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How to stop my dog from licking everything?

How to stop my dog from licking everything

It is natural for dogs to lick. While grooming, mother dogs lick their pups, and pups lick each other. 

Dogs lick to show their affection and even to let us know that they want to eat.

Though licking comes naturally to dogs, some dogs tend to overdo it. Often there is a behavioral or medical reason for the excessive licking seen in some dogs. It is usually behavioral reasons more than medical that drive dogs to excessive licking.

Why do dogs lick?

Before answering the question “how to stop my dog from licking everything?” let us look at the reasons for this behavior.

Dogs show their affection for you by licking you. 

Licking releases endorphins in the brain and helps to make the dog feel calm and relaxed. However, the release of the feel-good endorphins can also trigger excessive licking. 

Below are some of the reasons for the excessive licking:  

1. Grooming

Grooming is a healthy and typical behavior seen in dogs. 

Dogs lick themselves to keep themselves clean. However, some dogs can over-groom themselves leading to bald areas on their fur, inflamed skin, sores, and open wounds. 

Excessive grooming is often caused by a medical reason or due to anxiety or boredom. 

Dogs also lick themselves for the soothing effect and to calm down. 

If your dog starts licking more than usual, you should look out for signs of anxiety in your dog. Is your dog stopping everything and licking himself? Is he calm and grooming himself or stressed and licking himself to self-soothe? 

If your dog is licking himself to the point of developing sores or bald spots, you must consult your veterinarian. 

2. Hungry 

How to stop my dog from licking everything

If your dog is licking his lips continuously, he may just be trying to tell you that he is hungry. Dogs also lick their lips when food is nearby. 

Hungry dogs may also lick their human’s face as a signal for food, especially if the human has been out of the house for a long duration.

Some dogs and even puppies lick their owners instinctually to request food.

3. Thirsty

Dogs lick when they are thirsty or dehydrated. The licking can activate the salivary glands and indicate that the dog needs a drink of water.

4. Dental issues 

Dogs with dental issues such as gingivitis or dental disease may lick due to the pain. 

Even gum injury or a broken tooth can cause a dog to lick.

Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly and visiting your vet once a year for annual dental cleaning can prevent such problems. 

5. Communication

Your dog may be licking you to say that he loves you. While this is nice, it is also a way to get attention.

You can control this licking by just ignoring your dog when he licks. You can also turn your back on your dog when he is licking. Your dog will quickly understand that he will not get attention by licking you. 

6. Anxiety 

Anxiety can also cause your dog to lick excessively.

7. Boredom 

A bored dog may lick or chew his paws just because he has nothing else to do. Eventually, it can become a habit in your dog as licking releases feel-good endorphins in the brain.

To address boredom licking, you should introduce more activities for your dog, such as longer walks or more play sessions. 

8. To reduce tension 

Dogs lick their lips to send the message that they are not looking for trouble. 

When a dog licks his lips or nose, he may be nervous or trying to reduce tension. For example, your dog may lick you soon after some mishap in the home, after you scold him, or sometimes for no apparent reason. 

Self-calming licking is similar to when human beings take in deep breaths to calm down. 

9. Obsessive tendency 

Some dogs lick because they cannot control the urge, and they will continue to lick you for as long as you allow it. They will lick your pants, forearms, furniture, themselves, the floor, or just about anything. 

This type of uncontrolled licking is the result of anxiety or a compulsive tendency. 

It is a bit like human beings who cannot stop biting their nails when they are nervous. Dogs with obsessive licking tendencies require help, and you need to consult your vet.

10. The taste is good 

Dog lick owner

Dogs sometimes lick because they like how you taste; perhaps you are sweaty after a workout, and the dog starts licking because he likes the saltiness. Dogs that lick the floor or furniture are also sometimes drawn by the taste.

11. Expression of affection 

Your dog may also lick you to express affection. If you are meeting your dog after some time, your dog will resort to gentle licking to show his joy at having you back.

12. Neurological issues 

Neurological problems can also cause a dog to lick obsessively. 

Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is a behavioral syndrome seen in older dogs. It is a condition in dogs that is similar to dementia in people. 

Excessive licking is a symptom of CCD. If your dog licks you, the floor, wall, furniture, or himself more than usual, it’s best to consult a vet for a full checkup. 

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13. Pica

Pica is a condition in which dogs crave non-food items due to a nutrient deficiency or a parasite. A dog with this condition will lick everything literally. If you notice that your dog is licking every surface, you can contact your vet to see if a nutrient deficiency in your dog’s diet or a parasite is to blame. 

14. Need for attention 

If you have been giving your dog attention every time he licks you, then he has probably already learned that licking you is the best way to get attention from you. It’s always not because he wants a pat on the head from you. It can be a way to signal that he needs something; perhaps he is hungry, thirsty, or wants a treat. In such cases, it is best to see what he needs and provide it. 

