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10 Reasons That Dogs Lick the Carpet (and How to Stop It)
Dogs do plenty of odd things, but one that is sure to make the top of the list is randomly licking the carpet. You may have thought that your dog was the only one that did this, but you’re not alone. Dogs licking random surfaces may seem strange, but the pup has a reason to do this behavior. It’s figuring out that reason that takes a bit of work.
We expect dogs to lick certain things, like their food, bones, and even our faces when they’re feeling affectionate. When the licking turns to objects, though, it can go from being cute to concerning. When is it time to worry about a dog licking the carpet? Is there anything that can be done to stop it?
You are the one who knows your dog best, so if they exhibit any behavior that concerns you, always speak to your veterinarian about it to address the issue. There could be a medical reason that your dog is doing the things that they do. Alternatively, this action could also stem from a behavioral problem.
Let’s look at a few possible reasons that your dog is licking the carpet and what you can do to try to get them to stop.
Excessive Licking of Surfaces
Some dogs have a condition called excessive licking of surfaces, or ELS. Symptoms of this condition include licking objects like walls, carpets, floors, and furniture legs, and there could be several different reasons causing it.
ELS used to be compared to obsessive-compulsion in dogs, leading people to believe that this condition was behavior related. New evidence suggests that there could be medical reasons that dogs act this way. The way to determine if this behavior in your dog is medical or behavioral is to learn about the reasons that dogs do this and try various solutions on your pup to see what works.
If your dog is showing signs of ELS, here are a few medical issues that could be the cause. If you notice your dog licking the carpet, document the behavior, including the time of day, frequency, and the last time they ate a meal. All this information is helpful for the vet to use to determine why this is happening.
If a dog is nauseated, they will try to calm their stomach by licking. This can be done on surfaces, like the floor and walls. Dogs will sometimes lick their front legs or repeatedly lick the air. The behavior can be combined with drooling and frequent swallowing.
If you’re an experienced dog owner and you’ve seen a dog eat grass, you know what might be coming next: vomiting. Dogs eat grass when they’re feeling sick or when they have some sort of nutrient deficiency, such as not enough fiber. If your dog is experiencing stomach discomfort and feels the need to eat grass while inside, this can turn into licking the carpet. The dog can’t get to the grass and is using the carpet as a replacement.
2. Certain medications
Some medications cause increased hunger in dogs. If your dog is taking medicine that makes them ravenous, they could actually be trying to eat the carpet, not just lick it. This condition is known as polyphagia and can be brought on by medicines or the dog’s age. Sometimes, senior dogs are hungrier than they’ve ever demonstrated before. This problem can usually be corrected with a change in diet that includes more fiber.
The medications that can cause polyphagia are commonly steroids, like Prednisone. Not only can steroids increase hunger in your dog, but they can also cause increased thirst and urination.
Diabetes can cause polyphagia in dogs. Excessive hunger and thirst are symptoms of diabetes before the disease is controlled through medication. The glucose levels in the dog’s body are too low for the brain to get the message that it’s received enough food. This can manifest itself in dogs by them trying to frantically lick or eat the carpet.
If your dog is having a seizure, they could lick the carpet involuntarily. If you notice this behavior and you’re able to get your dog to stop licking the carpet by calling their name or redirecting them, the dog is likely not having a seizure. If the carpet-licking is accompanied by chewing, quickly licking lips, or biting at the air (known as “fly-biting”), have a veterinarian assess your dog.
5. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is also known as dementia in dogs, leading to decreased alertness, awareness, and responsiveness. Excessive licking is a symptom of this condition. If your dog is older, they may be experiencing CCD and licking the carpet because of it.
Pica is a medical condition that causes animals to seek out and eat things that aren’t edible. Some dogs eat only one non-food item, while others will eat whatever they can find. This includes socks, underwear, rocks, toys, towels, and books, to name a few things. If your dog is regularly ingesting things that they should not be, licking the carpet could be their way of trying to eat that too.
Once you’ve determined with your vet that your dog licking the carpet isn’t caused by a medical condition, you can start to rule out behavior reasons.
7. Seeking attention
If a dog licks the carpet and receives attention for it, either positive or negative, they’ll then know that this is something that they can do to get their owner to focus on them. When they are craving attention, this behavior will get them what they want. Some dogs will do this when they feel lonely, forcing the attention that they want to be on them.
Anxious dogs lick as a way to self-soothe. This is similar to a child sucking their thumb. The act of licking releases endorphins in the dog’s brain that make them feel good. If the dog is anxious already, licking is a way to calm themselves down and relax.
When a dog needs something to lick to calm down, they can turn to themselves. Anxious, licking dogs can lick their legs and paws so much that they cause wounds to appear, called lick granulomas. When the dog chooses to lick something else instead, they’ll go for whatever they can find. This could be couch cushions, walls, table legs, or the carpet.
Sometimes, a bored dog just found something to do, and it happens to be licking the carpet. If your dog spends a great deal of time alone, this could just be a way to pass the time.
You may see your dog licking the carpet and wonder why it’s happening until you remember that you spilled a plate of spaghetti in that spot last night. You may have cleaned it up, but your dog can still smell it. If you have small children who tend to drop snacks, your dog will lick the carpet in an effort to help out and clean up after them. This should only last a few minutes until the dog is satisfied that they got everything that they could. If your dog is wise to your children’s ways, they will often search the carpet for any treats that they left behind.
Ways to Stop This Behavior
The first thing to do when you notice your dog licking the carpet is to determine if the issue is medical or behavioral. This involves taking your dog to the vet and discussing any new changes to their routine or diet.
- Diet changes may be in order to satisfy your dog, keep them fuller longer, and provide any nutrients that the dog is lacking.
- Increase play and exercise, especially if your dog is craving attention or is bored. By giving them more things to do, you’ll decrease their desire to sit home and lick the carpet.
- Anxious dogs could do well with a change to their environment. Anxiety usually causes dogs to retreat to hiding spots, but if there are none available, that’s when your dog could sit out in the open while licking the carpet to soothe themselves. Give your dog a quiet area all their own, like a covered crate with a soft bed and open door so they can come and go as they please. Giving your dog a place to feel safe could decrease anxiety-fueled behaviors.
- Give them something to do so they forget about the carpet! Puzzle games, treat balls, and treat-filled Kongs will keep your dog occupied while giving them the mental stimulation to ward off boredom.
- If your dog is licking the carpet as a way to get your attention, ignore the behavior and reward your dog only when they stop. Give your dog the thing that they want most once they’re showing the desired behavior.
- If your dog has cognitive dysfunction, talk to your vet about medication that can help your dog better cope with how they’re feeling.
- Separate your dog from the children while they’re eating if you’d like the dog to stop constantly searching and licking the carpet for snack remnants.
- Use sprays to deter your dog from licking by giving the carpet an unpleasant taste. If you can’t get them to stop this behavior completely, make it undesirable for them to continue.
It can be frustrating and confusing to watch your dog lick the carpet. Plus, who wants to walk on dog saliva? But as unpleasant as this activity might be, finding out and addressing the reasons behind it are important for the health of your dog.
With the help of your vet, you can determine what’s happening and why and then take the necessary steps to reverse this behavior. Your dog is doing this for a reason, and by finding it out, you can help them feel better.
We hope that this article has given you a few ideas as to why your dog may be doing this and what you can do to stop it from happening.
- Related read: 10 Reasons: Why Do Dogs Lick Their Noses?
Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.