Doggy kisses are one of the many benefits owners receive from having a dog. Kisses can become a problem when they are happening around the clock. It gets even worse when your dog starts to lick everything he can get his tongue on.
If you have a dog that likes to lick you’ve probably gotten used to picking up a drool covered objects. You may also be wondering if the amount your dog is licking is reasonable or if an underlying issue could be the cause of your dog’s overly affectionate nature.
When Bella, my Boston, was younger she would leave giant wet marks on the couch because she would sit their and lick. Also, anytime I come home from working out, she has to lick me…constantly!
I have done some research into this licking problem to help you understand when this can become a problem and what to do about it.
Why Do Dog’s Lick?
Dogs lick for quite a few different reasons. To begin with, dogs establish the meaning of licking when they are just puppies. Whether licking becomes a sign of affection or not is entirely up to how the owner reacts and how the dog receives the action.
If a puppy begins to lick you, you should act with excitement and reward the dog with love back. This teaches them that licking equals affection. If you don’t react to this behavior, however, the dog will interpret it as a way to taste or to relieve stress. Because of this if you adopted as an adult, it may take longer to understand their behavior.
Common Causes Of Excessive Licking
Taste, Especially Sodium
Some dogs lick simply to taste everything. This doesn’t mean they want to eat you; they are just attracted to the salt on our skin. Some dogs love the taste of sodium so much that they develop a licking problem. This is Bella when I come home from running.
This can become even worse when you’re sweating and taste saltier than usual. This same love for salty flavors can cause your pet to lick everything that they deem tasty. This can include paper bags from fast food places, wrappers, and even paper towels. Licking can quickly become a problem if your dog accidentally ingests one of these items. I have literally had to pull paper towels from Bella’s butt before, gross.
It’s important to understand that licking is a type of stress relief for dogs. Licking releases endorphins in your pet’s brain to help them calm down. The release of endorphins can easily become an addictive process, especially in the case of nervous dogs.
Often times, dogs may be found licking more during thunderstorms or when they get in trouble. This licking can happen to any nearby object, including your floors or your walls. This is often a lead up to chewing behavior that can destroy your home.
Finally, some dogs lick just because they have nothing better to do. This boredom licking is a behavior that often stems from not having exciting toys. A dog may turn to this behavior if he is energetic and not getting enough outside time or has to spend extended periods in a crate.
When Does Licking Become an Issue?
Licking becomes an issue when it becomes excessive or hurts the dog. And excessive licking is really defined by you, the owner. For me, Bella licks excessively.
However, here are some signs of excessive lickers.
- Missing Fur
- Red Tongue or Mouth
- Dry Mouth
- Chew Marks On Licked Objects
- Food Wrappers Moved Around The House
If you see any of these problems pop up, then your dog may have behavioral issues causing them to excessively lick.
Missing fur is a good sign that your dog is licking at an irritated area or nervous. This can be caused by hot spots or itchy bites from bugs. Some dogs with high anxiety will also lick patches of themselves bald. This can be alarming to many pet owners as loosening fur is associated with many health problems such as mange. If you suspect the bald spots are coming from anxiety, then consider making your pet think you’re leaving and try to catch them in the act.
Red Tongue & Mouth
Many dogs will also start to have red around their mouth or on their tongue. This will go away within a few days, but if your dog has a licking obsession will soon show back up.
Obsessive licking can lead to a dry mouth and nose because all of their saliva is being transferred to the licked objects.
Food Wrappers or Dishes
Food wrappers that are thrown about your house, but aren’t torn up indicate your dog was trying to get a taste of food residue. For Bella, Emily and I must pick up the trashcan before we leave to go places. If we leave the trash can out Bella will get into it to eat and lick wrappers and containers that had food in it.
This isn’t usually a medical emergency but can be very hard to deal with if it’s a daily issue. Even worse licking can easily lead to chewing, which can cause an expensive trip to the vet if the wrong thing is chewed on or swallowed.
