Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Excessive Licking

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Do not encourage the puppy to jump up to you. When a dog spends an infinite amount of time licking itself it can become an annoying habit as well as causing hair loss and sore areas on the dog’s body.

The following information may help to explain some of the reasons why a dog may develop this incessant behaviour:


If your dog has lots of exercise in the countryside he will probably pick up thorns, grass seeds, and other debris as it romps around and splashes through puddles, bushes and the undergrowth etcetera. Once back at home the dog may lick one area over and over again to clean itself. This is perfectly natural behaviour and is the same as a cat licking its paws after eating or going outside. It's a self-care behaviour which is intended to make sure the animal remains in tip-top condition as long as possible.

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction to various substances such as metals, rubber, wool, dyes, deodorisers, chemicals or plants. Areas of the dog's body especially the limbs itch and the dog licks repeatedly to gain relief.

Atopic Dermatitis occurs as a reaction to something that the dog has inhaled such as pollen, mould spores or dust mites.

Acral Lick Dermatitis is a condition that occurs on pressure points particularly the lower joints of the legs. More frequently found in dogs over six years old that are either obese or have a sedentary lifestyle. The dog habitually licks one area until there is loss of hair, the skin becomes raised and firm and superficial staphylococcal infection develops. The subsequent wound is called a granuloma and this can become ulcerated. Due to the constant licking scabs do not form and the wound cannot heal.

Causes of Acral lick dermatitis can be itching, boredom, allergies and arthritis. There is a theory that incessant licking releases endorphins (feel good brain chemicals). The dog experiences pleasure from the licking and the cycle continues.

Psychological Causes:

Stress can cause dogs to become habitual lickers. This could be down to a change in the household, physical abuse, separation anxiety or from a new dog being brought into the pack.

Dogs that do not receive adequate daily exercise may develop a licking habit from boredom and lethargy. In some cases the dog will progress from just licking at its paws to chewing and biting them.

Being attracted to a particular scent may cause a dog to lick repeatedly over a certain area. Some smells trigger the dog’s olfactory senses and cause the dog to lick the source of the scent. This could be dog shampoos, flea treatments, deodorisers, household cleaners and so on. The dog licks to explore the source of the scent. This in turn releases endorphins which give the dog feelings of pleasure and the cycle begins.

Breaking the Habit:

Unfortunately once the habit is established it is difficult to rectify. In my experience, bitter sprays and other over the counter remedies have little effect. In fact in some cases the dog quickly gets used to the bitter taste and the licking increases as the dog just seeks the source of the new scent.

Look first to the dogs exercise regime as often, just by increasing the time the dog spends outdoors and introducing lots of play and training into the daily workout, the licking habit ceases or subsides.

Obese dogs become couch potatoes and lick through lethargy and boredom. Discuss with your vet on how to reduce the dog’s weight and improve its diet. Here at K9Obedience we believe a natural home prepared diet is most beneficial in keeping your dog in optimum health.

Try redirecting the dog towards an object that can be licked or chewed without increasing the problem, such as a stuffed Kong, a rawhide chew or a fresh meaty bone.

If the area appears sore lightly bandage and use an Elizabethan collar to prevent the dog removing it.

In severe cases the vet may prescribe drugs such as Chlomipranine hydrochloride which is an anti-depressant, but we feel these should be avoided in all but the most severe cases and not without trying everything else possible beforehand.

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