Why Does My Dog Keep Licking Everything? Causes & Solutions

Dogs are known for their enthusiastic licking, but what’s behind this common behavior? The truth is, dogs lick for many reasons: affection, taste, health concerns, stress relief, and sometimes, out of habit. Let’s break down the possible causes and what you can do.

Licking as Love Language

Bonding and Grooming: Mother dogs lick their pups to clean and comfort them. This instinctual behavior carries into adulthood as a sign of affection and a way for your dog to participate in social ‘grooming’.

Expressing Happiness: A dog may lick you as a joyous greeting or out of pure excitement – it’s their version of a sloppy kiss!

Licking as Exploration

Sense of Taste: Dogs learn about their environment through taste and smell. They may lick you because you taste salty, or they’re curious about a new lotion you applied.

Seeking Attention: Sometimes, a simple lick is a way to get you to notice them. Your reaction, even if it’s to push them away, can be rewarding from a dog’s perspective.

Licking Red Flags: Health and Behavioral Concerns

Itchy or Painful: Excessive licking of one spot could indicate allergies, skin issues, or an injury causing discomfort.

Tummy Trouble: Dogs may lick themselves or objects if they feel nauseous or have gastrointestinal upset.

Anxiety and Stress: For some dogs, licking is a coping mechanism for separation anxiety, boredom, or obsessive behavior (OCD).

Rare Possibilities: In very uncommon cases, constant licking may relate to neurological conditions. Always consult your vet to be sure.

Is My Dog’s Licking Normal?

why do dogs keep licking
Image Credit: Ilona Shorokhova/istockphoto

While some licking is a natural part of dog behavior, there are times when it could be excessive or a sign something isn’t quite right. Here’s what to watch for:

Focused Licking: If your dog repeatedly licks one particular spot on themselves or on an object, it could signal pain, allergies, or a skin problem.

Also Read:  Do Open Litter Boxes Smell?

Constant Licking: Does your dog lick almost non-stop for more than brief periods? This goes beyond typical exploration or affection.

Changes in Licking Habits: If your normally ‘non-licky’ dog suddenly starts licking more, or if their licking becomes more intense, this warrants further attention.

My Dog Licks Other Dogs/Cats/People Excessively

As we discussed, dogs lick to explore and seek attention. When directed towards other animals or people, licking can also be:

Submission: A lick can be a sign of appeasement or respect towards another animal or person, especially if your dog rolls over or lowers their body. This is common within dog social interactions.

Seeking Information: Licking another dog or even a person helps your pup gather information through scent and taste. It’s their way of getting to know someone!

Important Note: It’s essential to supervise your dog’s interactions and be mindful of the other pet or person’s comfort level. Not all dogs or people welcome being licked, and some may find it uncomfortable or intrusive. If the other being seems uncomfortable, gently redirect your dog with a toy or call them away.

Real-Life Case Studies

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking Everything
Image Credit: sanjagrujic/istockphoto

Case 1: Allergies Resolved: “Fluffy the Lab started licking her paws raw constantly. We took her to the vet, who diagnosed allergies. With the right medication, her licking stopped, and her paws healed completely!”

Case 2: Boredom Be Gone: “Max wouldn’t stop licking the couch every evening. We realized he was probably bored after work. We added a longer play session to his routine, and the couch licking stopped. Now, he happily fetches his ball instead!”

These examples illustrate how different reasons can cause licking. It highlights the importance of observing your dog’s behavior and circumstances to find the root cause.

Addressing Problem Licking

Rule Out Medical Causes: Your vet is your first stop. Describe the licking in detail and any other changes in your dog’s behavior.

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Break the Habit:

  • Divert and Reward: Offer a favorite toy or engage in a training session when the licking starts.
  • Safe Deterrents: Ask your vet about bitter-tasting sprays to discourage licking specific areas.
  • Ease Their Mind: If anxiety-related, more exercise, mental games, and calming routines can help. Consider a certified dog behaviorist for severe cases.

Licking Alternatives (Bonus):

Train your dog to offer an alternative behavior instead of licking. This could be:

Fetching a toy: Teach your dog to bring you a ball or their favorite toy when they feel the urge to lick.

Performing a trick: Train a simple command like “shake” or “spin.” When your dog offers this instead of licking, reward them with praise and a treat.

Going to their bed: Teach your dog a “place” command where they can relax on their bed instead of licking you or furniture.

By providing your dog with acceptable outlets for their energy or anxiety, you can reduce unwanted licking.


Dog licking opens a window into their world. By paying attention to when, where, and how your dog licks, you’ll deepen your understanding of them and be able to support them in the best possible way.

The photo featured below the post headline is Credit: WhitneyLewisPhotography/istockphoto

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Frequently Asked Question

My dog constantly licks furniture. Should I worry?
Possibly. It could be boredom, a lingering tasty scent, or even a sign of anxiety or a medical issue. Try distraction techniques, taste deterrents, and monitor for other signs of distress. Consult your vet if the behavior persists.

My dog started licking the floor obsessively. Is that normal?
This may signal a health issue, nausea, stress, or boredom. A vet visit is crucial to rule out medical causes and discuss any potential anxieties triggering this behavior.

My dog licks my legs after a shower. Why?
Your dog is likely intrigued by the taste of leftover soap, lotion, or simply enjoys the salty taste of your skin post-shower. While mostly harmless, excessive licking can be bothersome. Try offering a toy for distraction or rinsing your legs thoroughly post-shower.

Also Read:  How Long Should I Soak My Dogs Paw?

Is it bad if my dog licks their paws frequently?
Occasional paw licking is normal for grooming. However, excessive or constant paw licking often indicates allergies, injuries, or boredom. Check your dog’s paws for wounds or irritations, and consult your vet if you’re concerned.

Why does my dog lick my face when I’m sleeping?
Your dog likely sees this as an opportunity for undisturbed affection. They might also be seeking attention or trying to wake you up if hungry or needing to go outside.

Why does my dog lick other dogs’ private areas?
This is a natural canine behavior for gathering information. Dogs have a powerful sense of smell and learn about other dogs through these scents.

My dog licks their lips and yawns frequently – is this a sign of stress?
Yes, lip licking and yawning can be signs of anxiety or discomfort in dogs. Observe the context: Is this happening during specific situations (vet visits, meeting new people), or is it more constant?

How do I teach my puppy not to lick strangers?
Start with positive reinforcement. When your puppy greets people, reward them for calm behavior like sitting or focusing on you. If licking starts, gently redirect their attention with a toy or training command.

Should I let my dog lick wounds (on themselves or me)?
It’s best to discourage wound licking. While dog saliva has minor antibacterial properties, it can also irritate wounds and delay healing. Clean minor cuts yourself and consult a doctor or vet for more serious wounds.

My elderly dog has started licking obsessively. Could it be related to aging?
Yes, excessive licking can sometimes be associated with cognitive decline or neurological issues in older dogs. A thorough vet checkup is crucial to determine the cause and provide appropriate care.