Why Does My Dog Lick So Much?

I’m currently fostering a dog who compulsively licks everything, from tables and wooden chairs, to notebook covers and books. For him, the pattern seems to be anything with a smooth surface. Other dogs may lick other types of surfaces such as the carpet, you, or himself.  So you might be wondering, why does my dog lick so much?

Why Does My Dog Lick Everything?

Why does my dog lick so much
Licking objects doesn’t satisfy a dogs hunger, in fact it doesn’t satisfy any “true” need whatsoever, so why the obsessive, compulsive behavior?

There are many reasons as to why a dog may lick you, himself, or objects repetitively, but quite often the behavior arises due to stress, anxiety, or some type of conflict.

You can observe your dog to see if you can pinpoint a source of conflict or stress.  Here are some things to look for:

  • Is there a conflict with another pet in the house?
  • Was he a shelter dog that has recently been separated from his long-time companion?
  • Was he an abused dog?
  • Is he afraid of being reprimanded, or punished, by you for a particular behavior or incident?
  • Did something recently give him a good scare that is now causing him fear?

If you can identify the cause, and eliminate it, it may be possible to stop the behavior. Unfortunately, a long-time compulsive behavior can sometimes persist even after the cause has been identified and corrected. Sometimes there may be a medical condition causing the behavior such as a cognitive dysfunction. If it is himself he is licking, medical conditions may exist such as fleas, a skin condition, allergies, or pain in the specific area. You should consult your vet in order to rule out this possibility.

Additional Things You Can Do To Help Your Dog

  • Purchase a taste deterrent made for animals. This is a product that can be applied to the things your dog licks.  They taste horrible and will deter your dog from desiring a scrumptious taste of your carpet, skin, or other object. There are multiple brands, and flavors, which range from being bitter, or hot & spicy. Since dogs have different tastes, you may need to experiment as some dogs have actually been known to like the taste (the little stinkers!). However, fortunately most will be repulsed by it. The one that worked for my little foster dog was Grannick’s Bitter Apple for Dogs.
  • Try to distract your dog.  Play with him, take him for a walk, ask him to perform a trick, or present him with something that will occupy him for a lengthy period of time such as a rawhide. What works wonderful for our dog is a KONG toy. You can fill the toy with a mix of tasty treats, both wet and dry, such as peanut butter and broken pieces of dog biscuits, and your dog will work for 20 minutes or more trying to get it all out! They look forward so much to getting the treats out that they completely forget about all else…….now that’s a fun distraction!
  • Consult a vet if you feel it may be a medical issue that needs attention.

Do NOT Do this

  • Never scold or punish your dog because it will increase his anxiety and worsen the behavior.
  • Never give your dog positive attention, such as petting or praising, when he begins his compulsive licking. You don’t want him to think his compulsiveness is a good thing!

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