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Why Does My Dog Lick Pillows? The Surprising Answer!

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Australian shepherd in the sofa

Pets are creatures of intrigue. They do all kinds of wonderful and wacky things that it is difficult for us to understand. Why do they chase their tails? What makes them sneeze during playtime?

If you have ever snuggled in bed with your pup or seen them curled up on your couch pillows, you’ve also probably seen your dog give them a furtive lick. The worst is when it’s not so sneaky, and your dog turns your pillow into a sticky, wet mess.

Why do dogs like pillows and other pieces of bedding? In this article, we dig into why dogs have such a fascination with licking things and why they might specifically be licking our pillows.

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Why Do Dogs Lick?

The overarching question is why do dogs lick anything? We humans don’t go around giving pieces of concrete, trees, other humans, and pillows a good lick each time we come across them. Dogs sense the world in a totally different way than us, though. We can’t equate our experience with the world around us to how our dogs experience it.

Dogs don’t have hands to pick things up and feel the texture of things. Their eyes are also different from ours in that they see less color, and it is harder for them to make out detail. It is likely a combination of all these factors that instills a fascination with licking in dogs. They use their tongue to explore the world, licking things to find out what they taste like, what texture it has, and more about its form.

In addition to all that, dogs rely on smell more than any other sense. Just like in humans, a dog’s sense of smell is linked to their sense of taste. If they smell something that they are interested in, they are highly likely to give it a lick.

It is similar to the idea of compiling a file of information on an object or a person. When a dog smells it, the “file” is mostly complete, but by licking it, they can round out the rest of their “research.”

dog licking woman's ear
Image Credit: Lubo Ivanko, Shutterstock

Why Do Dogs Lick Our Pillows?

Now that we have a better understanding of why our dogs lick, you can take that knowledge and apply it to the pillows. If they are licking them just once or twice, they are probably just curious. After all, you lay your head on these soft, puffy clothes for hours at a time every single day. Your dog just wants to know what makes them so unique.

However, if you start to notice that your dog is overly interested in your pillow and targeting it with their tongue, it might be time to look into other motivations. You might have to do something to correct the behavior, like training them to stop licking pillows.

Why Dogs Lick Pillows:

1. Your dog has separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety among dogs can be quite the issue, especially for those who have busy work schedules. Some dogs only have minor symptoms, like crying for a while after their owner leaves. Other dogs can have more intensive symptoms, taking their worries out on your clothing and other items, such as pillows.

Pillows are a perfect owner-replacement for the times when you’re gone. They smell like you, particularly to your pup’s super-sensitive nostrils. If you come back to find them snuggled up with your pillow or soaked with their saliva, there is a good chance that they might have been consoling themselves with it.

There will typically be other indicators of separation anxiety if your dog suffers from it. For example, they might chew things up while you are gone, or your neighbors might hear them crying hours after you have left.

dog and pillow
Image Credit: Pixabay

2. They like or need the salt from your pillow.

Dietary reasons could also be at fault for this seemingly odd behavior. A dog lacking sodium in their diet will be more likely to lick the salt off your pillow. But why is your pillow salty? When we sleep, we tend to sweat, and we also shed all kinds of dead skin cells from our neck and face onto our pillows. Both of these combine to make your pillow quite salty.

Your dog is bound to notice the smell of your pillow. It probably smells stronger than almost any other object in the room. Once they do, if they like or need the salt in their diet, they will likely try to lick it off, covering your pillow in saliva.

3. Your dog might have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

There is also the chance that your dog might suffer from OCD. Just like humans, dogs can develop a disorder where they need to consistently repeat a behavior over and over, even to the point of physical harm.

This can manifest in all kinds of ways. Some dogs will only have one symptom, while others might have several. They might repeatedly scratch at a spot until it bleeds. They could chase their tail around for hours or lick your pillow for an abnormally long amount of time.

dog lying on the bed
Image Credit: Kelsey Ellen, Shutterstock

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How to Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Pillow

It is unlikely that you will want your dog to continue to lick your pillow as time goes on. Instead, it is best to stop the behavior via various means. This will keep both you and your pup on more sanitary terms.

Identify the Reason for the Behavior

First, try to identify the reason for their behavior. Determine what they might need or be suffering from to figure out why they do it. You might need to consult your vet about the behavior if it continues or worsens.

Identifying the cause of the behavior will help you know what process you can use to address it.

dog on the pillow
Image Credit: Pixabay

Supplement or Fix that Reason

As soon as you figure out the reason, work to correct it within your own environment. You might need to work on separation anxiety training, getting them used to longer and longer times alone instead of just leaving.

If you suspect that it has something to do with their diet, think about whether they recently had any dietary changes. Did you switch their food or stop or start a supplement? Any of these things might need further consideration and augmentation to correct the balance of their diet.

Take Away Their Access to Your Pillows

Sometimes all you need to do to stop a behavior is to take away the possibility of them expressing it. If the only thing that they are interested in repeatedly licking is your pillow, then take it away. Either shut your bedroom door or put the pillows in a closet or drawer while you’re away.

bernese mountain dog on the brown couch
Image Credit: Kristesoro, Shutterstock

Give Your Dog a Better Alternative to Licking Your Pillow

If you aren’t interested in hiding your pillows every day, you can try distracting them. If it is the salt that they want, then give them a bone or something that they can chew and lick with plenty of sodium in it.

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In Summary: Why Dogs Lick Pillows

A dog that consistently licks your pillows is not expressing a sanitary or appealing behavior, even if they are doing it because they miss you. It might take a bit of work to fix this behavior, but since it is not a typical doggy trait, you can train them out of it, address the larger issue, or redirect their attention.

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Featured Image Credit: Izemphoto, Shutterstock

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