Why Do Dogs Show Affection To Each Other



‘Puppy Love’ is a well-known idiom, yet is it true? Originally created in the 1800s in reference to the love a dog feels for his owner, it is now applied to the fleeting love of young people. But as a pet owner, you know that your dog loves you because he shows you affection. Researchers and theorists do not agree, however, if a dog loves like humans or if they love out of an innate drive to survive through pleasing the alpha. Antidotal evidence, which abounds on the Internet, displays dogs showing affection to each other in a myriad of ways. Whether you are applying your way of feeling and expressing emotion to dogs or they actually do feel and express emotion like you is not yet determined. What you do know is that you have caught your dog being affectionate with another dog and it has warmed your heart. It is normal to see your dog be affectionate, but it is also just as normal to see him be aloof. If you are concerned you can discuss your dog with a trainer, especially if he is showing signs of aggression.

The Root of the Behavior

Dogs have evolved from wolves and been domesticated by humans. A lot of dog behavior can be traced back to his evolutionary roots. Pet owners, behavioral theorists, and researchers are often fascinated by canine behavior and wonder how much is nature versus nurture. You also have to wonder how much of his behavior you accredit to being like you because that is what you understand. Researchers know that wolves that are related to each other look out for each other. If one of his kin is wounded or ill, he will stay with him. They intuitively have each other’s backs in a hunt or in battle. Wolves are in tune with each other’s thoughts and sensations and approach life as a unit. Pack life puts the pack first, not the individual. Wolves that are outside of the pack that wants acceptance will work to earn the attention of the alpha. Outsiders need a pack, for protection, for food, and for survival. Wolves will manipulate their own behavior to seem useful and trustworthy to the alpha so that they can enter the pack. Dogs have not necessarily lost this trait. When your pet shows you or other dogs in your home what seems to be affection, he may merely be tapping into his innate drive to ensure his place in the pack.

When dogs meet, they tend to sniff each other and give off pheromones in their paws. Sometimes the more beta dog will offer up his muzzle to be licked, a sign that he does not mean to cause the alpha any problems. But dogs that live together no longer need to go through the same rituals. Dogs that live together begin to think of themselves as in a pack. There is a definite hierarchy amongst your dogs in your home, and the pack members are always trying to please their alpha. When a dog snuggles up to another, seemingly for warmth, he may also be trying to provide warmth for the other and thus gain favor. Dogs can be seen licking each other on the mouth, which can be interpreted as an affectionate kiss. At times, it is because the dog giving the kiss senses an illness in the dog being kissed. Puppies are seen ‘kissing’ their mothers but in fact, they are simply hoping she will regurgitate food for them.

Encouraging the Behavior

Teaching your dog to get along with others is always in everyone’s best interest. As dog owners, you want your dog to walk the fine line between being gentle and kind yet also protective of you and your home. Most dogs that are domesticated and trained properly can and will be happy and easygoing around other dogs. In your home, if you have more than one dog, while there will be a definite alpha and it may take some time to establish the hierarchy, your dogs will undoubtedly begin to form a pack. Once the pack is formed, you will see signs of what appear to be affection amongst the pack. You will see your dogs grooming each other, following each other around, playing together with toys or in the yard and even distressed when one of them is sick, injured or missing. Researchers and theorists maintain it is more about an innate drive from their wolf ancestry than about having emotions and attachments that are similar to humans.

Just as dogs have innate wolf behavior in terms of working together, they also struggle with what may drive them apart. If you have somehow managed to have more than one alpha in your home, you may be seeing the opposite of affection. While the humans need to be alpha overall, your dogs may be battling for their spot. Working with innate behavior traits, especially in the battle for power, can be very difficult. Dogs fighting over space, food, and toys can make for a stressful household. In these instances, it is recommended you work with a licensed trainer or dog behavioral therapist to establish order in your home.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Your dog will work to earn his spot in your life. He will work hard for attention and praise because he associates that with his own safety and provisions such as food and water. A dog that is aggressive, or dealing with anxieties or physical illness, can be a problem. Owners know their dog, so if your dog has gone from being seemingly affectionate to not, it may be worth a discussion with your veterinarian. If your dog has always been aloof, that may be his personality. But if he is difficult around other dogs, you may need professional support to get to the root of the problem.


Dogs have been reported to kiss, snuggle, and console one another by many owners over time. It warms your heart to see animals show affection, but are you ascribing human emotion to animal behavior? Researchers and theorists believe what seems to you as affection is more about establishing pack order and security for a dog. As long as the dogs in your home are getting along, sit back and enjoy it. If there is a lot of disagreement and fighting, or you cannot take your dog to the park without an issue, seek the help and advice of a professional dog trainer.