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Home > Dogs > Why Dogs Lick Everything? 9 Reasons & How to Stop It

Why Dogs Lick Everything? 9 Reasons & How to Stop It

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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No matter what kind of dog you get, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to avoid all licking. Dogs are well known for using their tongues to show affection and curiosity. But how much is too much? Could your dog be licking for a bad reason? Here are nine reasons your dog might be licking everything in sight, so let’s take a look and answer, “why does my dog lick everything?”

The 9 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Everything

1. They Want Attention

Do you reward your dog for licking with pets and cuddles? If so, it’s no wonder they lick everything! They’ve learned that when they want attention, they can lick things to get it!

Dogs will learn which behaviors they can present to get the results they want. If they know that mom and dad will stop what they’re doing to pay attention to them when they lick the walls, then they’ll start licking the walls when they want mom and dad to pay attention to them!

Dog hugging owner
Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutetrstock

2. They’re Hungry or Thirsty

Dogs will also lick objects when they’re looking for food or water. Is it almost time for dinner? Your dog might be licking in search of any tasty morsel they can get to hold them over or some spilled water to quench their thirst.

If your dog is licking everything, make sure you check their food and water bowls. If they’re licking because they’re hungry, you might want to break their feeding schedule up into several smaller meals so that they don’t feel as hungry during the day.

3. They’re Exploring Their Surroundings

Just like with sniffing and pawing, dogs explore their surroundings with their tongues. Since they can’t ask us questions, they must figure out the answers through trial and error. If Spot wants to know if he can lick something, the easiest way to find out is just to lick it.

When dogs lick things, they learn more about the object they’re licking, so they’re inclined to lick stuff they don’t understand at least once.

dachshund sniffing on sand
Image Credit: Laila_, Pixabay

4. They’re Grooming Themselves

While they’re not blessed with the super-powered grooming tongue of a cat, a dog’s tongue is a perfectly viable option for a quick bath. If your dog is licking themselves, they might have just noticed some fur out of place that they wanted to get back in order.

5. They’re Itchy or in Pain

If your dog is licking one spot repeatedly, this can be a sign that they’re itchy or in pain. Licking their skin can briefly alleviate aches or itchiness, much like scratching or rubbing for humans. If you notice that your dog keeps licking one specific spot, give them a once-over to see if they have anything that might be causing them discomfort.

the dog is licking the genitals
Image By: donikz, Shutterstock

6. They Feel Sick

Dogs may also lick objects when they feel ill. If they have a bad feeling in their tummy or their mouth, they might start licking an object to alleviate that feeling. Just like licking their skin might relieve itchiness, licking an object might indicate dental pain, nausea, or gastrointestinal distress. 

Some dogs may excessively lick objects just before they throw up as well. So, see if there’s a pattern you can observe between licking and vomiting.

7. They’ve Developed a Cognitive Issue

Some dogs may start licking excessively because of a cognitive issue. In this case, they don’t understand whether they’re doing it or why because their thinking has been affected. Dogs may also lick due to an obsessive-compulsive-like disorder or anxiety disorder.

For these, starting by trying to divert your dog’s attention to something other than licking is an excellent first step. If they can’t stop, it might be time to have them seen by a vet to see what they have to say about their condition. Vets may prescribe medications or have further insight into how to help your dog stop excessive licking.

Corgi dog licking the floor
Image By: Bachkova Natalia, Shutterstock

8. They’re Bored or Stressed

Dogs may also lick when they’re bored or stressed out. Has something new changed for your dog? Has something happened recently that might be on your dog’s mind? If the licking is excessive or continues for a prolonged period, it’s probably a good idea to have them checked by a vet. There’s a good chance that they are suffering from anxiety or stress and have resorted to licking as a soothing behavior. 

9. They’re Playing

Dogs also lick when they’re playing! Much like when your dog gives you kisses, dogs lick toys, themselves, and other dogs while they’re playing. Licking is a social behavior for dogs, much like hugging in humans. They may just be showing their toy how much they appreciate it!

Jack Russel terrier puppy licks toy
Image By: Oxanaso, Shutterstock


When Is Excessive Licking a Problem?

While you may be thinking, “why is my dog licking everything?” when you find your dog’s licking excessive. But there’s a good chance that in the world of dogs, it’s a perfectly normal amount of licking.

If your dog is licking their fur off or causing damage to their tongue or teeth with their licking, it might be time to visit the veterinarian to make sure that your dog is all well. Likewise, if you are concerned that the excessive licking may be a manifestation of a medical issue, please bring your dog to the vet.

How to Stop Excessive Licking

If your dog is licking everything excessively, there are multiple avenues you can try to help them stop. If you’ve noticed that your dog is licking to the point of harm, it’s essential to make sure they’re able to stop so that they don’t hurt themselves to the point of no return.

If your dog is licking because they’re hungry, it’s a good idea to try and spread their meals out over the day, so they aren’t as hungry in between meals.

Keeping them in a stress-free and heavily structured environment is essential if your dog is licking because they’re anxious or stressed. Create and adhere to the schedule strictly so that your dog always knows what will happen and when.

We can’t predict everything, but we can minimize the number of stressors in our dogs’ lives for their comfort.

When the licking is occurring, try to divert their attention away from licking and onto something else. Give them a toy to play with or something else to hold their attention. While diversion is an essential tool, it’s important not to teach your dog that they can lick themselves for attention from you, or they’ll start to lick themselves when they want your attention.

If you are concerned about excessive licking due to nausea, pain, or discomfort, your vet can help you figure out what is going on and make a treatment plan.

divider-paw Conclusion

Licking in dogs can be an endearing trait, but we must keep in mind whether they’re licking too much. Protecting our pups means from themselves as much as the rest of the world. We should always do our best to make sure we’re making good decisions for their health.

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Featured Image Credit: Julia Serdiuk, Shutterstock

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