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Does Your Dog Lick Things Obsessively?

dog lickDoes your dog lick things obsessively? A dog licking various objects is considered pretty much normal among pet owners and experts. But when a dog obsessively and abnormally licks the floor, or brick walls, or other objects…that is another story. This type of odd behavior might be caused of either a neurological or physical illness. It is one of the hardest of odd canine behaviors to properly diagnose and treat.

The usual reason for dogs licking at things is that they are curious by nature, and they want to investigate things around them. They use it to gather information from whatever they are licking. But when the licking habit comes to the point where you cannot stop or distract him from doing so, then that is where the abnormality comes.

Does Your Dog Lick Things Obsessively?

The cause of obsessive licking could be caused by many illnesses or diseases, or it could just be a bad habit. Therefore it is important to have a check-up with your local veterinarian first to diagnose your dog and explain things, especially when the licking habit started all of a sudden.

  • The first possible cause is lack of nutrients. Because of this, some dogs subconsciously try to cure the deficiencies by licking various inanimate objects around them. So make sure that your dog gets the right nutrients in his daily meals.
  • Your dog may have Cushing’s disease or Hyperadrenocorticism, in which his adrenal gland produces excessive glutocortisoid which can harm or affect many organs in the body such as the kidney and liver. It is also known to cause the excessive floor licking.
  • Liver failure also causes this weird licking habit. The liver failure might have been caused by Cushing’s disease or some other illness.
  • Some neurological diseases can trigger this odd behavior in dogs, as they interrupt some of the normal functions of the body and organs. Examples of such are obsessive-compulsive disorders, in which dogs like to repeat a certain activity or behavior over and over again. Don’t worry though – medical treatment is available for it, and can usually cure this cause.

If no medical disorder or illness was found by the vet, then the problem could be in the dog’s behavior. Perhaps he might have been stressed by a certain event, such as moving to a completely different environment, someone losing a job or getting pregnant, someone dying. Basically, any major event in your life or the dog’s can cause anxiety in your dog. To deal with this, you should maintain a normal physical routine for your dog, and make sure he gets regular exercise, walks, and outdoor games.

Note that this is emphasized by Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer) in an answer on his website:

…keep this in mind — dog anxiety is usually caused by a lack of exercise or release of energy. In order for Gina to stop her obsessive licking, she needs to be properly exercised and fulfilled. She has become fixated on licking, and you need to help Gina redirect that frustration into dog exercise and ultimately, balance.

You will probably have to do some detective work yourself. For instance, there may cases where when the obsessive licking only occurs at certain times, such as when visitors come to your house. This may be a symptom that your dog may be poorly socialized, or just has a nervous personality. You can soothe him with some good music and a DAP diffuser to calm him down. His own crate or room can help relieve your dog’s stress. Determine what the dog’s fears are, and take appropriate action.

Boredom can also be the root cause of this licking. Maybe he needs more exercise, play time, walking around the neighborhood, or anything to keep him busy. Dog toys and chew toys can also work. You can also take him to different places such as parks and beaches, or you can go trekking or swimming.

Does your dog lick things obsessively? Overall, you just need some good diagnosis of the problem and the right communication with your best friend to eliminate this odd behavior.

Have you ever experienced this behavior with your dog? If so, please share below how you cured it.

26 Responses to Does Your Dog Lick Things Obsessively?
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  2. tracie
    May 16, 2014 | 1:37 am

    I have a pikoneze and she licks all four of her feet every night before we go to sleep. I think she is just cleaning them. I also have a chi/ pom and every night before sleep she bites her nails, i never have to clip them. I have a chi and she is my obsessive licker, no health issues but if we are in bed she is either licking the sheets or comforter or me, if we are up if she isnt walking around she is licking whatever she is near. My babies are happy and so am i, even with a big wet spot where my pik cleans her feet, and with the bed shakimg a bit with my chi/pom clipping her nails and my chi wetting my sheets and giving me a lick bath. Lol. I love mybabies :-)

