Monday, September 13, 2010
Dog behavior can be hard to figure out. Some dogs spend their days licking everything in sight. Why do dogs lick walls, floors, the carpet, a toy, us, themselves and even cats?
Most dog licking isn't anything to be concerned about, as long as it isn't excessive and the dog isn't ingesting bad things along with his licking. Dogs use their tongue and mouth to investigate and determine what things are. They're always exploring their world, tasting what they find. The problem with allowing a dog to constantly lick surfaces like carpet, furniture or floors is they can ingest hair, fibers, string, toxic products or other small objects, and these could end up blocking their intestinal tract.
Julia Williams wrote an interesting article concerning an eating disorder called Pica in cats. Pica can also cause dogs to crave nonfood items. Licking or eating dirt is a common nonfood item some dogs seem to relish, but why? A poor quality food could be the culprit and the dog is simply trying to get nutrients from the dirt that he's not getting from his food, or he isn't getting enough to eat and he's hungry. That's why feeding your dog a premium quality food like CANIDAE All Life Stages is so important to their good health. Licking or eating dirt should be discouraged because it can have parasites and other nasty stuff in it. If you suspect Pica could be the cause for your dog's licking, talk to your vet for advice on how to handle it.
A dog licking the carpet, wall or furniture could be saying he's bored and needs more exercise. Rule out any medical problems that might be causing his behavior first. If there's nothing wrong medically and an extra walk or playtime doesn’t curb his licking, then you'll have to use deductive reasoning to try and figure out what's bothering him.
For some dogs, licking can turn into an obsession, and that's when it can signal a dog behavior issue that needs attention from their owner. Obsessive behavior is a sign of a dog who's feeling anxious for some reason. Separation anxiety or fear could be the problem. A new pet in the home, a baby, new roommate or a change in their schedule can upset them. Some dogs lick for attention because even negative attention is better than no attention.
If your dog suddenly starts licking and there haven’t been changes in his routine, and he's eating quality dog food and getting plenty of exercise, there may be a physiological or medical problem causing his behavior. If he stops licking when you tell him to stop and he doesn't start up again, it's not a compulsive behavior. It's when he goes right back to licking or won't stop when you tell him to that is cause for concern. Talk with your vet or an animal behaviorist for advice on helping him break his habit.
A nursing mom dog licks her puppies, but this is one licking behavior we understand. Licking associated with grooming pups keeps them clean, but also stimulates body functions and circulation. Puppies and dogs will lick other pack members as a sign of submission and respect. That may be one reason why dogs lick us. Most dogs associate licking with pleasure. Licking has a calming effect on them and when they lick us, most likely they're trying to give us the same feeling and show us affection.
Wolf pups run up to pack members returning after a hunt and lick them around the mouth to get them to regurgitate food, which could be why some dogs lick us around the mouth. Through centuries of responsible breeding, dogs are far removed from wolves, but they still retain instincts from their past ancestry.
Dogs lick things they're curious about. In most cases, dog licking is nothing to worry about and you can curb it with more exercise, a premium quality holistic food like CANIDAE, or by understanding you've created a change that's upset them. If your dog licks everything around him, don't ignore his behavior. Rule out medical problems, and then observe your dog to learn what's bothering him so you can help him get over his dog licking obsession.
Read more articles by Linda Cole