Understanding Excessive Dog Licking and Why They Do It.

Jul 15, 2023
Dogs licking


Why do Dogs lick Excessively?


Dogs lick, that's fair to say but sometimes we notice excessive licking and it can become a worrying trait.


As a Dog Behaviourist with clients every day I can understand how concerning it can be when your dog licks excessively. There are a number of reasons why dogs exhibit this behaviour.


Firstly, allergies. Just like humans, dogs can be allergic to certain foods, environmental factors, or even things they come into contact with. If your dog's excessive licking is accompanied by itching, redness, or skin irritation, it might be worth considering an allergy test or making changes, however slight to their diet.


Another common cause is anxiety or stress. Dogs can become overwhelmed by changes in their environment or separation anxiety when you're away. Excessive licking can be a self-soothing mechanism for them. Creating a calm and secure environment, along with calm, consistent training can help alleviate their anxiety.


Sometimes, pain or discomfort can be the cause of excessive licking. If your dog focuses on a specific area, it could indicate an injury, pain inducing ailments like arthritis, or a skin infection. I recommend having your dog thoroughly checked out by a vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions.


Boredom can also trigger excessive licking. Dogs need mental stimulation and physical exercise to stay content. Ensure your furry companion gets enough walks, fun playtime, and interactive toys to keep their minds engaged and prevent boredom-related behaviours. Dogs thrive on (appropriate amounts of) mental stimulation.


Of course, often they lick to comfort themselves when we're not there which could be a sign of separation anxiety. Perhaps licking our bed sheets or pillows as that's where our scent is strongest. Or licking our feet (my Calaidh loves this), this can act as a sign of love and to seek attention and closeness.

(note: I have clean feet), but if I didn't she may be licking for the delightful saltiness of sweaty feet.


You can help alleviate this behaviour by redirecting their attention to appropriate chew toys or engaging them in mentally stimulating activities. Consistency in your calm training will go a long way in breaking this habit (if of course we discover it IS a habit and not discomfort of pain).


Every dog is different, and the causes of excessive licking can vary. It's important to watch your dog's behaviour closely and discuss with a professional dog behaviourist or vet to determine the best course of action.


Together, we can find solutions to help your dog find comfort and break the excessive licking habit.