One of the greatest joys in life is, paws down, being positively smothered in love, and kisses from your favorite furball! It is a special moment that demonstrates the very unique, loving, and strong bond between you and your dog.
But, do they enjoy hugs and kisses, or is this just annoying to him? Can he be trained to actually like being hugged and kissed? Do dogs understand hugs and kisses are signs of affection?
As with so many things in this admittedly crazy, complex world, the answer to all of these questions is (of course) not exactly a simple one (is it ever?). Many factors come into play and things can vary from situation to situation.
Do Dogs Understand Hugs And Kisses?
Yes, most dogs do understand hugs and kisses are loving gestures after they are able to interpret their owner’s behaviors and body language. Kissing and hugging also promote love hormones called oxytocin, so they in fact do feel loved, but not all of them enjoy the actual physical gestures.
Luckily, the majority of dogs can learn very well with something called classical conditioning, which is a form of intensive learning, with an almost cause-and-effect-like approach. This means that even if your pup is not one that appreciates affection and/or human contact, they are perfectly capable of learning to, at the very least, tolerate it.
Do Dogs Like Being Hugged And Kissed?
The answer to this in its most simplistic form is that yes, they do, well most do anyway, some dogs might need a little helping hand.
If they are not used to it, they might not fully understand the well-meaning emotions and feelings behind the physical contact. Dogs are quite unique and individual, and some just might not be a fan of receiving or giving, affection.
This is where classical conditioning could end up being incredibly valuable. Not all dogs are accustomed to affection, however, they can be taught to enjoy, or at least appreciate, a hug (and a smooch) from time to time.
Classical Conditioning: What Is It And What Role Does It Play?
When your dog starts drooling when he sees or hears you retrieving his favorite Scooby snack: this can be a typical example of conditioning.
You have basically conditioned your dogs’ responses (drooling) to the chosen stimuli (scooby snack). Classical, or respondent, conditioning can play a huge part in your dog’s learning capabilities and is regularly used by professional dog trainers in their training techniques.
Teaching your dog that by allowing a good hug session he will be rewarded (whether it be a treat or positive affirmation) will go a long way in eventually teaching him to affiliate affection with a positive experience. This, in turn, will encourage him to look forward to and enjoy affection.
It’s A Chemical Thing
When you share a hug or some kisses with your dog, it releases the same chemical in your brain as when a mother looks longingly into her child’s eyes. This chemical is called Oxytocin.
This feel-good hormone is an important part of any relationship, but even more so in this situation, as it builds that love, trust, and assurance that is especially crucial to the one between man and dog.
Should You Hug And/Or Kiss Your Dog?
It really comes down to your pet’s personal preference, but showing affection can really only help to build a stronger bond between the two of you.
That loving and unbreakable bond is key when it comes to managing the relationship, and things such as training, etc. Dogs enjoy human contact unless they have been conditioned otherwise by bad treatment, and without it, they can experience behavioral changes such as aggression and skittishness.
Hugging and kissing your dog is a terrific way to keep a healthy relationship sound, not to mention it can help him to feel more comfortable in other humans’ (strangers) presence as well. A little bit of love can make a world of difference.
How To Show Affection In A Way Dogs Will Understand
As stated earlier, your canine companion is likely to be quite adept at reading and understanding his human body language, intonation, and gestures.
This means that the loving gestures themselves, tend to get the point across and are usually pretty much well-understood by Fido, although throwing in a little bit of “Good Boy!” wouldn’t hurt!
Dogs are experts at reading body language as well as using the inflection of your voice to determine that this (affection) is, in fact, a good, and positive thing. They then usually react accordingly.
Everybody Is Different
Just like humans, dogs have their own personalities and character, including their own likes and dislikes.
Just because one dog seems to relish love, cuddles, and sloppy kisses, it does not mean that all dogs will be comfortable with affectionate displays.
Take it slow and get to know if your specific pooch is okay with human gestures of affection. And it is completely alright if he isn’t all that interested. It does not mean that he is incapable of love, or that he loves you any less.
Knowing When A Hug Or Kiss Is NOT A Good Idea
Not unlike their human counterparts, canines can have bad days and/or bad moods. Just like your pooch has perfected the art, you also need to be able to read his body language to help determine his state.
Dogs are incapable of telling you when they are upset, in pain, or just plain not in the mood for your lovey-dovey shenanigans. Approaching your pup for some loving when he is opposed to it, can result in aggressive behavior.
- Take note of his stance: If his tail is tucked firmly between his legs, it may not be the right time for cuddles. This is a timid and/or fearful posture and may indicate a propensity for lashing out (IE: biting).
- Ears – perky or flat against his head: If the ears are flat against his head this can usually be a sign that he is uncomfortable with the contact. This, in conjunction with having his head bowed, and showing limited to no eye contact can be indicative of a defensive demeanor.
- Growling: This one is a bit obvious. If he is growling or baring his teeth, this is a definite sign that the hugging should be scheduled for a later time. The next step is likely to be lunging or nipping.
Even the friendliest dogs can have their off days. Never approach any animal quickly or with jerky movements. You should always take a moment to assess the situation before going in for the hugs. Safety should always come first and a split-second impulsive reaction can cause a large amount of heartache for both you and your favored furball.
Helpful Tips For Teaching Your Pooch To Understand, And Accept Hugs And Kisses
If you have only recently adopted your four-legged friend and you are looking to train them to become accustomed to affection, there are a few things that you should keep in mind, in addition to some helpful tips to help you out along the way.
- Don’t Push It: Patience is, of course, key and it might take some time before your pooch completely ‘gets it’. Take it slowly, and don’t push him. If he seems to be getting restless or uncomfortable, let him take a break.
- Take Puppy Steps: You do not have to get it right the first time around. It is completely okay to take small baby steps and depending on your dog’s history (neglect, abuse), remember that some might take longer than others to be truly comfortable with affection.
- Don’t Forget the Reward: Positive reinforcement is always a handy tool when training a canine. Whether it be a tasty treat or a simple ‘Good Boy’, you need to let your dog know that he is doing well.
- Choose a Comfortable, Peaceful Place: This is especially important for pets with a neglectful or abusive background who might become agitated or scared by loud noise or distractions. Find a quiet place without loud noises, commotion, or intrusions. The goal is to make him feel as comfortable as possible.
- Be Aware: As we stated earlier, it is important to pay attention to and take note of any physical changes in your dog during the conditioning process. If you notice a change in body language (lowering the head, fur standing up, avoiding eye contact), or posture, it is likely time for a break.
For the most part, your favorite four-legged friend does understand what the endless hugs and kisses mean, on a basic level anyway.
They might not completely get the intricacies and complexities of your relationship, but they know that you love them and they know that you are their entire world.
The only problem with dogs is the much too short, limited lifetime, we get to spend with them. I think that is why they are so loving towards us, they have a lifetime of love to express in a relatively short amount of time.