Your dog’s tongue might leave wet spots on your couch or saliva all over your face. Sometimes, it’s cute. Other times, it becomes irritating.
If you have ever owned your own pup, then you have probably wondered once or twice: Why do dogs lick?
Why do dogs lick?
Licking is a way for your dog to show affection. It means he loves you. It means he wants to make you smile.
Licking releases endorphins, which makes your dog feel happy. It relieves stress. But that is not the only reason why they will lick the couch, their pillows, and any people they come across.
Some dogs lick because they associate it with getting a reward. This will happen if you scratch your dog’s head or start baby talking to him every time he plops on your lap and licks your face. Since you treat him nicely whenever he licks, he thinks he is doing the right thing and does it more often.
Your dog could also be licking because he likes the taste. Even though you would never lick your own skin, your dog thinks the salt on your face and feet tastes delicious. He might be licking you because you taste better than a treat.
He might also be licking you in order to show submission. When a dog wants to let another animal (or a human) know that they are in charge, he will lick to get the point across. It is a type of peace offering.
Your dog could also be licking because he is anxious. When there is a lot of yelling in the house or there are fireworks outside, your dog might lick in order to calm himself. It is a coping mechanism meant to soothe him.
Of course, other dogs lick because they are bored and have nothing better to do.
How do you stop a dog from licking?
You might not want your dog to leave wet stains all over your couch cushions or to slobber over every guest you invite over. In that case, there are a few things you can do in order to prevent him from licking.
If your dog licks out of boredom (or even depression), then try keeping him occupied. Give him toys to play with, give him treats, and give him love. The busier he is, the less time he will have to lick.
If your dog licks because of his anxiety, make sure he has plenty of time to exercise throughout the day so that he can expel his nervous energy. Also make sure he knows he is in a safe, loving space where nothing is going to hurt him.
If your dog licks you for attention, then you should stop giving him what he wants. Instead of codling him the next time he licks you, ignore him. Walk away from him. Make it clear that licking is not a behavior that is going to be rewarded.
When all else fails, you can place a cone around your dog’s head so that he is physically unable to lick.
When does licking become dangerous?
Licking itself is not dangerous. However, it could be a sign that something is wrong, which is why you should pay close attention to where your dog has been licking and how often it has been happening.
If he keeps licking his feet after walking outside, then he might be trying to calm an itch caused by allergies.
If he keeps licking red spots or bald patches on his fur, then he might be suffering from a hormonal imbalance.
If he keeps licking his butt, then he might need his anal glands expressed.
If he keeps licking a certain paw, it might be sprained (especially if he is also limping).
His licking could also be a sign of dry skin, fleas, or ticks. That is why you should keep a close eye on your dog, and if he licks more than usual, take him to the vet to make sure that he is feeling his best. You don’t want him to be hurting when all of the warning signs are right in front of you.