  3. Jack Topham
    February 5, 2014 | 10:19 pm

    I retweet many bloggers for an large audience of primarily R+ trainers and dog guardians , on 4 tweeter accounts and a few facebook accounts. I have retweeted many Dogington Post articles without a problem until today, and your unnecessary reference to Cesar Millan’s post. His answer was a good one until he added “Be sure to only give her the appropriate affection and attention when she is in a calm-submissive state; which reflects Cesar’s underlying philosophy.
    WE will not support a P+ Internet Newspaper. Please choose a side to support and be consistent with your position. I guess you already have and so have WE. Most of your articles are R+; I hope one day you make all your articles based in positive reinforcement so that I can repost your articles once again.

  4. susan oleson
    January 31, 2014 | 1:00 am

    My long haired chihuahua Punk is 7, and since I have had her she has a habit of licking the left side of her mouth, and it has made her fang bend outwards from the constant licking on that side of her mouth, she does it when she’s nervous, or upset, my other chi has licked and cleaned her feet at night for many years, I think they are just neat little clean freaks, and it comforts them to do so.

  5. Amy Seidler
    January 31, 2014 | 12:50 am

    I have a puppy mill teacup-sized Chi. I figure his obessive feet licking is a form of OCD. The vet hasnt seem concerned, he’s had full blood panels etc. Can anyone suggest other testing he may need? He doesnt have itching or rashes or anything like that. He just licks his feet til he falls asleep. But does it quite often, even when getting snuggles from any of us at home.

  6. Nancy
    January 31, 2014 | 12:03 am

    My 15 year old pug has always been a ‘licker’ since a pup. Now she is deaf and blind she licks everything! I guess her way to deal with her handicaps and her age. She finds it soothing to lick a door or a couch her and there . When she does we try to stop as clearly the cleaning agents, varnish are not great for her…but she is happy and eats and wags her tail. As a n elderly pug, exercise is not needed so much :-)

    Also maybe leaves her scent around so she can smell where she has been and knows where to go…

  7. Beth Firce
    January 30, 2014 | 10:45 pm

    My foster pit bull licks sheets and pillowcases like Marlene’s (above). She’s 3 and I’ve had her for just over a month. I hate the sound and tell her “no” and rub her nose and mouth to relax her. She escaped from an abusive owner. She sleeps in bed with me and another of my dogs and she is happy in every other way. But that licking…!!! I figure she has an anxiety issue.

  8. Tony Knight Dog Listener
    January 30, 2014 | 10:31 pm

    Obsessive licking can also be an extreme way of attention seeking. It may have worked in the past and has become the dog’s “go to” behaviour. Exercise is not the solution (one day people will remember that it never is) but giving the dog the right attention at the right times on the owner’s terms has been an easy and effective solution for so many dogs we have worked with in the past. In fact, I worked with a dog last week that did this and stopped by the end of the day once it got the right info :)

  9. Tony Knight Dog Listener
    January 30, 2014 | 10:30 pm

    Obsessive licking can also be an extreme way of attention seeking. It may have worked in the past and has become the dog’s “go to” behaviour. Exercise is not the solution (one day people will remember that it is never is) but giving the dog the right attention at the right times on the owner’s terms has been an easy and effective solution for so many dogs we have worked with in the past. In fact, I worked with a dog last week that did this and stopped by the end of the day once it got the right info :)

