Tips for A Dog That Licks Everything
19 February, 2013

It is natural for all of our dogs to lick their owners as a sign of affection and to groom themselves daily.  Licking is inherent in their genetic make up.  Some owners love it when their doggy licks their face, while others simply tolerate it as part of their pup’s behavior.  But, what if your dog licks everything?

What is normal licking?

Licking is usually a way of playing, telling your owners you love them, and sometimes that your dog is hungry.  In many cases, licking is a learned behavior. Dogs learn that when they lick their owners they get more attention, so they incorporate licking into more and more of their daily behaviors.

Dogs also lick to groom themselves.  They use their tongues (and licking), to become informed with the world around them just as humans touch things to figure out what they are.

Excessive Licking

What is excessive licking?  Only you, as the dog owner, will know if your dog’s degree of licking is part of your dog’s normal routine.  However, if your dog tends to lick everything in sight, this is an obsessive behavior. This behavior is compulsive and can be detrimental to their well-being. It also disrupts how your dog will interact with you and your family and it will be difficult to have a normal relationship with the dog.

However, do not take your frustration out on your pup as this could worsen the behavior.   Never try to correct a ‘wrong’ behavior with negative reinforcement.  There are reasons why your dog is licking so much and ways to combat it.

Medical Causes for Licking

There are a variety of causes for obsessive licking including boredom, pain, allergies, disease and stress. If you think this is the case, take your dog to the vet. Blood work and an exam may either indicate a problem or rule that a medical condition is the cause.

Changing the Unwanted Behavior

The first part of changing the behavior depends on understanding and removing the cause for the licking that got to this level. Dealing with the cause is necessary to begin making changes.  Was your dog’s environment/bed/food changed?  Did you just move?  Is it a sign of attention?

The easiest way to change this obsessive licking is to try to put an alternative in place.  Try to find some good and safe chew toys like Kongs that entertain your dogs.  If he or she starts to lick an inappropriate item, bring him a toy instead.  And always reward your dog for chewing and focusing on the toy instead of licking.

If your dog starts to lick you or your family members (excessively), try to say “no” in a strong (but not intimidating voice) and bring him a toy to chew on instead.  As always, give your dog a treat or a nice rub down when he stops licking.   Make sure to take your dog on walks, teach him some new tricks or anything different to occupy his time and help him lose this behavior.

With observation and patience, you can figure out why your dog is licking so much and change the behavior.  If it continues after you have tried all of the above, you might want to schedule another appointment with your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist.  Good luck!

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