Even if you have never been a dog owner, chances are you have come in contact with a dog that loves to lick. Hands, feet, faces – even arms – some dogs lick and lick and lick, as though they are a child with a Popsicle on a hot day.
This type of behavior starts off as cute. But over time it can become very annoying – almost a hassle. If you have a dog that licks, chances are you have also had a guest come over and exclaim “it’s okay! I like it!” only to express annoyance at your dog a few hours later when the licking has not stopped.
If you are a dog owner with a licking dog, chances are you want this behavior to stop. But stopping your dog’s licking is no easy task, and may require quite a bit of work on your end throughout the course of your dog’s life.
Why Do Dogs Lick?
Though many dogs exhibit the same behaviors, dogs do not lick for only one specific reason. There may be a variety of reasons that your dog chooses to lick your hands. Some of these reasons include:
• Affection – Licking is a form of grooming. Dogs groom those that they have affection for. Ergo, if your dog is licking you, it may be grooming you to show affection. This type of behavior should not seem that unusual. In fact, human beings often groom their partners without realizing it when they are truly falling for them.
• Attention – If you are sitting on your chair, enjoying your favorite TV show, and your dog comes up to your hand and licks it, chances are you give attention to your dog. Your dog recognizes that you give this attention, so when it is feeling lonely or ignored, it may walk up and lick your hand, even if the lick results in a scold.
• Taste –Guests that get their hands licked assume they must have something on their hand that attracted the dog. This is an erroneous assumption. Dogs actually do not have very strong taste buds – it is the reason they can eat their own regurgitation without finding it disgusting. What dogs LOVE, however, is TASTE. Dogs love flavors – any flavors – even if they do not ultimately lead to being full. Even if you just washed your hands, your skin will have a natural salty flavor that will attract your dog’s licks.
These represent just a few reasons that your dogs may lick. Dogs also lick because they are submissive, or because you once had food on their hand and they are hoping for more, or simply because it is a way to interact with you even while you are ignoring it. Dogs lick, and they lick for many different reasons.
How to Stop Your Dog From Licking
It can be difficult to train a dog out of licking. Many trainers recommend teaching your dog to lick on command in order to associate licking with the command (so that the dog does not want to lick without a reward). Others recommend giving your dog a new way to show affection. Both of these are effective methods.
However, another method is simply being firm and using negative punishment. If your dog licks your hand or foot, say “No” and move the hand or foot away from your dog so that they cannot lick it again. Do not look at the dog or acknowledge it. Simply say “no” and move your body so that your dog cannot continue licking.
For this method to be successful, however, you must never allow your dog to lick you without a command. Dogs do not understand when it is okay and when it isn’t. Either it is always not okay or it is always okay. Similarly, with guests you want to warn them ahead of time not to let the dog lick. If they tell you it’s “okay,” make sure that they understand that the dog will never, ever stop licking if they do not follow your rules. If they still choose to let your dog lick, and then complain later when the dog won’t stop, at least you warned them first and now you can mock them at your leisure.
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