  10. Wendy Little
    January 30, 2014 | 9:53 pm

    My chocolate lab was doggie napped out of our yard 6 years ago. He was gone for 2 traumatizing months, then, the day after hunting season. dropped in the night drop at the local shelter. (Bad at hunting?)Being chipped and having filled out reports everywhere reasonable, we got him back immediately. He is not the same happy go lucky, carefree dog that had been taken from us, even 6 years later. He is worse in the winter. He has had numerous lick granulomas. I think they start out as bites or allergic reactions. He is incapable of leaving them alone. I have finally opted to medicate him and my playful boy reemerges and stops licking. It’s also helped to put him on diphenhydramine. He’s got a way to go. I wrestled with the idea of medicating him and am sorry it took so long. He needed help. I didn’t want him hooked on meds, however, it’s not as if I need to worry about him driving impaired or operating heavy machinery under the influence. He plays more and is so much more relaxed. His personality shines through and his licking is not as bad. He normally licks only his paws and it is greatly ameliorated with meds. I love him, he’s so sweet and I and every professional whom I’ve involved in his care agrees that he shows signs of abuse and PTSD. I am very grateful for a wonderful veterinarian and terrific trainer who have helped him be more himself and to blossom.

  11. Niki Meadows
    January 30, 2014 | 9:15 pm

    Our Boston terrier did this, does this, and she has Cushing’s Disease and liver problems. Even on meds for these things, she still does this. We just tell her “no” when we catch her and she continues to do what she wants :-) She is 12 and a half and as long as she is with me, I don’t care what she does…well, within reason :-)

  12. Caryn
    January 30, 2014 | 7:11 pm

    My Olde English Bulldogge licks the arms of the couch & any member of the family’s arms or legs if exposed. When I say lick, I mean drench with slobber. He is a bulldog with slobber for enough for 7 dogs! He ever licks his feet excessively until they are red and irritated. I bought a “Thunder Shirt” and that seems to ease his anxiety while he is wearing the shirt. There has been such an upheaval of people in and out of the house and he is so stress & depressed. I stick to his exercise routine, but that Thunder Shirt works wonders. It does only help when he’s wearing it, and he can’t wear it too long, it upsets it tummy after a while.

    • Tamara
      January 30, 2014 | 10:18 pm

      I had a dog do this with her feet, licked until they were raw. Finally discovered through various testing that she had allergies. After treating her allergies and changing a few ingredients in her diet she hasn’t done it since. My vet explained that it’s basically the same reaction humans have with the itchy eyes, throat and noses. Glad the thunder shirt works, just wanted to offer another suggestion in case it stops working. :)

  13. Jeane Beach
    January 30, 2014 | 6:45 pm

    I have been told that deaf dogs – or dogs with a hearing impairment – will lick more to gather more info to make up for what they can’t hear. With people, they say if they lack one sense, ie deaf or blind, other senses increase to make up for their lack and this therory may be the same for dogs. I have seen many deaf and/or hearing impaired dogs that seem to lick quite a lot – I think there is something to it!

  14. Tina Wilson
    January 30, 2014 | 5:28 pm

    Our 2 year old jack russell terrier licks the air CONSTANTLY! We got him from a breeder at the age of 10 mos & he was WILD…. basically zero amount of training except going on “adventures” which were hiking and looking in holes with 2 other JRT’s. We talked to the vet about it and he said it was ‘probably nothing’. He’s okay when he’s outside & he’s running/playing. There doesn’t seem to be any one thing that triggers this weird behavior. It’s driving me nuts!

  15. marlene @ teddy bear
    January 30, 2014 | 5:26 pm

    my teddy bear is shitz/lapsa shes 7 yrs. old. she likes licking pillows, sheets. we were thinking salt on the material. idk is this hurting her? other than laying on a semi wet pillow. it dosent bother us but if its something that is harming her. we need to know. thank you

  16. Jane
    January 30, 2014 | 5:10 pm

    My dog (age 13 – pitbull) licks the floor incessantly. I have had him checked for physical illnesses and we have ruled them out as the cause. Unless he’s sleeping, he’s licking. Our floor is all gooey. It’s almost impossible to keep up with it. He will stop for a chewy or treat but goes right back to it. Sometimes he licks for hours. It’s driving us nuts.

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  18. Samantha
    January 30, 2014 | 2:47 pm

    My 2 year old Pom has an obsession with licking faces. (Ears, eyes, mouth and especially in Noses) he’s always done this since he was a puppy. It’s like a morning normal now he wants to just lick everyone’s face.

