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How to stop dogs from licking

How To Stop Dogs From Licking? Everything You Need To Know

“Stopping a dog from licking” refers to preventing or reducing the behavior where a dog frequently licks itself, other animals, people, or objects. Licking is a natural behavior for dogs, and it can have various causes and meanings, but excessive or inappropriate licking might be problematic. Here’s a breakdown of why dogs lick and how to manage it.

How to stop dogs from licking

Table of Contents

What Are The Types Of Equipment Needed To Stop Licking?

Various materials and products can be used to stop or deter a dog from excessive licking, depending on the cause of the licking behavior. Here’s a list of common items and their intended uses:

Elizabethan Collar (E-Collar or Cone)

This protective plastic or soft cone-shaped collar prevents a dog from reaching certain areas of its body, like stitches, wounds, or hotspots.

 Kvaque Adjustable Dog Cone After Surgery
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DOGSWELL Remedy Plus Recovery Dog E-Collar
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Taste Deterrents

Sprays, gels, or creams with a bitter or unpalatable taste can be applied to areas the dog frequently licks or to bandages covering wounds. Examples include products like “Bitter Apple Spray.”

Bitter Apple Spray for Dogs to Stop Chewing
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HEAL No Chew Dog & Cat Spray
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Anti-itch Creams or Sprays

Over-the-counter or veterinarian-prescribed creams or sprays can relieve itchy skin, thus reducing the dog’s need to lick.

DAVIS Pramoxine Anti-Itch Dog & Cat Spray
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Oatmeal Anti-Itch Spray for Dogs
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Medications

If a dog’s licking is due to anxiety or other behavioral issues, a veterinarian might prescribe medication to address the underlying cause.

Interactive Toys

Toys like Kong, puzzles, or chew toys can distract and provide mental and physical stimulation, reducing boredom-related licking.

KIPRITII Chew Toys For Aggressive Chewers
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Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle
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Dog Booties or Wraps

Protective booties or wraps can be barriers if a dog constantly licks its paws.

Bark Brite Lightweight Neoprene Paw Boots
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QUMY Waterproof Reflective Velcro Anti Slip Boots
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OUT Disposable Diapers Ultra Absorbent Leak Proof Wraps
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Dog Anxiety Wraps or Vests

Products like the “Thundershirt” can calm some dogs, reducing anxiety-induced licking.

ThunderShirt Classic Anxiety Heather X-Large Vest
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Cozyvest 3-in-1 Anxiety Music and Aromatherapy Dog Coat
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Calming Sprays or Diffusers

Products containing dog-appeasing pheromones (DAP) can help create a more calming environment, reducing anxiety-driven licking.

Adaptil Travel Calming Spray For Dogs
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Sentry Calming Spray for Dogs
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Regular Dog Shampoo or Medicated Shampoo

Regular grooming and bathing can help remove allergens or irritants from the dog’s skin. If skin issues are causing the licking, a vet might prescribe a medicated shampoo.

Arm&Hammer Deodorizing Odor Eliminating Shampoo
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Buddy Wash Original Lavender Mint Dog
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Physical Barriers

Baby gates or playpens can be used to keep a dog away from specific areas or items they tend to lick, like certain furniture.

Cardinal Gates Auto Lock Pet Gate
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Evenflo Position Farmhouse Pressure Mount
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Training Tools

Clickers, treats, or training whistles can be utilized during training sessions to reinforce positive behavior and reduce unwanted licking.

Farmland Traditions Chicken Jerky Treats
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NPS Anti Bark Device Dogs
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Pooch Creamery Peanut Butter Flavor
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Medical Bandages or Protective Pads

For wounds or surgical sites, proper bandages or pads can protect the area and reduce the dog’s inclination to lick.

Vetnique Labs Dermabliss Medicated Pet Wipes
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Risen Self Adhesive Bandage Wrap 6 Pack
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IMPROVIA Washable Underpads
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Always consult with a veterinarian or a dog behaviorist to understand the reason behind the excessive licking and to ensure that any materials or products used are safe and appropriate for your dog’s specific situation.

Why Do Dogs Lick?

Comfort and Cleaning

Dogs often lick themselves to groom or soothe irritated areas.

Affection

Dogs lick people and other dogs as a sign of affection, akin to how humans hug or pat.

Taste

They might find the taste of certain things (like human sweat or lotions) interesting or delicious.

Attention Seeking

Some dogs learn that licking gets them positive or negative attention.

Compulsion or Anxiety

Some dogs might develop a compulsive behavior around licking, which could be due to anxiety, boredom, or other psychological issues.

Medical Issues

Sometimes, excessive licking, especially on their paws or specific body areas, could indicate an underlying medical issue such as allergies, infections, or pain.

