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What could be cuter than your puppy giving his doggy pal a smooch on the nose? Nothing, really. But is your dog actually planting a kiss on his buddy? Yes, but that's only one reason your dog may lick another dog's muzzle.
During an introduction, a timid and lower-ranking dog will lower his head, avoid direct eye contact and gently extend his tongue to lick the muzzle of a more dominant, confident and higher-ranking dog. The first dog licks the muzzle of the second dog to simply reconfirm that he comes in peace. Think of this as the doggy equivalent of social kissing.
Dogs who are already friends will also trade smooches. Two strongly bonded canine pals will lick and groom each other. They give each other “dog kisses” in displays of affection and friendship. In this scenario, the dogs’ social hierarchy is not an issue. These dogs know and trust each other. They also look out for each other: A dog who excessively licks the muzzle of his canine pal may be doing this because the dog has a tumor, cut or other medical need that requires attention and treatment.
Puppies also "kiss" their mothers, but it's not a gesture of affection. When puppies make the transition from suckling their mother’s teats for milk to eating semisolid food, they vigorously lick their mother’s muzzle in the hope of getting her to regurgitate some semi-digested food for them. If you have a dog nursing a litter of puppies, follow your vet’s guidelines to ensure that the puppies are getting the proper nutrition and that you know when and how to make the switch from their mother’s milk to puppy food.
Help your dog make friends with his peers: Carefully select confident-but-friendly and patient-tempered dogs to play with your shy dog, to help him hone his social skills. Also consider enrolling him in a special training class that focuses on socialization, taught by an instructor who is certified in, and practices, positive training techniques.
Do not interfere when your two dogs play “kissy face” briefly with each other. Sit back and enjoy this display of canine friendship. Then call them over and have them do a command such as “sit” or “shake paws.” Offer them treats simultaneously as a reward for being good to each other.
If you foster a dog and have three or more resident dogs, introduce the foster dog to your brood one dog at a time and let muzzle-licking between them happen naturally. Start with your least reactive or most friendly dog. Never force an introduction between the dogs because this can deepen the foster dog’s submissiveness or spark a fight.
Read more Vetstreet 'Why Does My Dog...' articles.
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