Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking the Air? 7 Reasons & What to Do

Oliver Jones

By Oliver Jones

dog licking

While dogs engage in numerous behaviors that we find adorable, some other ones can leave us quite perplexed. For instance, has your pup ever started compulsively licking the air for no obvious reason?

While air-licking pups can look humorous, some of the answers behind this odd behavior are downright dark. If your dog is licking the air, he could be experiencing a hazardous health issue.

Here are seven reasons why your dog could be licking the air.

divider 9

The 7 Reasons Why Dogs Lick The Air

1. A Foreign Object is Stuck in His Mouth

If your pup is licking at the air, there might be a foreign object stuck in his mouth or between his teeth. This is causing him to not actually lick at the air, but at the physical sensation, he feels in his mouth. Check the roof of your pet’s mouth to see if anything is stuck up there. While you’ve got his mouth open, also inspect his teeth, lips, and gums. Be sure to also check for loose teeth.

Image Credit: Laula Co, Unsplash

2. Severe Stress

Dogs will lick the air if they’re feeling anxious or stressed. This could be because of a disruption to their daily routine, a recent move, a new pet in the household, or strangers entering your home. While your dog is displaying this behavior, pay close attention to other signs of anxiety, including submissive urination, crouching, or trying to hide. You may want to consider making an appointment with an animal behaviorist if the problem persists.

3. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

If you own a senior dog that is licking the air, he may have developed canine cognitive dysfunction. This disease is a lot like Alzheimer’s in people and can result in your pet licking the air and other repetitive behaviors. Contact your vet to schedule a wellness check.

Corgi Licking
Image Credit: Melody Less, Unsplash

4. Tracking Down a Strong Scent

A dog that seems to be licking the air may also be participating in a behavior known as the “flehmen response.” This happens when a dog’s nose picks up certain smells, such as urine, blood, or pheromones. The mouth motion helps him to push these important scents over the vomeronasal organ, which are sensory cells in the nose that detect moisture-borne odor molecules.

5. GI Problems

There is actually a medical term for when dogs lick the air or other surfaces. Called “Excessive Licking of Surfaces” (ELS), this behavior can indicate a gastrointestinal issue, including diarrhea, vomiting, abdomen pain, and a decreased appetite. If your dog’s licking is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, make a vet appointment right away.

Ask a Vet In Real Time!
Just Answer Logo

If you need to speak with a vet right now but can’t get to one, head over to JustAnswer. It’s an online service where you can talk to a vet in real time and get the personalized advice you need for your pet — all at an affordable price!

6. Seizures

Canine seizures can lead to a wide variety of behaviors. Some dogs will paddle their legs while laying on their sides. Others will have subtler signs, such as compulsive licking.

7. Boredom

One of the more benevolent reasons for this behavior is that your dog is simply bored. He could be trying to seek attention. If your dog is also excessively barking or chewing items he shouldn’t be, dedicate more time to engage and play with him.

Pug Licking
Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez, unsplash

Divider 3

How to Stop MY Dog from Licking Air

If your pet isn’t suffering from any health issues, there are plenty of ways to stop his air licking, including:

  • Ensuring he isn’t allergic to a new diet
  • Preventing stress by keeping a daily routine and introducing him to new pets in a slow, safe manner
  • Buying him new toys to keep him occupied and stimulated
  • Brushing your dog’s teeth daily to remove any stuck food particles

If you believe that your dog’s air licking is a symptom of an underlying health condition, make an appointment with your vet.

Divider 4


While air licking can look like bizarre behavior, it may mean your dog is suffering from a medical condition. Get him checked out by a vet to rule out any health concerns. If he continues to lick the air, he may be due to a behavioral issue. Ensure your dog is engaged and stress-free by keeping a daily routine, playing with him often, and slowly introducing him to new pets, people, or situations.

See Also:

Featured Credit: RN23W, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database