  19. Teresa
    January 30, 2014 | 2:41 pm

    My beagle started doings this to a green area rug one day. Then,he was going outside and eating grass or bushes. With our Vet,we realized he had a stomach ache. Now we know to keep him from house items and have a med for him. If I don’t let him have grass, he’ll eat the house. I hope this helps.

  20. Debra Evans
    January 30, 2014 | 2:07 pm


  21. Wendy Leather
    January 30, 2014 | 2:07 pm

    My dog started licking his bottom constantly, not nice I know, he was really anxious and could not settle. I took him to the vet who discovered he had blocked anal glands. He had to have them drained and the vet recommended we change his diet. I’m so glad we took notice of his excessive licking and would recommend anyone do the same.

  22. Debra Evans
    January 30, 2014 | 2:07 pm

    Can it be a breed specific thing? so many Chinese Crested owners say their dog like over and over. 2 of my 5 dogs do.

  23. Terry
    January 30, 2014 | 1:28 pm

    I have noticed that when my dog licks unusually more is when he has a bad tooth or some other mouth pain. Getting a tooth pulled or even just cleaned by the vet more often than not stops the weird licking.

  24. Donna
    January 8, 2014 | 1:57 pm

    My dog licks the carpet compulsively. He’s 10 in April of 2014. I got him about 3 years ago. He came from a backyard breeder or puppy mill. He was a very insecure and freaked out dog when I got him. I turned the TV on it it completely blew him away when he fist arrived. I think this is something that he’s developed while in the cage to deal with stress. This behavior comes and goes depending on the situation in the home (I foster for a rescue organization so have various dogs in and out).

    I’ve tried and tried to work with him, but at this point, I feel it’s so ingrained. It’s how he copes. I’m not sure it can be ‘fixed’. He’s not as compulsive as he used to be, but it’s still there and it stops when he’s right next to me.

    Unfortunately, his instability causes some dogs to snap at him. I try to avoid this with the dogs I foster, but out of the 15 I’ve fostered, only 1 has done this. It takes him a couple days to recover from this.

    I’ve taught him a lot of things to give him confidence, but even that only goes so far.

    He used to lick everything including mulch, gravel and dirt. Then he’d throw up and lick more. He only licks my shag carpet now and I can usually distract him from doing that. I do use vinegar, water and dish soap to shampoo my rug so he may like the taste as well.

    This foster mom is doing the best she can.

    • Linda
      January 30, 2014 | 1:46 pm

      Hi, I also have a puppy mill dog. Right now I am dealing with obsessive feet licking. It started due to itchy hives. I took care of all but seasonal allergens; however, licking can start for a reason then become obsessive/compulsive. Luckily all I need to do is put his socks on. Eventually it will stop…before it leads to loss of fur followed by ulcerated sores. Since you are a well seasoned foster, you probably already know; however: A fearful dog needs time to settle. Mine will always have 3-4 things that he cannot overcome and we just avoid these as much as possible. I have taught him the words: “It’s okay” in a low, soft voice. This, in itself, quite often calms him. It is a wonderful term if they learn it. They need soft words and commands and never a harsh “no” etc. If you can, (you most likely already have) set up a “safe” place, where it is quiet. If you need to, perhaps a gated area, so when he goes to his safe, quiet place, others cannot come near him. He can learn that when he is ready to come out, he can come to the gate and you will let him out. The hard part is letting him know somehow that he is not being punished; rather you are protecting him from others while he calms down.

      Good luck. Luckily we live in a large home with just my husband and me. We like quiet. Other than a little TV at night, we read or engage in quiet conversation; no background noise like TV or radios.

      I volunteer for Puppy Mill/Pit-Bull rescues when I can. I am a professional trainer. I went to school at a late age to be a better volunteer and will go to classes till I reach behaviorist level.

      Good luck. I really admire people, like you, who go so much further than the extra mile. Good luck.

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