Ask the AKC Behaviorist - My Dog Won't Stop Licking
I have a 2 year old dog (part Lab, part shar pei, part everything else) who is a compulsive licker. Physically, she is healthy (according to the vet) but the only time she is not licking is when she is in a down-stay position. I don't mind a few licks every now and then, but she gives constant "baths." I can't stand it! What should I do?
Licking is a natural behavior in the puppy's litter. In the first days of their lives, the mother dog (dam) licks the pups to clean them, and stimulate urinating and defecating. When the puppies are a little older, they lick each other as a method of grooming, cleaning, and social interaction.
"Well, Dr. Mary, this is just fascinating," you say, "but it doesn't help me when my dog tries to bathe my feet every time I take off my shoes."
When licking continues into adulthood, it is often a greeting, a sign of affection, a show of submission, or an attempt at communication, e.g. "I really like you." There is some thought that when dogs lick our hands or feet, they are enjoying the salty taste. But sometimes, licking can become an obsessive compulsive behavior serious enough that the dog begins to continuously lick himself and develops sores. In these cases, a trip to the veterinarian is a must.
For your recreational licker, here are six things to try:
1. Don't reinforce any licking until you solve the problem. For example, don't make a happy fuss over the dog when it "gives kisses" to greet you. In some cases, the licking problem started with kisses.