Every once in a while I like to throw out a little wisp of a topic. Today it’s all about canine kisses. Because lately I’ve been thinking on how my three dogs are SO, SO different in this respect, that I couldn’t keep my musings from you, my dear readers, any longer. More so because I know you’ll have many opinions on the subject.
Yes, kissing, or, let’s speak plainly, licking, is what dogs do by way of expressing any number of positive emotions via their tongues. Play, greeting, exploration, solicitation, and just. plain. love. can all come from the lowly licking behavior so many humans inexplicably abhor.
Now, most dog people already know that dogs lick because they’re bringing their peculiar brand of ultra-communicative submissive affection to bear on their relationship with their most beloved humans. But that doesn’t mean their humans always have to like it.
I mean, I love a licky dog. But not everyone feels the same way. My father claims it gives him the willies. Others disdain the slobbery, salivacious component. But what’s a little saliva among friends, I ask? What’s up with all these kiss-a-phobics?
So here are a couple of observations (based on my oh-so-extensive experience in the matter of canine lingual behavior and the human psychology it feeds into):
a) Men, much more than women, seem to claim they do not enjoy a dog’s licky attentions. "Creepy," "gross," or "messy" rule the vocabulary on this score. Meanwhile…
b) Big dog people appear to be overrepresented in their dislike of a lick. ("Does he really have to wash my entire face each time he wants to say he’s happy?") Small dog owners, by contrast, seem to welcome this brand of communication at all costs (saliva stains, social awkwardness and makeup disasters be damned!).
Not that you asked, but here’s my take: My own dogs display three different brands of lick-a-bility:
1. Slumdog the pug-mix does his "I lick because you don’t like it when I bite" kind of play licking. He doesn’t know any other version.
2. Vincent the Frenchie engages in his infrequent, short bursts of licking when he’s especially stimulated. But mostly, he’d prefer to just suck on your arm to display his extreme affection.
3. Gaston, my ten-pound min-pin, on the other hand, licks whenever (and wherever) he gets a chance. It’s indiscriminate (and incredibly adorable as far as I’m concerned).
I’m open to all brands of canine licking behavior. Nonetheless, I do get it when people say they can’t stand it when their mastiff takes his slippery six-by-sixteen tongue out on his owner’s face. No doubt it’s got to have a chilling effect.
But still … how can you resist a dog’s public displays of affection? Indeed, I cannot. Which probably explains why I’d prefer not to wear makeup to work. But then, I do get it that not all pet people are created equal. Especially not when it comes to the canine tongue.
Dr. Patty Khuly