Does Your Dog Have a Licking Problem? Discover Why and How to Help

Published: 20th July 2011
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It can be calming to come home from a long day at work and have your best friend lick you kindly on the hand. What happens though when you have guests over and they are not as welcoming of the doggie kisses? Not everyone likes licking, and your dog needs to know when it is ok and when it is not. You need to know why he licks so much, though, in order to know if it is a problem that needs correcting, and if so, how to correct it.

Licking in itself is not bad behavior, and doesn't necessarily mean you have an unruly dog. It is likely that this action wasn't discouraged when he was young and has become a habit. It is possible to break this habit, but it will take time, patience and training of your dog.

Some dogs lick people as a way of communicating with them. It's one way that they can show you that they appreciate or love you. Licking can also replace barking, since many owners try to break the barking habits.

Another reason a dog licks it out of shear habit. If a young dog receives something he desires by licking, this habit will be reinforced. As puppies, mother dogs lick their young to groom them and to show love and affection.

Licking may also be a source of oral satisfaction. You may simply taste good to him. For example, if you come home from the gym with sweat all over, your dog may lick you just because he likes the salty taste. Another reason for licking may be that they lack something in their daily diet, and may be trying to compensate for this by licking different things. If he seems to lick for no reason, take him to your vet to check for vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Dogs are also pack animals, so licking may be a way of showing submissiveness or acceptance. Since you should be the "alpha" leader of your pet, he may lick you to acknowledge this role. Dogs in packs often lick their leaders to show approval.

If you don't know why Fido is licking, you can find out by simply watching him. Pay close attention to him when he licks. If he licks everyone and everything constantly, it is likely compulsive behavior, or a habit. If he licks mainly when he first sees you, he may be communicating. If you can't figure out for yourself why he is licking, then ask your vet. A veterinarian may offer some insight into the situation and be able to recommend behavioral specialists that can help you.

If you find that the behavior needs correcting, then be consistent. If coming home is a trigger, and Fido goes crazy trying to lick your hands, keep your hands in your pocket until he settles down. Once he calms, you can attempt to pet him. If he attempts to lick your hands as soon as he sees them, tell him something like "no lick" firmly.

If licking is a way of getting your attention, you can try showing more attention to your dog when he is not licking. If he gets the attention he thinks he needs, he won't feel the need for licking. One good trick for this is to stick with a schedule when it comes to activities. If, for example, you take him for a walk and play with him when you get home, he'll learn to expect this, and won't feel the need to lick to get your attention every time he sees you.

If you want to break the licking habit, then you'll have to break the habit. You can never encourage licking, even if licking in certain situations doesn't bother you. Any time he starts to lick, tell him "no lick" and give him a toy to redirect his attention.

There are many ways to try to correct a licking problem, and we only covered a couple of them. There is no fast, simple way to break a bad habit. Just remember, positive reinforcement works better than negative any day of the week. Reward your dog when he does good.

As you have learned, dogs lick for many different reasons: grooming, communicating, showing affection or love, being submissive, accepting you as their leader, etc. It is up to you to determine if you want to stop your dog from licking. Once you determine the reason he licks, there are ways to correct the tendency. Always praise and reward your dog for accomplishments, and don't lose your patience or get angry with him. If you want your friends to keep coming over for dinner without the fear of getting slobbered to death, teach your dog to love without licking!

Rebecca J. Ann has a great passion for dogs. She loves dogs as much as she loves her family. Knowing that heartworm disease is one of the top 10 dog killers, she has built a site about Heartgard for Dogs, where you can learn everything you need to know about Heartgard for dogs and Heartgard for dogs side effects.

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