Every dog owner knows that dogs like to lick. For some dogs, licking may seem like a favorite pastime, from licking the floor after eating a meal to ensure they get every morsel, to showing you affection. The licking could be occasional or constant depending on the dog, and if your dog is a licker, you may wonder why your dog licks everything. The short answer is licking can be a very normal canine behavior, but it could also be a sign of stress or pain.
In this post, we’ll dive into the possible reasons why your dog licks everything, so you have the answers to this cute but sometimes annoying behavior.
Why Do Dogs Lick?
Licking is a normal behavior for dogs for the most part; after all, they have no hands and sometimes use their tongues to investigate the world. Licking can provide a calm and soothing sensation for dogs, or some may lick out of boredom. Some doggies like to lick the floor in hopes of scoring remnants of food, and others like to lick their canine pal’s face. There’s generally nothing wrong with a dog licking; however, in some cases, excessive licking could be a sign of anxiety or discomfort. Let’s look at some common reasons why dogs lick everything.
Boredom is a potential reason your dog licks everything. If you feel your dog is licking out of boredom, try engaging more in his life by playing fetch or with mental stimulation games and training to keep his mind sharp. As a dog owner, it’s important to provide plenty of both physical and mental stimulation to keep behavioral problems from occurring, especially boredom. Stress and anxiety, including separation anxiety,1 could be another potential reason for excessive licking.
Certain health issues, such as cognitive dysfunction, may be to blame for excessive licking. Dementia is a form of cognitive dysfunction that can cause some senior dogs to lick everything, along with other behavioral changes such as altered interactions with their owners and other pets, changes in their sleep-wake cycle and sometimes messing in the house.
Gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, could be the reason if your dog ate something that isn’t agreeing with him, and the excessive saliva may cause your dog to lick more. Certain types of skin infections or irritations can also be to blame,2 as can pain, such as sore joints which cause a dog to lick the affected area. Grooming is normal behavior, but when it becomes excessive, a trip to the vet is warranted to ensure your dog has no underlying health concerns.
Dental issues can also be the reason behind excessive licking, such as a chipped tooth, a gum injury, or even gingivitis. Your dog’s dental health is vital in keeping your dog healthy and establishing a dental hygiene routine will help keep your dog’s teeth and gums in good shape.
How to Stop Compulsive Licking
Firstly, licking may be a normal behavior for your dog and is often their way of showing you affection, or happens when they are excited to see you and are seeking your attention. However, if it becomes a compulsive and excessive issue, you can take certain measures to find out the underlying reason and to try and reduce the behavior.
Taking your dog in for an examination should be your first course of action, as your vet can assess the situation to determine if a behavioral or health issue is the cause. Once those possibilities have been ruled out, there are some things you can try to enrich your dog’s life which may reduce excessive licking.
Regular physical activity is of course very important and stopping to allow some ‘sniff time’ on walks can reduce stress and be mentally tiring for your canine companion. Providing appropriate chew toys can also be helpful, chewing is a great boredom buster as well as being a stress reliever. Interactive puzzles and toys are a great option as well, especially to keep your dog busy and provide mental stimulation when you are out.
You may need to enlist the health of a certified behavioral specialist to help with anxiety disorders.
Some dogs lick everything because it is self-soothing, or it could be a compulsive habit. When your dog licks everything, it could mean he is trying to communicate with you. Maybe your dog is trying to tell you he has an itch, that he’s anxious or it could be he simply loves you and wants to give you kisses.
Remember that dog licking is often a completely normal behavior, but you should familiarize yourself with the possible reasons mentioned above if it becomes excessive. When in doubt, take your dog to the vet for an examination.