You know you are the lucky owner of a professional licker when your dog can lick 100 items a minute and you have considerably less house cleaning to do. Jokes aside, constantly licking everything in the house may be more than just an annoying habit and is worth investigating.
If Scruffy is suddenly interested in licking your carpet, your coach and your upholstery, perhaps he is feeling a bit queasy. Nausea may trigger a bout of excessive licking of surfaces, explains board certified veterinary behaviorist Valarie V. Tynes on the website DVM 360. In such a case, you may want to report to your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination. While you are it, discuss your dog's diet and any supplements he is receiving.
If your dog is a repeat offender and has to consistently lick everything around your house, you may be dealing with a compulsive licker. In this case, don't worry; your dog will not end up on the psychiatrist bed. This form of licking is often caused by fear, stress or inadequate stimulation. In mild cases, dogs often get better with adequate exercise, attention and mental stimulation. Spraying commonly licked items with bitter apple spray may also help reduce the licking episodes.
Yes, your fur ball may be licking nonstop simply because he has come to realize that it brings attention. If every time your dog licks, you immediately stop doing what you are doing, look at him and even resort to scolding, your dog may find the behavior rewarding. A good way to test this is by recording his behavior when he is left home alone. If the behavior is reduced or is non-existent in such circumstances, most likely the licking is part of an attention-seeking disorder.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
If your dog is elderly, he may be developing canine cognitive dysfunction, the doggie version of Alzheimer's disease. Dogs affected by this condition may display repetitive behaviors that may entail continuous licking along with other symptoms suggesting cognitive decline, such as general confusion, disrupted sleep-wake cycles, and a decreased ability to remember commands. While this condition is a progressive disease that can't be cured, you can alleviate it through drug therapy, environmental changes and behavior modification.
Your dog's licking problem may be simply an appetitive behavior. If you leave traces of crumbs on the kitchen floor and chairs, your canine companion may be simply trying to clean up after you. A more thorough cleaning of all surfaces will help reduce the licking problem. If this is too much to ask, close off the kitchen area so Rover won't feel compelled to engage in his addicting house cleaning chores.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.