Dog self-expression is a hot topic these days. Behaviorists have studied everything from the meaning of a dog’s tail wag direction (right is happier than left; see the Discovery Channel story)  to the signals a yawn sends (generally stress rather than boredom). But while some signs are universal, a kind of doggie Esperanto, others are particular to a given canine.

Frankie, for example, is a kissing fool, a face licker of the first magnitude. Far more than his tail, his tongue is a mood indicator and prime communicator.

Here’s a small sampling of his vast osculatory vocabulary:

Good morning. Sleepy, languid licks – a wake-up treat, undermined only by the more diligent attention paid to his privates than to my face, and by his tendency to alternate between the two.

I’m so excited to see you!!! Rapid, all-over-the-face kisses, proffered when I enter the house, no matter how long I’ve been gone. Involves neck rotation (his) for maximum coverage, and may include (unencouraged) nose nibbling. More passion than technique.

More rubs, please. The quid pro quo kiss, cursory and somewhat insincere. Offered in an attempt to get me to resume interrupted ministrations to him.

Stop grooming me! A series of rapid, recriminatory licks. I love you, why are you tormenting me? Subtext: My hair looks fine as it is and that stuff in the corner of my eyes gives me character.

What are you drinking? Slurpy, enthusiastic, including attempts (always rebuffed) to insert tongue into my mouth and often, mistakenly, my nasal passages. Especially fervid when alcoholic beverages are involved. Some neck rotation.

I’m here. Delicate licks designed to ensure my continued presence next to him on the couch. As refined as the sips of a sommelier tasting fine wines, sans swirling and spitting.

I’m sorry I lied. Several quick, guilty licks following barking that’s succeeded in tearing me away from writing to pay attention to him when no one is in fact at the front door and/or no food is burning.

If treats result from my having gone into the kitchen to check the stove, the licks verge on gleeful and insincere, making them a dialect variation on “More rubs, please” (see above).

2 thoughts on “Dog Kissing, a Lexicon”

  1. Since I recognized a few of these from my Lab/Weim Lila’s “vocabulary”, I thought I’d ask if Frankie shares another communicative gesture: Lila makes the most uncannily timed snorts of derision. A sort of auditory eyeroll, they are a source of much hilarity.

    Being a very proper and elegant dog, she does not care for hyperbole. She disdains any mushy or overly affectionate talk, directed at her OR between mannerless couples, such as my bf and myself apparently are. If you make a fool of yourself, this is one dog who not only will NOT join you, but will make you feel even MORE foolish.

    In an era of ever-decreasing standards of conduct, someone’s got to set the example. While being a model of tolerance, Lila is certainly not going to keep silent.

    I suppose that is why we allow Lila all sorts of things that we could not allow when other dogs were around: She can hold up her end of the dinner conversation!

    What else does Frankie say?

  2. Lila sounds like quite an articulate dog, and one who has a clear sense of propriety to boot! Most of Frankie’s vocabulary is expressed through his kissing techniques but he does have a few fake barks (the ones that draw me to the door and result in those “I lied to you” kisses, for example) and the odd mischievous feints — for example, he’ll get me to throw his squeaky toy, and then paw at it to let me know that he’s aware of its location and then just walk away. It’s not exactly disdain he’s displaying; rather, it’s a little “gotcha” gesture.

    Thanks for your comments, on this and my other post. For some reason I’ve been getting mostly spam — especially in Russian, but one was in English for a Kiev slut — on my blog lately.

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