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While most of us don’t mind a gentle lick from our furry friend now and then, a dog that constantly licks can be exhausting. Some dogs only lick themselves or humans, but others may lick random objects, furniture, or even the floor. No one wants a big spot of dog saliva on the couch. Plus, obsessive licking can also cause health issues for your dog, such as irritated skin or hair loss. So, it shouldn’t be ignored.
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Why Is Your Dog Licking?
If your dog is licking only you and nothing else, it’s most likely due to a lack of training. Licking may be a way to get your attention or show affection, but it can be problematic if they do it excessively. Also, licking humans is reinforcing to dogs because they think you taste good. Dogs like the saltiness of our sweat and if you just ate, they may taste food on your fingers and face.
Yet, if your dog licks anything and everything, including themselves and random objects, there may be an underlying cause. Our 12-year-old Sheltie has what we affectionately refer to as O.L.D. dog syndrome (obsessive licking disorder). But in all seriousness, her licking is a side effect of her health issues. We know her medicine dosages aren’t right when she starts licking everything, including herself. She also gets a rash on her tummy from the constant licking. For us, it’s a cue we need to tweak her meds.
However, not all dog licking is a sign of illness or neediness. Some dogs do it because they’re bored or stressed.
How to Stop Excessive Licking
If your dog only licks your hand or their paws occasionally, then it’s probably not a concern. Yet, if their licking is bothering you, getting slobber all over the house, or irritating their own skin, training is necessary. Stopping excessive licking is all about making expectations clear and being consistent. Below are a few steps to take.
However, if your dog is licking anything they can, take them to the vet first. That way, you can rule out any health-related issues before proceeding with training.
First – Don’t Encourage Licking
As much as we love dog kisses, you may want to stop encouraging those licks for a while to get your dog in the habit of licking less. So, don’t have your dog kiss your nose when you get home or lick peanut butter off your fingers. If your dog starts licking something too much, redirect their attention to something that is okay to lick, such as a chew toy or a treat.
If your dog likes to lick you specifically, make your skin less accessible to them. Wear long sleeves and pants when you can, at least until your dog understands not to lick. Wash your hands and face after touching food to get rid of any enticing flavors.
Second – Create a Training Plan
You have several options. If you like your dog licking you, you can teach your dog a “kiss” cue. Then, you can reward your dog only when they lick you on cue. That way, they’ll learn that licking is only okay on command.
If you never want your dog to lick you, you can work on an auto leave it. With that method, you will tell your dog to “leave it” whenever they try to lick something they shouldn’t. Otherwise, you could work on regular leave it, which means your dog is allowed to lick but needs to stop when you ask. It’s up to you to decide which one is best for you and your pup.
Third – Keep Rules Consistent
Once you choose how to handle your dog’s licking, you need to make sure everyone in your household is on the same page. This includes guests. If people come over and let your dog lick them despite your attempt to train your furry friend otherwise, you will have a harder time with training. So, be sure to let people know what the expectations are for your dog’s licking.
With enough patience and consistency, you should start to notice your dog licking less.
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