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Why Do Dog’s Lick?

Posted in Anxiety & Nervousness, bad breath on Mar 05, 2009

I’ve Been Kissed By A Dog!

I have, possibly, the world’s cuddliest dog. Her name is Pearl and she is a lovebug. She wants to be petted all the time. She may weigh 50 pounds but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to climb up in my lap and give me kisses. She likes to lick my nose and my ears. I love petting Pearl and giving her hugs but I have to say that sometimes her kisses are a less-than-pleasant experience. It’s the doggy breath . She likes to lick everything! She licks me, she licks and grooms herself, she licks the other dogs. She licks the kitchen counter. Then there’s everything outside. I don’t even want to think about the things she finds to lick in the yard!

Dogs can lick for several different reasons and some of them may surprise you.

  • Dogs lick for cleaning purposes. They use their tongues to clean themselves. Maybe Pearl is trying to clean me when she licks my face. Maybe she’s trying to clean the other dogs when she licks them. I think she’s very maternal so she may be indulging her mothering instincts and treating us all like puppies.

    Pearl may be cleaning my ears when she licks them. I know that she likes to lick the ears of my other dogs. She will take a paw and hold their head down so she can really get their ears clean. They don’t seem to mind. Cleaning ears and washing faces seems to be her designated role. I guess she thinks my ears need cleaning, too. After all, ears are a dark, warm place — just perfect for a dog’s tongue to dart in and feel around. Pearl may think she’s doing her job.

    • Licking can also be a way of showing affection. Mothers do this with puppies. Mothers lick puppies not just to clean them but to help their circulation and digestion. Some of this licking behavior in the whelping box is the result of the hormones that are being stimulated by birth and by the puppies nursing, but a lot of it is simply instinct. If you ever watch a mother dog with her puppies she will wash them (lick them) almost like she’s counting them, one at a time, then tuck them next to her and go to sleep. This same behavior may go on with a dog who doesn’t have puppies but who is feeling maternal or feeling affection for someone or something. Your dog may lick you and then curl up asleep next to you, satisfied that all is well.


    • Puppies also lick their mothers and older dogs. This is a way of showing respect or submission for a superior member of the pack. You hold that same position for your dog.

    • Licking around the mouth can also be a way to try to induce their mother (or other adult) to regurgitate food for them to eat. I sure hope Pearl doesn’t think I’m going to do that for her!

    • Licking behavior can also become obsessive-compulsive. In these cases it usually occurs when your dog is feeling anxious about something. The behavior may be long term or short term. If your dog develops obsessive licking behavior suddenly you should try to assess whether there have been any changes in your household or in your dog’s routine. Is there something bothering him or her? Is there something upsetting your dog? Have you introduced a new person or another pet into the home? Is your dog suffering from a form of separation anxiety and compulsively licking himself while you are away from home during the day?

      Compulsive licking and grooming can lead to self-injury in the form of lick granuloma, an ulcerous lesion which can become infected. The more the dog licks, the worse the itching and the worse the lesion, and so on. Dogs can also become compulsive about licking things besides themselves. They can compulsively lick furniture, the floor, the walls, or even you.

      The best thing to do is to find what it is that is making your dog anxious and try to address the problem. Sometimes you can’t remove the person or thing making your dog anxious but you can find ways to help your dog adjust. For instance, there are ways to help your dog cope with separation anxiety. However, it may be necessary to consult with a veterinarian. He or she may need to temporarily prescribe some medication to help with your dog’s problem.

      Ordinary licking to show affection is perfectly normal. It’s also normal for a dog to lick other dogs and to lick objects to find out how they taste. Your dog may be looking for food crumbs or trying to find out if there’s anything left on the object worth tasting. Licking isn’t usually a behavior that most people discourage too much. If you don’t want your dog to lick you, your dog will usually pick up on your signals (Eeewww! Yuck!) and cut back on the behavior, but it comes very naturally to some dogs. I doubt that I could make Pearl stop doing it if I tried.

      If your dog has bad doggy breath, however, there is something you can do about that. Dog Smog Remedy can do away with bad dog breath. It’s an all-natural breath freshener. It contains peppermint and fennel to improve your dog’s breath — which really helps when your dog has been licking all kinds of things and then wants to give you a kiss! If your dog is going to lick, they should definitely have fresh breath. You can either spray Dog Smog Remedy in your dog’s mouth or add a couple of drops to your dog’s food or water. Dog Smog Remedy helps dogs who eat bad things outside, too. Do you have a poop eater? I know — disgusting. That’s a whole different problem, but your dog definitely needs Dog Smog Remedy.

      One other thing. If your dog does have very bad breath you should check their teeth and gums. It could be a sign that they have dental problems. I had one dog that we jokingly called “Breath of Death” because her breath was so bad, but it turned out that she had some tooth decay that needed vet attention. So, do check your dog’s teeth if you notice that their breath gets much worse than usual.

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      4 Responses to “ Why Do Dog’s Lick? ”

      1. # 1 laineyspawtique (1 comments.) Says:

        VERY interesting things!!!! I like your commentary also very cute….I have to look into the dog smog stuff! thanks!

      2. # 2 Setai (1 comments.) Says:

        My dog licks everything. It’s quite funny actualy but then everything I leave in his reach end up being completly wet and sticky.

      3. # 3 kop33 Says:

        my dog has 2 quilts 2 pillows a double bed(wen im not in it) more love than she can handle dinner cooked for her on sunday and god knows wot else so to say she licks walls because of bad things I dont think so

      4. # 4 Randy @ dog training basics (1 comments.) Says:

        I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

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