Solutions To Help Your Dog Stop
There are plenty of ways to prevent licking or the underlying problems that commonly cause dogs to lick. From products made to taste sour to your dogs taste buds to medicine that can help them relax, many pet stores offer easy solutions to licking. There are even some home remedies you can try to encourage your pets to stop soaking your furniture.
Sprays and Bandages
Sour sprays are a great way to prevent licking. These sprays are sold in pet stores and are made from natural ingredients like green apples. Bitter Apple spray is inexpensive and a quick solution for furniture and objects. For pricing and fast shipment check out Amazon, Bitter Apple Spray.
To successfully use one of these sprays, you will want to spray some in the dog’s mouth after they have begun to lick. This will help them begin to associate the sour taste with the action.
Afterward, apply the spray to any areas your dog licks. Repeat this process daily until you see your dog’s licking behavior taper off. These sprays are safe to use on your skin in case your dog wants to give kisses.
There are some items around the home like vinegar you can use instead, make sure to look into the ingredients before giving it to your dog. Additionally, bitter bandages are an excellent solution for a dog who is licking a wound.
Calming Chews and Additives
If your dog is suffering from a small amount of anxiety, then calming aids may be just what you need. Many stores offer calming chews or water additives to help your pet relax.
You may even be able to pick up a diffuser that uses natural smells to help relax your dog. Diffusers are also great for you. Emily and I use the diffuser and place lavender in it for the whole house to have a calming mood. The diffusers are another relatively inexpensive solution. Check out the pricing for diffusers on Amazon, Diffuser Pricing.
This can be great for long periods away from the house where your dog is most likely to lick obsessively.
Thunder shirts that hug your dog’s body snuggly can make them feel calmer during storms. I have never tried this solution, but they look like a great option for overall help with anxiety.
This solution is a little more expensive than the sprays and diffuser, but if it works it is worth the price. Check out pricing on Amazon, Thunder Shirt Pricing and Options.
Alternatively, you can provide a toy to lick. Make sure the toy doesn’t have easy to swallow fur as this can eventually lead to impaction.
If your dog loves to lick anything that smells like food, then obedience training may help. You can slowly work on rewarding your dog for not trying to get into wrappers. When you leave your home, make sure to pick all food-related trash. Place the garbage either outside or in a room the dog doesn’t have access to.
You will also want to avoid giving a dog food meant for humans; this only worsens the problem.
Some dogs will only lick when stressful situations pop-up. This nervous licking can easily be avoided in most situations. Prepare for holidays that bring a lot of noise like the Fourth of July or New Years. It’s best to give pets calming treats around these times to keep them from licking. You may also want to avoid loud music in your home if your dog is easily stressed.
One of the best ways to help your dog cope is by giving them their own space. Try moving the kennel to a small area or secluded corner. Put favorite toys in the crate along with blankets your dog uses. This will give your dog a place to escape to when he feels uncomfortable helping to negate unwanted behavior like licking.
DO NOT USE SCARE TACTICS
Never use any scare tactics on your dog like horns or yelling at them as this can worsen the problem. Many dogs will respond to feeling like their in trouble by continuing to lick.
Now, I have done this probably too many times with Bella. Especially when I get home from a run and ask, nicely, for her to stop licking about 100 times. However, the best approach is to send your dog to their bed.
If you have tried everything listed above and your dog is still licking, then you may need to see a vet. Some dogs will have anxiety problems so severe that the vet will have to prescribe special medicine to help calm them down. Emily and I used Benhydril for a few months with Bella, but it was not a great long term solution for her separation anxiety.
If you notice any bleeding from excessive licking, then you will need to get an appointment immediately. For behavioral issues, your vet may be able to recommend you to a trainer equipped to help break your dog of the problem. Remember to always keep harmful chemicals and items out of the reach of dogs to prevent poisoning.