A Step-by-step Guide To Stop The Dog From Licking

Stopping a dog from excessive licking involves understanding the cause and then employing appropriate solutions. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to stop your dog from licking excessively:

Identify the Cause

  • Medical Issues: Check the area your dog is licking. Look for wounds, swellings, rashes, or signs of parasites. Some dogs lick their paws due to allergies or other skin conditions.
  • Behavioral Causes: Dogs may lick due to boredom, anxiety, stress, or habit. Observe when the licking occurs – is it during storms, when left alone, or after encountering certain stimuli?

Consult a Veterinarian

If you suspect a medical issue, it’s important to consult a vet. They can recommend treatments or medications.

Training and Commands

  • Teach a “leave it” or “no lick” command. Every time your dog starts to lick, use the command. When they stop, reward them with a treat or praise.
  • If your dog licks you or others for attention, redirect them with a toy or command. Do not give attention when they’re licking; reward them when they stop.

Distractions and Toys

Provide plenty of chew and interactive toys to engage your dog.

Increase Physical and Mental Activity

A tired dog is less likely to engage in excessive licking. Regular walks, playtime, and training sessions can help.

Use Taste Deterrents

Safe, bitter-tasting sprays can be applied to areas your dog tends to lick or on bandages covering wounds. Always test a small area first to ensure your dog doesn’t react.

Manage Anxiety

  • If your dog is anxious, consider calming products like diffusers, sprays, or collars that release dog-appealing pheromones. Anxiety wraps, or vests might also help.
  • For severe anxiety, consult with your vet about potential medications or supplements.

Address Environmental Factors

  • If allergies are causing your dog to lick their paws, consider rinsing their paws after walks to remove allergens.
  • Use hypoallergenic dog beds and wash them frequently.
  • Check your home for irritants that might be causing your dog to lick.

Protective Barriers

Use Elizabethan collars (cones) or protective booties to prevent access to wounds or hot spots. This is especially useful after surgeries or injuries.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is key. Ensure all family members or caregivers are on the same page about discouraging licking behavior.

Seek Professional Help

If the issue persists or you believe the licking is compulsive, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

Remember, while some licking is natural for dogs, excessive or obsessive licking can indicate underlying issues. Addressing the root cause is crucial for long-term success in stopping the behavior.

Is Licking A Dog’s Way Of Kissing?

Dogs lick for various reasons, and while it’s tempting to anthropomorphize this behavior as “kissing,” it’s essential to understand it from a canine perspective. Here are some reasons why dogs lick:

Affection

Dogs do use licking as a form of social bonding. In the wild, puppies lick their mother’s face to stimulate feeding or show submission. In domestic settings, dogs might lick humans or other pets as a sign of affection and to reinforce social bonds.

Taste

Human skin can be salty, especially after sweating. Dogs might lick us because they like the taste.

Seeking Attention

Dogs quickly learn that licking humans results in a reaction, whether petting, talking, or pushing them away. If they’re looking for interaction, they might resort to licking.

Instinctual Behavior

Mother dogs lick their puppies to clean and stimulate them to urinate and defecate. Puppies, in turn, lick their mother’s face and mouth as a greeting and stimulate regurgitation when transitioning to solid food. Some of this behavior carries into adulthood.

Submissive Behavior

In wolf packs, subordinate wolves often lick the dominant wolf’s muzzle as a sign of submission. Similarly, some dogs might lick as a submissive gesture towards humans or other dogs.

Stress or Anxiety

Compulsive licking can signify stress, anxiety, or boredom in dogs. It can be a self-soothing mechanism like some humans bite their nails when anxious.

Exploration

Dogs use their mouths and noses to explore the world. Licking is a way to gather more information about their environment.

Health Issues

If a dog excessively licks itself (and not other beings), it might be due to allergies, infections, pain, or other medical issues.

While there is an affectionate component to many dogs’ licking behavior, it’s a stretch to call it “kissing” in the human sense. It’s a multi-purpose behavior originating in instinctual practices and learned behaviors. As with any dog behavior, it’s crucial to consider the context to understand its motivation.

How To Stop Dog Kisses?

If you’d like to discourage your dog from “kissing” or licking you and others, here are some steps you can follow:

Redirect the Behavior

As your dog approaches to lick, redirect its attention to a toy or a treat. Over time, they may associate approaching you with calm behavior rather than licking.

Teach Commands

Train your dog with commands like “off” or “no lick.” When your dog tries to lick, use the command. When they obey, reward them with praise or a treat. Consistency is key, so ensure everyone in the household uses the same command.

Manage Greetings

If your dog tends to lick when greeting people, have them on a leash when someone comes in. Ask your dog to sit and stay, rewarding calm behavior. Over time, this can teach your dog to greet people without licking.

Avoid Reinforcing the Behavior

If you don’t want your dog to lick, ensure you (and others) don’t reward them for it. Negative attention (like pushing them away or shouting) can be seen as reinforcement. Instead, try to remain neutral and use your trained command.

