying near you, leaning against you)
  • Excitement to see you (jumping, wiggling, racing around, etc)
  • Tail wagging
  • Following you around
  • Sleeping near you
  • Licking you
  • Sharing their toys with you

Through these behaviors and more, your dog makes it clear to you that he likes you.

cashemsis with Nikita

Showing Affection to Your Pup in Ways they Understand

You can make your affection clear to your pup by reciprocating some of these behaviors, minus the tail wagging, of course.

You can also:

  • Pet them
  • Offer treats
  • Scratch their bellies or ears
  • Play fetch
  • Take them for walks or runs

All of these actions clearly speak love to your dog. Their natural excitement when you do them shows how well-received these signs of affection are.

And, if you have accustomed your dog to kisses, they’ll love those too!