A dog bite to the face. No-one wants to be bitten but unless we are a child who isn’t being managed or live with a dog who is ill or suffering mentally and who copes with severe aggression, there’s no need for it to happen. (And even then it can often be avoided)
How often do you push your face into the face of an uncomfortable looking human stranger? Even a comfortable looking stranger might not stay comfortable for long with repeated facial kissing and strong eye contact. At best we might get told to F*** off and at worst a bloody nose.
From stock photo sites to viral videos we see it all the time. The photos of dogs looking away, licking, head dipping, squinting, leaning away, yawning, tight face – everything screaming “I don’t want this” next to the human cuddling, groping, grabbing and kissing like a crazed life form. We have to be more socially intelligent than that by now, don’t we? We need to put that effort in, learn communication and teach ourselves that living with dogs is not about what we want to do to them to make us happy – but about being our best selves and learning what they are saying and respecting their space.
Face kissing is for lovers, it’s for families and friends who love each other and most importantly it must be wanted. Face kissing is OK when a dog asks for it and is bonded with their person, when they actively seek that kind of affection, when their tail wags, their eyes shine and their soft, loose body wriggles with happiness.
Face kissing isn’t for dogs who look even a bit tense. It’s not for the dogs of others unless you are really good at reading dog signals and know without a doubt that they are actively asking for that kind of interaction. It’s not for dogs who sit, staring forward waiting for it to be over.
And this is really important.
Face kissing is not something we can do; thinking that dogs should go through the entire warning repertoire before they respond, it’s not up to a dog to tell an unwanted face kisser to go away through the entire ladder of aggression just to be fair to the rude human. That’s just another way of assuming a dog is here for us, rather than with us. If the dog doesn’t actively ask for that kind of attention – it’s likely they are uncomfortable with it.
Dogs are not toys or Instagram props.
Let’s make a pact here and now to observe our dogs more and do less hands on with them. To educate ourselves more and to make our natural human expectation of what our dogs should put up with less. To respect them more and to invade their space less. To be rightly fascinated by who there are in their own right more and to think we are cleverer than we are, (or even to not think at all) let’s do that less shall we?