Why is my dog licking stuff constantly?

Posted by Dr Dog. November 30th 2015.

When a dog’s licking stuff, it is usually perfectly a normal behaviour. For many, it’s how they explore the world around them and a way to get attention from people.

But too much licking could be a sign that there’s a problem.

If your pet is constantly licking things, you should see a vet as soon as possible. A dog licking paws repetitively, for example, could be a sign that they are irritated, suffering or injured.

Dogs licking stuff can be a perfectly normal behaviour


Why do dogs lick?

Constant licking could be prompted by a number of problems.

Your dog may have an allergy affecting the skin, meaning he or she licks irritated areas in an effort to sooth the problem. It may be a similar scenario if they have a fungal or bacterial infection.

It may be that your dog is just trying to dislodge a thorn in his or her paw after a walk.

However, persistent licking might also be a sign of something more serious, including broken bones or cancers.

Too much licking may even cause your dog further problems, such as developing sores.

Behavioral reasons

If your vet has ruled out injuries or infections, it may that your dog is licking for behavioural reasons.

Compulsive behaviour in dogs is not uncommon and constant licking can be a sign they are anxious or stressed.

Certain breeds are more prone to these traits. Doberman pinschers, golden retrievers and Labradors are known to develop problems associated with licking.

Compulsive behaviour often occurs in dogs who:

  • Have been the victim of abuse
  • Are tied up a lot and or confined to small areas
  • Have not been given the chance to socialise with people and other animals
  • Experience stresses such as aggression from other dogs or separation from their owners

If your dog's licking is becoming a problem, you can teach them to reduce the behaviour


What to do if your dog is constantly licking

Firstly, see a vet to rule out any physical medial causes for the problem.

He will have some advice on how to treat the issue but there are some things you can do at home to help your dog break the cycle of compulsive behaviour.

Train your dog: Compulsive behaviours are sometimes learnt, meaning they can be unlearned too. Use positive reinforcement to reward your dog when they are not licking. Also, some simple obedience training will strengthen the bond between you and your dog and may help the issue.

Identify and remove the problem: You may notice certain triggers prompt your dog to start licking. Use common sense and remove those triggers. If that’s not possible – for example if your dog responds badly to fireworks on Bonfire Night – make sure you stay with them and comfort them.

Distract your dog: When your dog begins to lick, distract him or her with a game or a treat. For example, you could ask your dog to shake a paw when he or she looks like they’re about to lick.

Give your dog jobs to do: Exercise is invaluable for dogs – but make sure you concentrate on both their body and mind. This can lower stress levels and a tired dog will not have the energy for compulsive behaviour. Remember to keep your dog busy and happy.

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