15. Submission 

A dog may be trying to indicate his submission to you by licking your face. If you have a dog who is not very confident or nervous, he may lick your face often as a sign of submission to you. 

If you have a nervous dog, he may lick strangers as well to indicate submission. The whole idea of your dog licking you or strangers is to ensure his safety and suggest that he doesn’t mean any trouble. 

For more information on what your dog is trying to say check this article from our blog: Dog Body Language – 12 Amazing Clues.

16. Itchy feeling 

Dogs lick areas of their body that may be itchy. It could be the result of an allergic reaction, flea bites, or other skins problems. 

Dogs that lick the anal area or drag their bottom on the carpet may have an anal gland issue. Even pain from conditions like arthritis can lead to licking. 

Tips to stop excessive licking 

The sound of a dog’s licking can be irritating when it continues without a stop. You may also not like being covered in dog slobber.

If your dog is licking everything in sight, your vet should be able to tell you if this is due to fleas, allergies, or medical reasons. Once your vet confirms that there are no medical reasons involved, you should focus on the behavior part. Usually, boredom or the urge to self-soothe triggers obsessive self-licking if there are no underlying medical conditions. 

Habit, nervousness, or trying to show affection towards the owner are other reasons that may trigger excessive licking in dogs.  

If excessive licking in your dog is due to behavioral reasons, you should correct the behavior with appropriate training.

Below are some tips to stop excessive licking:

1. Deal with the boredom 

Boredom is often a reason for a dog to lick everything he sees. 

A puzzle filled with a treat or a long-lasting dog chew will keep the dog busy. Your dog will have to lick the puzzle to reach the treat. 

Whenever you notice your dog compulsively licking furniture or the floor, offer him a treat puzzle.

If you have to leave your dog home alone during the day, provide several toys to keep him engaged while you are away.

2. Dealing with licking due to anxiety 

Any changes to your dog’s routine can cause anxiety. 

Do you have a new pet in the house, a new baby, or has there been a change in your dog’s schedule? If your dog suddenly starts licking your feet a lot, see what changes have happened in your home recently. 

If something is making your dog anxious, you can use the desensitization technique to build up your dog’s tolerance. Suppose your dog is afraid of thunder; you can introduce your dog to sounds similar to thunder but at a low level. The objective is for your dog to be less reactive over time and ultimately ignore the sound. If separation anxiety is causing your dog to lick excessively, you need to address the issue with appropriate training. 

Woman exercises with dog

If you sense that the licking is due to anxiety or stress, you should give your dog plenty of exercises to burn off the excess energy. 

A long walk, a run, a game of fetch, or swimming are great options to burn off the extra energy. As a result, your dog will be resting when you are not around instead of being anxious or stressed. 

Extra energy, insufficient exercise, and the longing for attention are often the causes of anxiety in dogs. 

You can give your dog attention by rubbing behind her ears, along the face and stomach. Along with the soothing touch, speaking to your dog in a soft voice will help her calm down. 

With enough exercise, rest, and attention from you, your dog should be able to overcome the compulsive licking. 

Make sure to reward your dog with a treat when he shows the correct behavior. 

Since anxiety in dogs can sometimes be complicated, it is always good to consult your vet for advice. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication can also be helpful to calm your dog down. 

3. Ignore the behavior 

As mentioned earlier in this article, licking is also a way for your dog to get your attention.

Don’t give your dog any attention if he starts licking you. Instead, walk away and don’t make any eye contact. 

When your dog stops getting attention every time he licks you, he will see no benefit in continuing this behavior.

4. Offer something else 

If your dog starts licking your face, you can direct your dog’s attention by offering a chew toy or a bone. 

Redirecting your dog in this way will allow him to lick something more appropriate than your face. 

5. Use bitter spray

Bitter sprays are safe and non-toxic. Dogs dislike the bitter taste and avoid licking areas that are covered with the spray. If your dog licks himself excessively, use the bitter spray on his skin, and the licking should stop quickly. 

6. Showering 

If your dog tends to lick you because he likes your post-workout salty taste, you should take a shower before meeting your dog. 

7. Trick training

You can use trick training to redirect licking positively. When your dog starts licking you, ask him to sit down and reward the good behavior with a treat.

8. Different greeting 

If your dog’s idea of greeting is to lick your face, you should make it a point to pull away when he is about to lick you. 

If he tries to lick the face of guests, pull him back. 

Once your dog is in a calm state, you can move forward and greet him with a pat on the head. Repeat this process every time your dog attempts to lick your face. 

Remember to get out of your dog’s reach when it seems like he is about to lick your face. You should teach your dog through reward-based training to wait for you to greet him. The reward for the correct behavior can be a tummy rub, a pat on the head, or a tasty treat.