During puppyhood, Fido explores his surroundings by putting things in his mouth. If he doesn't grow out of this behavior, you might be dealing with a compulsive disorder -- you might find him licking or eating inappropriate items. Correcting your dog's behavior is essential to keep him healthy and safe.
Protect Your Dog
When you find your pet companion licking and eating inappropriate items, take him to a veterinarian to rule out medical conditions, allergies or injuries that might trigger the behavior. Clean up after yourself and put away items that your dog might lick or eat. Place child-safety locks on cabinets and, if your pet companion eats items when you take him outside, keep him on a leash and muzzle him if needed to protect him from himself. Consistently spraying off-limits items with a taste repellent can also keep your dog from licking and eating them.
Love Your Dog
If your furry friend is a couch potato, don't be surprised if you find him licking or eating rocks, clothes or plastic bags. Boredom and loneliness will do this to him -- he'll start looking for ways to enrich his life. To avoid this, keep your dog busy and treat him like the family member he is. Spend quality time with him -- take him on walks, play games with him, provide chew toys and food-stuffed dog toys for entertainment, and challenge him to daily obedience-training sessions. Don't allow boredom and loneliness to get the better of him.
Correct and Redirect Your Dog
When you catch Fido eyeing an off-limits item, correct him before he starts licking or eating it. If he has a leash on, tug the leash and firmly say "no lick." When you have his attention, offer a dog toy and praise him when he shows interest in it. Another way to stop him in his tracks is to blast an air horn. The loud noise will startle and distract him. Ensure you're out of your pet companion's sight when you make the loud noise -- you don't want him to associate the unpleasant sound with you.
Command-Train Your Dog
Use the "leave it" command to lure your dog away from off-limits items. Have a friend tempt your dog with a dog toy. If he goes toward it, hold a dog treat above his nose, lure him away from the toy and say "leave it." If your furry friend follows the treat, praise him and give it to him. To teach the "drop it" command, hold a dog treat above your dog's nose while he has a dog toy in his mouth. When he shows interest in the treat, say "drop it," and wait for him to drop the toy before giving him the treat. With consistency he'll learn the meaning of "leave it" and "drop it."
- ASPCA: Pica (Eating Things That Aren't Food)
- WebMD: Pets: Dogs and Compulsive Scratching, Licking, and Chewing
- Dog Lovers Companion; Paul McGreevy
- MSPCA: Leave It/Drop It
- Chris Amaral/Photodisc/Getty Images