DOG HUGS AND KISSES

Humans often show affection by sharing hugs and kisses with each other. So, naturally, we want to show our dogs affection in the same way. However, one has to question whether this is appropriate from the dog’s point of view. I say “no.”

Let’s look at kissing. When dogs “kiss,” they are not doing it as a sign of affection, but as a sign of submission. Facial licking in dogs originated from wolf puppies licking the faces of adult wolves to stimulate the regurgitation of food by the adults. Wolf, and dog, puppies, alike, often show submission to older pack members by licking the older pack members on the face. Thus if you kiss your dog on the face, your dog can interpret this as you showing submission to it, which is confusing when you consider the fact that you are supposed to be the one in charge. So, it’s best to let your dog supply the kisses to your face, rather than the other way around.

What about giving hugs to your dog? Surely, your dog appreciates a hug to let it know that you love it, right? I’m sorry to tell you this, but probably not. Dogs simply don’t hug. There are a couple of instances where two dogs might approximate hugging. One is when they are fighting, or play fighting. The other is when one is mounting the other; which can either be for sex, or to show dominance. Again, your attempts to show affection to your dog in this way can send confusing signals to your dog. Dogs can easily misinterpret the meaning of a hug. Also, many dogs feel confined by hugging, and will squirm to get away. Not exactly the reaction their people are looking for.

Why am I bringing this up? I was recently working with a client whose German shepherd had issues about having its face and paws handled. The dog would try to get away, and if that didn’t work, he would act like he was going to bite. I gave the client some tools to work with to teach the dog to be comfortable with handling by people. However, I became concerned when he talked about his grandchildren hugging the dog. Just the idea of a child’s face near the jaws of that shepherd made me extremely uncomfortable, and I told my client so.

I just looked up the statistic on facial bites by dogs in the US. And an alarming statistic it is; 44,000 people are bitten on the face by dogs every year in this country; that’s 77% of all dog bites. And, 60% of these facial bites are to children. Seventy-seven percent of dog bites are from dogs that are considered to be friendly, and are known by the victims.

Now, let’s put the two topics that I have discussed together. What do hugging and kissing of dogs have to do with dogs biting people’s faces? Unfortunately, they have everything to do with each other. Think about it. Someone hugs a dog. The dog feels confined by this strange (to the dog) behavior. It can’t get away. It decides to defend itself. What is the closest part of the human available to bite? Unfortunately, that would be the face.

So, I am going to caution you not to hug and kiss your dog. Show your dog affection by talking to it, petting it, giving it belly rubs, playing with it, etc. If you need someone to hug and kiss, find a human family member. And, especially don’t allow your children to hug and kiss the dog. You don’t want them to be part of that horrible statistic, and you don’t want your dog to be part of it, either.





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