Most dog owners expect a couple of doggy kisses every now and then as that is how many dogs show their affection. However, some dogs can turn a couple of licks into a non-stop slobber-fest. Since we have yet to learn how to have a two-way verbal conversation with our dogs, it can seem impossible to make them stop doing something we don’t want them to do. And unless you like going to work sopping wet, this applies to excessive licking, too.
How to stop your dog from licking? For the most part, some simple training is all you need to stop your dog from licking. However, if your dog doesn’t seem to be responding to basic training, there may be an underlying problem, and that should be checked out by a vet.
Every dog is different, so I can’t tell you exactly why your particular dog is licking, but I can help you try to identify the problem yourself. Down below, I have listed some ways you can use to stop your dog from excessive licking.
Why is your dog licking? Identifying licking triggers
How do you stop your dog from licking if you don’t know the cause? That’s not possible, unfortunately. That means that before we can hope to fix the excessive licking, we have to identify why your dog is licking so much in the first place.
Dogs can lick for many reasons, and some of them are perfectly normal and healthy behaviors. There are also plenty of unhealthy behaviors that can cause a dog to lick you, your belongings, the furniture, or even themselves.
Some detrimental reasons for excessive licking in dogs may be because they’re itchy, bored, stressed, they want attention, they’re showing submission, they may be trying to tell you something is bothering them, or they may even have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, also known as OCD. But don’t be freaked out just yet. Sometimes dogs start licking just because they like someone or like the saltiness of your sweat.
Every dog has a different personality, so try to keep that in mind when exploring the reason for licking. Even if two dogs are the same breed and grew up together, Spot could like to greet guests politely while Dexter body slams guests excitedly and licks their faces clean. So, first off, you have to ask yourself: is this typical behavior for my dog?
How to tell if licking is normal doggy behavior
If you’d like to figure out whether excessive licking is a normal pooch behavior or if your dog is showing signs of a health or mental issue, it’s actually pretty simple. Most dog owners know their dogs very well, so identifying strange or unusual behavior is as simple as watching them and noting anything strange.
Observe your dog while they’re licking something or someone. Is your dog wagging along happily? Does it seem like she’s having a blast? Or is your dog just licking the same spot repeatedly, eyes glazed over? Do they appear stressed, hyper-focused, or upset? Is her body tense or relaxed?
If your dog is acting normally, wagging his tail, and seems to be having fun, your dog is just being a dog. Some canines just can’t get enough of licking things, people, or other pets. Look for that pure joy body language, relaxation, and sloppy, happy kisses. That’s a dog in pure bliss!
However, if your dog seems like they’re doing it like it’s a 9 – 5 job for minimum wage, they may be trying to tell you that something is off. Look for tension, intense eye contact, body language that says something is wrong, or even listen for a soft whine. That’s a stressed dog!
Even with this in mind, it’s not always that obvious when a simple lick turns to obsessive oral fixation. Especially if the behavior starts to increase slowly over time.
Dogs lick due to stress
The biggest cause of dog licking is stress. Dog stress can be caused by a rather long list of things, so it’s imperative that you figure out what’s bothering your pup before you attempt to break the licking behavior.
- Boredom: Sometimes when a dog is bored, they can get stressed out. This is especially true if the boredom lasts a long period of time. It’s also very common in dogs who are left alone for hours each day with no companions and not many suitable toys.
- Fear: Fear can take the shape of an object, a person, a room, or even a noise. Sometimes dogs are afraid of the strangest things, such as the squeak of your refrigerator door or the ticking of a new clock.
- Lack of confidence: Believe it or not, many dogs that lack confidence in their daily lives become stressed over time. Timid, shy, or fearful dogs often lack confidence.
- Pain: Most dogs will display stress through licking if something is hurting them. More often than not, they will obsessively lick the place that’s causing the pain. However, they may not be able to reach the painful spot, so they will lick a paw or their tail instead.
What to do if your dog is stressed
A stressed-out dog may begin licking herself, you, or things around the house. Some even go as far as licking the other pets in the house! Unless you’re a fan of wet cats or hamsters, it’s best to stop this behavior before it gets too out of hand.
