You probably welcome a few kisses from your dog every now and then. Who doesn’t love a little affection from their pup once in a while? However, if your pooch obsessively licks you or your guests, it’s easy to become irritated.
We know that this behavior can be confusing, which is why our team at Germantown Veterinary Clinic is here to explain some of the many reasons dogs lick themselves, each other and humans, as well as how to get your dog to stop.
Reasons Dogs Lick
- Communication: Dogs lick each other to say everything from “I’m hungry” to “You’re the boss” to “Let’s be friends.” It’s harder for humans to get the message, but your dog may simply be trying to communicate with you.
- Grooming: Dogs sometimes lick themselves and each other for grooming purposes. Your dog may, in turn, want to groom you, laying down beside you and licking your arm for as long as you’ll allow it.
- Exploration: Your dog senses the world around her largely by scent and taste. For a dog, licking a surface is like reaching out to touch something – it’s just a bit messier.
- Greeting and affection: When your dog licks you excitedly after you get home from work, she’s probably just saying hello. When the licking continues, it could be because your dog is saying she likes you.
- They like the taste: It’s obvious that when your dog licks up spilled sauce or gravy, she likes the taste. Have you ever thought that maybe she likes the taste of your skin as well? From bits of food to your scented lotion to salty skin after working out, your dog may lick you simply because she thinks you taste good.
- Attention: In many cases, licking is learned behavior dogs pick up. They realize their owners will pet them and give them attention when they start licking.
- Anxiety: Some dogs are compulsive lickers, licking the same object or area over and over when they’re scared, nervous or stressed. Separation anxiety is a common reason for these emotions.
What to Do About Dog Licking
- Ignore it: If your dog licks you to show affection or get attention, stand up and leave without a word. This helps reinforce the fact that licking doesn’t deliver your dog’s desired outcome. Avoid scolding your dog because even a negative reaction gives your dog attention for licking you.
- Reward good behavior: Praise your dog and show her affection when she exhibits the behavior you want, which might be to lie calmly beside you instead of licking you constantly.
- Change your soap or lotion: You dog may like these scented products, so change what you use to see if your dog’s licking subsides. Citrus soap and lotion, in particular, tends to be off-putting for dogs.
- Train your dog to lick on command: This teaches your dog that licking is only allowed when you say so. Choose a word to initiate the licking such as “kiss me” or “lick.” Hold out your hand and praise your dog for licking you. Then issue an end command such as “no more” or “that’s enough” and reward your dog if she stops licking, even if only for a few seconds. Pull your hand away if necessary to stop the licking and then give her the reward.
Call Germantown Vet if You’re Concerned About Your Dog’s Licking
If your attempts to curb your dog’s obnoxious licking are ineffective, or you suspect an underlying issue like anxiety, bring your pup to Germantown Vet Clinic. We can help determine the reason for the licking and suggest solutions to stop this undesired behavior.
For more about your dog’s licking habit, or for answers to other pet concerns, please contact us online or by phone at 240-252-7467.