Excessive licking might seem like an unusual problem for a breed with a bad reputation for aggression, but most pit bulls are really big softies at heart. Licking is a normal part of pit bull behavior that generally communicates affection for their humans but can sometimes become a nuisance.
Use a verbal reprimand to let your pit bull know you do not want him to lick. As soon as your pit bull begins licking you, give a verbal command for him to stop. You can say “no,” “stop,” “no licking” or any other phrase of your choice. The important thing is to use a firm tone of voice to advise your pit bull that you do not approve of his actions.
Withhold attention from your pit bull. Immediately after giving him a firm, verbal reprimand to stop licking, turn your body and your gaze away from your pit bull. If possible, walk away or leave the room entirely. Do not look your pit bull in the eyes or give him any kind of attention whatsoever until he stops licking you.
Praise your pit bull. As soon as he stops licking you, give him immediate praise for being a good boy. You can also reward your pit bull with a loving stroke or a tasty treat. Give your pit bull plenty of attention and affection when he is not licking you, but immediately withhold that attention and repeat steps one through three if he licks you again.
Give your pit bull a behavioral alternative to licking. If your pit bull does not stop licking when you verbally reprimand him or withdraw attention, command him to perform an alternate behavior like “sit” or “lie down.” When you pit bull complies with your demand, praise and reward him for good behavior.
Ask friends and family members for support. Let it be known to anyone who will be around your pit bull that you are trying to train him to stop licking. Some people who find licking behavior endearing may inadvertently reinforce the unwanted behavior by rewarding your dog’s licking with love and affection. Inform others of the procedures for stopping licking behavior and ask them to support your efforts when visiting with your pit bull.
- Be consistent about training your pit bull not to lick. If you find his licking cute at certain times and annoying at others, you will give your pit bull mixed signals and may derail the training process entirely.
Kristina Barroso is a full-time teacher who has been freelance writing since 1991. She published her first book, a break-up survival guide, in 2007 and specializes in a variety of topics including, but not limited to, relationships and issues in education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University.