Almost nothing can be as mortifying as when your dog incessantly licks your visitors. If this is happening to you, then it’s about time you put a stop to it.
Although you may not have any issues if your dog is licking ‘you’, your visitors probably do not appreciate it at all. Dog licking may not be as huge of a problem as biting, but it is nevertheless a behavior you don’t want your dog to establish or continue.
Why Do Dogs Lick?
Before we address the ways on how to fix the problem, let us first get to the root of the issue. Why do dogs like to lick in the first place?
From the get-go, dogs are taught to communicate and express themselves through licking by their mother, who uses this gesture to help her puppies start breathing. She also licks them to give them a bath and show them affection. Hence, it’s an ingrained instinct. Nevertheless, it could still be curbed.
If you understand why your dog likes to lick you, it’s a lot easier to address the behavior. So why does your dog lick you?
1. To Show Affection
To your dog, you are the world. Smothering you with “kisses” is his innate way of welcoming you home after a long day. He wants to let you know how delighted he is to be reunited with you.
2. To Get Attention
Licking is also your dog’s way of saying, “Hey, look at me!” This attention-seeking manner is usually emphasized with your positive responses—treats, kind words, hugs, or a pat on the head.
And, as the American Kennel Club reiterates, this positive response unintentionally encourages future kisses.
3. You Taste Good
Simply put, your dog likes the taste of your salty skin (I know, major ewwwe). This is especially true when you are perspiring (double ewwwe). Also, your dog finds comfort in your scent.
4. To Get Resources
Your dog may lick you to request food. This instinct is seen in young puppies who lick their mother’s face before mealtime.
5. To Show Submission
This instinctual behavior spreads to other dogs and even humans. Your dog may also use licking as a “calming signal” to reduce a stressful situation.
When to Be Concerned
This is very important: Before training your dog to stop licking, you should work with a veterinarian to determine the underlying causes of the licking—because, in some instances, it could be a symptom of a serious problem.
It’s Not You; It’s Him
Your dog just might have an issue licking ‘himself’ excessively, and there are some reasons and solutions to this problem. If your dog enjoys a lot of time outdoors, he may simply be dirty from rolling in the dirt, running through the grass, and a nice bath will rectify the licking problem.
Your dog may have attracted ticks or fleas while outdoors and licking himself is one of the innate ways to get rid of these pests. A bath using tick and flea shampoo will provide the needed relief for your dog. It is highly advisable to brush him before bathing to prevent increased matting and tangling.
Perhaps, your dog might also have developed a skin disorder such as mange or dermatitis. These conditions could be caused by fleas, mites, molds, or even his food. For diagnosis and treatment your dog must have a checkup with his veterinarian.
Stress or boredom could also cause a dog to lick himself. Stress can be caused by another pet, abuse, separation anxiety, or even new food. Regardless of whether your dog is licking people or himself excessively, you would want to address this as soon as possible.
Once you are sure that the licking is not connected to a health concern, you can move on to the next step.
Key Elements to Prevent Your Dog from Licking
• Do not let the dog lick you
• Ignore your dog – if he’s trying to lick you
• Squeal as if in pain when your dog starts to lick you
• Apply something to your skin, like lemon juice which will not taste good to your dog
• Consistency, the common thread for almost every dog training, has its proper place in this training as well.
Your dog is probably showing affection to you by licking you, but if you allow your dog to continue with this gesture, then he will also feel – it is okay to lick others as well.
Ignore your dog if he’s trying to lick you. When the dog is recognizing that you are not responding to his behavior, he/she will decide that it is not a way to get your attention.
Cry out or squeal when your dog licks you. Your dog will convey to this sound, recognizing that what he just did caused you some discomfort or even pain. It should only take a relatively short period of time for this approach to provide results.
Meanwhile, a less popular method is to place a substance that does not taste good, like lemon juice, on your arm or hand. When the dog tries to lick you, he will get a bad taste. It will only take a few times of this occurring, and your dog will stop licking.
The biggest mistake people make regarding this is not seeing how allowing your dog to lick you is what establishes this behavior for your dog.
What if My Dog Just Does Not Get It?
If your dog still does not seem to grasp what you’re doing, it may help to say, “No!” the second your dog begins to lick, and then dramatically walk away.
You should leave the dog in the room he’s in and quickly close the door behind you. Leave the dog alone for about half a minute and repeat the process if he tries to lick you again.
The key to training a dog, as mentioned above, is consistency — and in this case, it is especially important because your pet was possibly unintentionally rewarded in the past for licking.