Stressed dogs need their owners to find quick solutions to the problem. The stress list above is a good place to start. If you’re certain your dog isn’t in pain, look for signs that your dog is bored or scared. They may pace, whine, and ignore old or worn-out toys, and they’ll cringe or startle when exposed to whatever is scaring them. Remove the scary object and invest in some new toys. More on boredom in a minute.
You can increase your dog’s confidence and lower his stress by giving him a job. Lots of dogs enjoy carrying light items for their owners during walks. This can be done with a little vest with pockets or by asking your dog to hold a light toy in her mouth during a walk. Just be sure the items aren’t too heavy.
Exhaustion causes stress, too!
What to do if your dog is bored
In the case of your dog being bored, you should be sure to take your dog on a walk each day. They may enjoy walking the same route every day, or they may prefer a new and exciting adventure, instead. Choose something that matches your dog’s personality.
You can also bring them to a large enclosed space outside to run and frolic. Ideally, this would be once a day, but that’s not always an option. Dogs are very energetic and bouncy creatures that require daily activities to burn off excess energy. If they don’t get enough playtime, they may begin licking, chewing, or other destructive habits.
If you cannot let your dog outside, whether because of where you live or if your dog is unfit to go outside, then you need to make sure your dog gets enough playtime inside. This means buying toys your dog loves and playing with your dog for at least 30 minutes a day every day.
Teaching your dog new tricks can sometimes help alleviate boredom and stop licking, as well.
What to do if your dog has allergies
Many times, you can rule out boredom and stress by following the advice on this page, but what happens if nothing works? If your dog is still licking herself, she may have allergies. The first step is taking your dog to the vet and explaining the problem, including describing the spots your dog is usually licking. If the vet diagnoses your dog with allergies then just follow what your vet recommends you to do to help.
What to do if your dog is sick
Some dogs will lick themselves or others when they don’t feel very good. Tummy upset, aches and pains, or other maladies can make a dog miserable. Licking brings a small bit of relief, but they may be using this behavior to communicate with you.
Diagnosing illnesses is the job of your vet, so don’t put off that vet trip. If the vet rules out allergies, then ask if they can see something else wrong with the dog. You may need to keep a journal of other behaviors that go along with the licking to
help your vet find the problem.
What to do if your dog has OCD
Did you know that dogs can get OCD? Most people don’t realize this, but it’s true! As with your dog having allergies, the vet is the best way to find out if your dog has OCD.
As for what you can do about it, well…
Just like humans, dogs who have OCD can be caught doing the same thing, over and over again until either their brain says that they’re satisfied, or someone snaps them out of it. Doggy OCD isn’t always as noticeable as human OCD, especially when you’ve never owned a dog before.
Licking is one of the most obvious OCD behaviors. It’s tougher to get a dog with OCD to stop licking than one who is bored or sick.
What to do if your dog just wants attention
If the cause of all that licking is just to get attention, then some simple training is probably all you will need. Teach your dog that when they lick, they stop getting affection. If they lick you, ignore them. When they stop licking, you give them affection and praise. If they lick again, then you stop giving attention. Just repeat this until your dog gets the memo.
Giving your dog a verbal command like
or a noise like
followed by a simple hand motion can help your dog learn that,
Oh hey, maybe I should stop doing this thing.
It’s a fast and easy way to get your dog to stop licking you for attention.
If you find that your dog listens to you while you’re there but continues to obstructively lick things in your absence, you can always try spritzing a bitter deterrent on whatever they’re licking. If you’ll be spraying this on their paws, make sure it is vet-approved and non-irritating first, however. By the way, this is a spray that I have tried and it worked like wonder.
Dogs that lick a lot can be destructive to their own bodies, your belongings, or even other pets. It’s best to stop this behavior before it goes on too long, as bad habits can be hard to break. However, keep in mind that your dog may be licking so much because she needs your help to relieve stress, she’s ill, or she’s terribly bored. Do your best to find the cause of the licking and you’ll have a much easier time breaking that habit.