How to Stop a Dog From Licking People

"I'm so happy you're home! I thought you were never coming back!"
i Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

You adore your pooch and consider him one of your family members, although it sure is frustrating when he insists on bathing every person who walks through the front door. Some dogs are just prone to excessive licking, but with a little work, you can nix that annoying habit.

Put Something in His Mouth

It’s as simple as that: You know you have guests coming over, so put something in Wilson’s mouth to keep him occupied. That way his tongue will be all tied up and too busy for licking. If he’s easily motivated by squeaky toys, keep a special toy up on top of the entertainment center and only give it to him when that doorbell rings. Some dogs aren’t even phased by their favorite toy though. If your fur-covered buddy will do just about anything for food, get him a specialized food toy that hides special treats. Shove all of his kibble in there, rather than feeding it to him in a dish. He’ll have to push the toy around to get the goodies he craves, minimizing his endless desire to lick your neighbor’s hand.

Exercise Him

A tired pooch won’t have the energy to get up and lick everyone’s hand at the dinner table. Before your supper party, take Wilson on an extended walk. When you get home, play fetch with him in the yard until he starts losing interest. By the time your friends arrive, your barking buddy will be more interested in his cozy pillow than figuring out which human tastes the best.

Ignore Him

Without even realizing it, you probably encouraged Wilson’s excessive licking habit. Think about it: He snuggles up to you, licks your hand and you pet him, right? Even if you don’t pet him, you might push him away, which is still attention. You’ve taught Wilson that licking can help him get anything he wants from his humans. So the next time he parades over to you and licks your hand, get up and walk away. Completely ignore him. He’ll start to figure out that when he flicks his tongue, it makes you leave. The next time you sit down, do not pet him until the licking stops. You’re teaching him that holding still gets the attention he desires, not his nuisance licking. It’s imperative for everyone in your household to follow the same procedures though. If you’re strict with Wilson, but your partner doesn’t mind the licking, the behavior won’t ever go away.

Adding Bitters

Licking relaxes your canine pal, putting him in a good mood. You don’t want to punish him for licking, but you can add bitter products to your skin so he starts to think that licking is gross by himself. Arm yourself before walking in the front door after work. Spread bitter lotion or spray -- available at the pet store -- on your hands, arms, ankles or wherever else Wilson tends to lick. The split second his tongue comes out, he’ll get a mouthful of a nasty flavor. It’s not harmful, just unpleasant -- like that feeling you get after shoving a bunch of sour candy in your mouth. Keep a bottle by your sofa too. As soon as your pooch starts waddling over into the living room, coat your hand before he gets a chance to lick. You may have to use the bitter product for several days or weeks until your pooch gets the hint.

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