Increase Stimulation

Sometimes, dogs lick out of boredom. Ensure your dog has plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day. This can decrease the likelihood of them seeking attention through licking.

Taste Deterrents

You can apply safe, bitter-tasting sprays to your skin that might deter your dog from licking. However, there may be more practical or pleasant solutions for some.

Teach “Kiss” on Command

This may sound counterintuitive, but teaching your dog to “kiss” on command can help you control the behavior. Once your dog understands the command, it may wait for it before giving “kisses.”

Consult a Professional

If you’re struggling to manage the licking behavior, consider seeking advice from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

Remember to be patient and consistent when trying to modify any dog behavior. With time and persistence, most dogs can learn new habits.

When To Be Concerned About Licking?

While some degree of licking is natural and normal for dogs, there are instances when excessive licking should raise concerns. Here are times when you should be worried about your dog’s licking behavior:

Licking a Specific Spot

If your dog is obsessively licking a specific area on their body, it may be trying to soothe irritation, injury, or pain in that spot. It could be due to:

Licking Objects, Surfaces, or Air

If your dog is compulsively licking objects, surfaces (like the carpet or floor), or even the air, this could be a sign of:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Neurological problems
  • Behavioral compulsions

Licking Paws Constantly

While some paw licking is normal, particularly after walks, constant or obsessive paw licking could indicate:

  • Allergies (either food or environmental)
  • Presence of something lodged between the pads
  • Fungal or bacterial infections
  • Injuries to the paw or nails

Licking Accompanied by Other Symptoms

If the licking is paired with other signs of distress, such as:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy or drastic behavior change
  • Noticeable pain. Then you should seek veterinary attention immediately.

Change in Licking Behavior

If your dog suddenly starts licking more than usual or differently, it could be a sign of a developing health or behavioral issue.

Licking Due to Anxiety

Some dogs will lick due to anxiety, stress, or boredom. Signs that the licking is anxiety-driven include:

  • Licking when left alone (which could be a sign of separation anxiety)
  • Licking during storms or loud noises
  • Licking in response to changes in the environment or routine

Post-Surgery or Treatment

If your dog has recently had surgery or medical treatment and licks the incision site or treatment area, this could interfere with healing. An Elizabethan collar (or cone) or other protective measures might be needed in such cases.

Licking Objects After Exposure to Toxins

If you suspect your dog has come into contact with a toxic substance (like certain plants, chemicals, or foods), and they’re licking their paws or any other body part excessively, it might be an attempt to remove the irritant.

Consulting with a veterinarian is always a good idea if you ever doubt your dog’s licking behavior. They can guide whether the behavior should be concerned about and recommend appropriate treatments or interventions.

How Long Does It Take?

Several factors decide the time taken to stop a dog from licking:

Reason for Licking

If the licking is due to a temporary factor, such as a wound or irritation, the dog might stop once the underlying issue is resolved. However, if the behavior is due to a long-term or chronic issue, such as anxiety, it might take longer and require consistent management.

Training Consistency

Regular and consistent training yields faster results than inconsistent or sporadic efforts.

Individual Dog

Every dog is unique. Some dogs respond quickly to deterrents or training, while others may take longer to adapt to new behaviors.

The Severity of the Issue

A mild or occasional licking habit might be easier to address than a deep-rooted, compulsive behavior.

Approach Used

Some deterrents or methods may be more effective than others based on the individual dog and the reason for the behavior. For example, a taste deterrent might work well for a dog licking a specific spot but may not be effective for a dog licking due to anxiety.

Given these Variables

  • For temporary issues, such as wounds or minor irritations, once the underlying issue is resolved, the licking should decrease or stop within days to a few weeks.
  • It can take weeks to months of consistent training and possibly longer for behavioral or anxiety-related issues. In some cases, management might be a lifelong requirement.
  • Training to deter licking for attention or out of habit might take several weeks to a few months of consistent reinforcement.

Patience, consistency, and understanding of the underlying cause are crucial. If you need more clarification about your dog’s behavior or the best way to address it, consulting a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer/behaviorist is a good idea.

How To Stop A Dog From Licking At Night?

If your dog licks excessively at night, it could be a sign of discomfort, anxiety, or another underlying issue. Here are some steps to address and potentially stop the nighttime licking:

Medical Check

Before addressing the behavior, rule out medical concerns:

  • Examine the area your dog is licking. Look for injuries, rashes, or signs of infection.
  • Consider visiting the vet to rule out allergies, skin conditions, or other health issues.

Bedding and Sleeping Area

  • Ensure your dog’s bed or sleeping area is clean and irritant-free.
  • If your dog is allergic, consider hypoallergenic bedding.
  • Wash the bedding regularly to remove potential allergens.

