How sweet is the sound of ‘kissing’ noises used frequently to attract a dog’s attention? Why is it so effective? Well, it does sound as if something good is going to happen and perhaps there is a treat in store. The treat could just be a pat on the head or a tasty morsel, but never the less, the kissing sound gets the right response. The main reason is probably the high frequency of the sound as you purse your lips together and suck in some air. The high-pitched squeal is a reminder of the wild and wonderful days in your dog’s evolution that was for signaling excitement. Wild dogs use high pitched sounds to communicate something could be happening. Dogs respond differently to changes in pitch and tone of voices. They can sense the difference between a squeal of delight, a greeting, and a well-done expression or a gruff low and angry tone of something bad and unacceptable. Puppies particularly enjoy the sweet sound of the kissing noise. They will always be attracted to the source of this shrill sound as they look for attention and excitement.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs are very good at learning about cause and effect conditioning to certain stimuli. Pavlov experimented with ringing a bell and seeing a dog’s reaction to the conditioning. Dogs salivated for the food offered when the bell rang. Then when the bell rang and there was no food the dogs still salivated just because they heard the bell ring. The same can be said for kissing noises. Puppies respond happily to sweet kissing sounds and know they bring good things more often than not. This response then becomes a learned behavior and dogs respond accordingly to this high pitched encouraging sound. Wild dogs communicate with high chirps and squeaks as they play and feed. These are happy sounds and the pack is very vocal at these times. When a wild dog is separated from the pack, the high-pitched squeals are also the means of communication. The sound travels a great distance and is used to get the missing dogs back together with the family group. High pitched noises attract attention and the kissing sound along with whistling and clicker sounds are all used in dog training to get dogs’ attention. High pitched squeaks and squeals can also sound a lot like a small animal that could be a good hunting option and therefore tune into the dog’s prey drive. It’s a sound that alerts your dog to the fact that there is something different happening. Once the behavior has been learned, your dog knows goodness and kindness are attached to this interesting sound. People who love animals have also been drawn to using this form of communication. If they don’t know a dog’s name or meet a dog for the first time, then it is quite common to hear someone make kissing noises to call the dog. The new dog is more likely to respond to come to them in a friendly style of ‘come here, I want to meet you.' Kissing noises are just friendly sounds that your dog likes to hear. Most dogs respond to a friendly enticing sound and will be curious about what this interesting noise may mean. The younger the dog the more curious it will be.
Encouraging the Behavior
Kissing noises are almost a universal signal of enjoyment. Showing appreciation for a great meal or a special event deserves a show of lips. A dramatic kiss on the cheek is accompanied by a great kissing noise and babies love to get kissing noises in their ears as they know they are the center of attention. Dogs are in tune with happy sounds too and the kissing noise crosses the barrier of communication in dogs speak. The fact that the kissing sound usually gets the right kind of positive attention adds to the confirmation that it is a responsive noise. There are sounds that dogs do like to hear and when they are associated with good things then your dog is going to be keen to listen. Although dogs don’t speak our language they do learn to listen for tone and watch for body language. The kissing sound repertoire usually comes with smiling faces and open arms. Sometimes the kissing sound is attached to a treat or a friendly hand to smell. Dogs are attracted to the sound and then follow through with watching the body language. It’s almost like a ‘trick or treat’ scenario and your dog will understand the kindly body language and the exciting sound of something good is happening here.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Making kissing noises to attract a dog’s attention almost seems like a natural sound to get a natural behavior response. A loud whistle could also do the trick but would probably upset anyone else in the vicinity. A kissing noise is friendly and is just the perfect sound to get your dog’s attention in a nice calm way. Dogs have been responding to this sound for years and it feels completely normal for them to come to this signal. There are no further expectations other than run up and greet the person delivering the kissing noises. This makes the kissing noises even more rational as an act of communication. When your dog returns the gesture of friendliness and runs right up to you, it’s time to feel happy to have communicated in this way with your canine friend. The high-pitched tone of your voice indicates excitement and well done to your dog and the kissing sound is on a level with that feel-good sound your dog looks forward to hearing.
Making kissing noises and having a dog respond to your call is very uplifting. You can take the experience one step further and have a real kiss from your dog. Risky? Well not everyone’s cup of tea, but Barbara Woodhouse, the well-known dog trainer and TV presenter would disagree. Woodhouse, who was famous for her ‘walkies’ call to dogs was known to say, “I have caught more ills from people sneezing over me and giving me a virus infection than from kissing dogs!" So, get a really delicious kissing sound ready on your lips, go out there and give your dog the ‘pawfect’ greeting!
By a Rhodesian Ridgeback lover Christina Wither
Published: 02/26/2018, edited: 01/30/2020