Dogs lick things They lick, lick, lick their toys and lick us.
If this seems disgusting or annoying, you are not alone. Many people do not enjoy being covered in dog drool, but what can we do to teach our furry friends not to lick us?
Why my dog lick?
There are some different reasons why a dog can lick, including:
1. Order food
Some dogs, especially puppies, lick their humans as an instinctive request for food. Normally, puppies lick their parents to ask for food or attention, so they do the same with you, their human caregivers. You may have seen how wolf puppies lick their parents’ faces to regurgitate dinner, it’s a similar idea (but yes, something disgusting too). Dogs will often grow out of this habit, and the habit will be worse with humans than those who are closest.
2. To clean
All dogs also lick themselves to keep clean. In the vast majority of situations, this is healthy and normal behavior. Many dogs will also lick themselves as a way to calm down and calm themselves. Pay attention to when your dog seems to leave everything to lick: are you really relaxed and are you cleaning yourself, or are you stressed and using licking as a way to calm down?
Occasionally, dogs will lick themselves compulsively to the point of removing their skin or creating sores. These dogs need to see a veterinary behaviorist. Read more about compulsive licking below.
3. As a soothing signal
Other dogs lick as a way to reduce social tension. This is called a sign of relief and it is a good idea to learn about the more soothing signals dogs use.
You can think of reassuring signs as a way of saying “I’m sorry” or “let’s calm down here.”
These dogs may be nervous or try to reduce the stress of a stressful situation. They will lick you after something went wrong at home, after they shouted at you, or sometimes for no apparent reason.
These dogs will often lick their noses too, and it may seem that they are trying to avoid licking it.
This touch of tongue is a common signal that they want to spread the tension or calm down. It is also a sign to others that this dog does not want to start a problem. The spaniel on the right is demonstrating this “language movie” very well.
The behavior of licking and calming oneself is similar to when a human being breathes deeply and smiles: they are calming down and showing others that they are not a threat.
4. As a compulsive behavior
Some dogs are compulsive lickers. These dogs are the ones that will sit and lick their jeans or forearms while they allow them. They can also lick sofas, themselves or anything else. These dogs may be stressed or may have compulsive tendencies.
Think of them as humans who can not stop cleaning their nails when they are nervous. These dogs have taken normal behavior and have taken it to abnormal levels, and may need special help. Veterinarians are beginning to classify this as a canine compulsive disorder.
Understand the root cause of licking your dog
Some dogs fall into more than one of these categories. Some do not fit in any. My own foster dog, Sasha, just licked me when I came back from the gym. She was not asking for food, trying to dilute the tension or acting on nervous tendencies, she just tasted salty.
If you want to remedy the obsession of licking your dog, it is essential that you first understand the root cause. If you are upset or worried about your dog’s licking habits, but can not identify why your dog licks, talk to a veterinarian or trainer.
Better yet, take a video of your dog licking it and show it to your veterinarian or behaviorist. Taking a video of problem behavior is the best way to show professionals exactly why they are worried or frustrated with their dog’s behavior.
How to stop a dog from licking?
Once you have identified what motivates your dog’s behavior, it is much easier to take the following steps to correct the problem of licking your dog. Keep in mind, however, that licking is natural and you will probably never get your dog to stop licking completely.
After identifying why your dog licks, it’s time to decide a new objective behavior to replace licking your dog.
For example, I will not reward Mabel, a compulsive licker that I often walk around, for licking me. I also discovered that scolding her only increases her licking while she tries to calm me down and dilute the tension. Instead, now I will only pay attention, recognition or food if she sits and makes eye contact, without licking.
For Lickers who ask for food: Many dogs will simply grow up with this habit. It is most commonly seen in puppies, but this behavior is closely related to nervous and compulsive lickers.
In order to reduce the likelihood that this normal behavior will become a compulsive habit, be sure to avoid rewarding the behavior carefully. You should avoid both positive and negative attention to licking, but be sure to give your dog lots of love and treats as soon as he shows the behavior you want.
For The Cleaners: Again, this behavior is largely normal and should not be discouraged. If your dog licks to the point of damaging your skin or skin, consult a veterinary behavior specialist immediately. Although keep in mind that what seems to clean in some cases can be really compulsive.
For The Nervous Lickers: I dog sitting a nervous licker. Every time I do something that makes Mabel nervous, and there are many things that make Mabel nervous, she licks my hand, face or lips. It’s as if she can not help herself. As I said before, what I did with Mabel is simple. Although licking can help her calm down, I will not reward her with my own behavior.
I stop everything I did that preceded licking, and wait for it to calm down and sit down. Often, it’s my fault that I did something that makes her nervous. Removing your dog from the scary situation, or removing what is scary about your dog, is the best way to help the nervous lickers.
For compulsive Lickers: truly compulsive lickers may need to see a veterinarian, a trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. They have adopted normal cleaning behavior, licking to release social tension or licking for food at an unhealthy extreme. These dogs can lick through the carpet, pains can occur.
Some dogs only lick certain things at certain times. I have a good friend with a Wheaton Terrier who licks a specific couch cushion during the entirety of every storm that hits his house in Boston.
Another dog I know licks its paws with blood if its owner leaves the city. While these dogs may need help, it is very important that you identify the causes of compulsive arousal and try to reduce that stressor in your dog’s life.
Stop licking by providing a better option
Many dogs will benefit from having something appropriate to lick.
Try freezing the peanut butter in a Kong or other hollow toy, so that your dogs can spend time licking something that is actually good for them. You may want to try this, even if your dog does not have a licking problem, to avoid getting bored.
Do you have a great licker in your life? Do you have a video test that your dog is a problematic licker? What are you doing to prevent your dog from licking? Let’s talk about that.