Environmental Adjustments

  • Some dogs lick due to anxiety. Ensure your dog’s sleeping area is quiet, dark, and comfortable.
  • Using a white noise machine or soft, calming music can help drown out noises that may be causing anxiety or disturbance.

Nighttime Routine

  • Just like humans, dogs benefit from a consistent bedtime routine. Ensure your dog has an opportunity to relieve themselves before bed and has had enough physical and mental stimulation throughout the day.
  • Consider a calming pre-sleep ritual, such as a gentle massage or quiet bonding time.

Distractions

Provide a soft chew toy in their bed to give them an alternative to licking.

Taste Deterrents

If your dog licks a specific part of their body, you can consider applying a taste deterrent. However, be sure it’s safe for your dog to ingest and doesn’t irritate the skin.

Manage Anxiety

  • If you suspect anxiety, consider products like calming collars, sprays, or diffusers that release dog-appealing pheromones.
  • Discuss with your vet about potential calming supplements or medications.

Increase Daytime Activity

Ensure your dog gets enough physical exercise and mental stimulation during the day. An adequately tired dog is less likely to engage in restless behaviors at night.

Training

If your dog starts licking at night, use a firm but gentle command like “no lick” to discourage them. Be consistent with this command, but avoid punishing or shouting.

Consult a Professional

If the issue persists, consider working with a dog behaviorist or trainer to address the nighttime licking specifically.

Remember, the key is to determine the underlying cause of the licking. Once you’ve identified the reason, you can implement strategies to help reduce or eliminate the behavior.

Pro Tips 

Here’s a concise list of tips to prevent your dog from excessive licking:

Identify the Cause

Determine if the licking is due to a medical issue, behavioral cause, or environmental factor.

Checked Out

“Leave it” Command: Train your dog with the “leave it” or “no lick” command. Reward them when they obey.

Distractions

Offer chew toys or interactive toys to keep them engaged.

Increase Activity

Engage your dog in regular physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Taste Deterrents

Apply safe, bitter-tasting sprays or creams to areas they frequently lick.

Manage Anxiety

Consider calming products, anxiety wraps, or consulting your vet for potential medications.

Address Environmental Factors

  • Clean paws after walks if allergies are suspected.
  • Use hypoallergenic beds and wash them frequently.
  • Check for household irritants.

Use Barriers

Consider Elizabethan collars (cones) or protective booties to prevent access to specific areas.

Consistency

Ensure everyone interacting with the dog enforces the same rules to prevent licking.

Seek Expert Advice

Consider consulting a professional dog trainer or behaviorist if the issue is persistent.

Remember, being patient and consistent when addressing licking behavior is essential. Some dogs take longer to adapt and change their habits.

What To Do If The Tips Do Not Work?

If you’ve tried various tips and strategies to stop your dog from excessive licking, and they haven’t worked, here are the steps you should consider:

Re-Consult Your Veterinarian

  • An underlying medical issue may have been missed or developed since your last visit. Revisit your vet to ensure there’s no medical cause.
  • The vet might recommend specific tests (like allergies) or refer you to a veterinary dermatologist.

Professional Behavior Assessment

  • Seek a certified canine behaviorist or professional dog trainer who can evaluate your dog in its environment and provide tailored advice.
  • They might identify triggers or habits you hadn’t noticed and suggest specific interventions.

Medication

Medication might be necessary in some cases, especially when licking is anxiety-driven. Your vet or a veterinary behaviorist can guide you on appropriate drugs to help reduce anxiety or obsessive behaviors.

Environmental Changes

  • Consider any changes in your home or routine that might affect your dog. Did you move? Changed cleaning products? Are there new pets or people in the home?
  • Make your home as dog-friendly and stress-free as possible. For instance, a safe space or dedicated “den” can offer comfort.

Increase Enrichment Activities

Enhance your dog’s daily routine with more physical activity, training sessions, puzzle toys, and interaction. This can divert their attention and reduce stress.

Alternative Therapies

Some dog owners have succeeded with acupuncture and massage therapies or hydrotherapy. While these may only work for some dogs, they might be worth considering.

Dietary Review

Dietary intolerance or allergy can sometimes cause skin irritations, leading to excessive licking. Consult your vet or a veterinary nutritionist to see if a dietary change is warranted.

Stay Updated

Canine science and veterinary medicine are always evolving. Stay updated on new treatments, behavioral techniques, or products to help your dog.

Patience and Persistence

Behavioral changes often require time and consistency. It’s essential to stay patient and be prepared to try different strategies to see what works best for your dog.

If you’ve exhausted multiple avenues without success, it’s essential to remember that some dogs may have deeply ingrained behaviors or medical issues that are challenging to resolve fully. Management and providing the best possible quality of life become the priority in such cases.

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STOP Dog Licking at Night

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