Should You Smooch Your Pooch?


Kiss our loved ones at midnight on December 31stst is supposed to bring good luck into the new year and scare away evil spirits. Kissing on New Year’s Eve is a tradition that dates back nearly 3,000 years to Roman times, and for the past millennia it has been widely believed that kissing occurs between people. Ever more important than the love of our lives, should dogs kiss them instead of (or in addition to) humans? The answer is personal, but both health and behavioral considerations should influence your decision.

In terms of health, there is evidence that dog kisses can transmit diseases to people that we cannot deal with. Some of the bacteria that can be transmitted from dogs to humans are E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, all of which can cause gastrointestinal problems. Aside from the microbes that are naturally present in their mouths, many dogs spend a lot of time with their mouth and snout in all sorts of unsavory places, from their own back ends to piles of dog poop to heaven-knows-what they go for walks and inside find the courtyard. Let’s face it, dead squirrels and old food packaging are very attractive to many dogs, however much we wish they weren’t.

Healthy human skin can generally protect us from the germs that are present in our dogs’ mouths. Therefore, it is usually not a problem for our dogs to kiss us by licking. And luckily, it’s not common for people to get sick kissing their dogs, although extra caution should be exercised in anyone with a compromised immune system. The risk of a problem is reduced if you avoid contact between your dog’s mouth and your own mouth, your nose and ears, and cuts.

Another problem when it comes to ushering in the New Year by kissing our dogs is whether our dogs like it or not. Kissing is a sign of love and affection in humans, but that doesn’t mean dogs see this behavior, which isn’t a natural part of their repertoire, the same way. Yes, dogs lick each other just like humans, but that’s about as close as they can kiss. Putting your face right in front of a dog’s face can startle or overwhelm the object of your affection, even if you don’t want to threaten or confuse your buddy. Many dogs learn to accept and enjoy human kisses, maybe even to understand the warmth behind the actions, but it is not fair to assume that your dog will enjoy kissing just because you do.

The best way to see how dogs feel when they are kissed is by observation. After kissing, does the dog stay relaxed, bend over to you and maintain the same high tail carriage and raised ears as usual? Or is the dog ducking or trying to escape, pulling back its ears, dropping its tail, tensing up, or showing signs of fear such as yawning and tongue flicking? If your dog is in no distress about being kissed, it is likely not harmful. However, if your dog is showing signs of discomfort, finding some other way to express your love is a great kindness.

Nobody wants to withhold an expression of affection when it comes to dogs – I see. People who wish to kiss their dogs will kiss their dogs on New Years Eve and all other days, despite all the downsides of the behavior. That’s because there are so many benefits – your dog won’t judge you or ask for a commitment, you won’t have to worry about your breath, and you will feel close to your dog. It is important that you express your affection for your dogs in a way that makes them have fun. This may or may not include kissing, but no one will deny that sharing love with your pup is the perfect way to start the new year.

What do you think of kissing canines?

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