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How to Stop Dogs from Licking: Your Complete Expert Guide - PawSafe

How to Stop Dogs from Licking: Your Complete Expert Guide

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how to stop dog from licking

As a canine parent, you’ve probably needed to know how to stop your dog licking when those sloppy kisses become too much. While it is a natural behavior for dogs obsessively licking can become a problem. Not only can it be annoying and uncomfortable, but it can also lead to skin irritation and possible infection. In this article, we will explore different techniques to stop or reduce those irritating mouth noises.

As a dog trainer, I’ve naturally seen all sorts of canine behaviors, from adorable face-smootching greetings to more concerning habits like excessive paw chewing. In this article, we’ll explore effective strategies to reduce compulsive and constant licking in dogs, drawing on my experiences and insights from experts like Andrew U Luescher, DVM, PhD, and Dr. Diane Frank.

Licking in puppies and dogs is so common that it’s often left unnoticed, even though it can tell you what your dog is feeling. For example, our linked article observed that if your dog keeps flicking their tongue when you pet them, they may be uncomfortable with the activity. We’ve also looked at why dogs lap the floor.

Therefore, lapping is not just an annoying and mildly gross canine behavior. As such, addressing this behavior requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses understanding your dog, training them, and making environmental adjustments.

In other words, how to stop your dog doing this a very big question and the answer is that it really depends on what the cause is. So to answer this question thoroughly, we need to closely examine all the causes.

Managing Licking Sounds for a Peaceful Night

Before we get into how to stop your dog, we need to note that this is usually normal behavior. When we punish or suppress normal behavior in a dog, it can result in them acting out in other ways, such as suddenly biting their tails or digging in the garden. So if your dog’s behavior is normal and not excessive, the best thing to do is not to stop it at all. 

But, if the sound of your dog making lapping noises during the night is disturbing your sleep, it’s often a practical solution to let them sleep outside your bedroom where the sound doesn’t bother you. Here are some steps to do that:

  1. Creating a Comfortable Sleeping Area: Ensure your dog has a cozy and inviting space of their own to sleep in. This could be a dog bed with their favorite blanket or toys in a quiet corner of your home.
  2. Gradual Adjustment: If your dog is used to sleeping in your room, gradually acclimate them to their new sleeping area to avoid causing anxiety.
  3. Maintain Routine: Keeping a consistent bedtime routine can help your dog feel secure and understand that it’s time to settle down for the night, even in a different room.
  4. Positive Association: Make the new sleeping arrangement a positive experience. You can do this by giving them a treat when they settle in their bed or spending some quiet time with them before lights out.
  5. Addressing Separation Anxiety: If your dog shows signs of separation anxiety when sleeping away from you, consider gentle training methods to ease their discomfort. This can include leaving an item with your scent with them or using calming aids.
A Pitbull dog licking it's nose

By providing a separate sleeping space, you can enjoy undisturbed rest while ensuring that your pup’s natural behaviors, like occasional lapping, are respected in a stress-free environment for both of you.

Now let’s look at what to do if your dog is doing it so much, it’s not only driving you crazy, it’s also a problem behavior.

11 Ways To Stop Obsessive Licking in Dogs

French Bulldog puppy licking its paws

A variety of factors can cause excessive tongue swiping your pup. It’s important to identify the underlying cause in order to address the behavior effectively. These tips should stop this slobbery behavior in no time:

1. Identify the Cause

When trying to prevent licking behavior, first identify what the dog is doing it. If they’re lapping at you or your possessions, it may simply be a sign of affection. If they flick their tongue over their lips and other body parts, the action may be a way to cope with pain, boredom, or anxiety.

Here are some common causes of compulsive licking in dogs.

  • Licking From Affection and Attention
King Charles Spaniel licking woman's face

The most common reason for a dog may lick your face is to show affection and get your attention. This is a natural way for dogs to express love and strengthen social bonds with their owners. This is why they lick their owners’ hands, faces, or even items, like your your pillow.

Solving Medical Reasons for Licking

If medical issues cause the lip-smacking behavior, you’ll probably notice other accompanying signs, like redness or inflammation, scratching, hair loss, discharge, an unpleasant odor, lethargy, and signs of pain and discomfort.

  • Gastrointestinal Problems 

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues are a significant factor behind dogs’ constantly licking. With successful management of these issues leading to a notable decrease in licking. In fact, about half of the dogs treated for tummy issues ranging from pancreatitis to Giardia parasites stopped the behavior when they stopped feeling sick.

In many cases, addressing these GI issues led to a significant reduction in licking behavior. Effective management often involves a combination of medical treatment and dietary modifications, tailored to the specific condition and individual dog.

  • Dental Problems 

This behavior in dogs can be indicative of underlying dental issues, such as toothaches, gum pain, inflammation, infections, or the presence of foreign objects. Affected dogs appear to constantly swipe their tongue over their lips and swallow as they cope with the pain and discomfort. 

  • Allergies

Dogs can be allergic to various things, such as food, pollen, or flea bites. Scratching and licking are common symptoms of allergies as they respond to the itchiness resulting from the reaction.

  • Parasites

Fleas, ticks, and mites can cause itching and discomfort, leading to the problem. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on flea and tick prevention, and check for any signs of infestation.

  • Dermatitis

Skin conditions, such as hot spots or bacterial infections, can cause itching and lapping. If you notice red, inflamed, or oozing skin on your dog, take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. Focusing on the paws can also be a sign of acral lick dermatitis.

  • Pain or Discomfort

Lapping a lot can also be a sign of pain or discomfort, such as from arthritis or an injury. If your dog is licking a specific area excessively, check for any signs of injury or swelling. Several studies, such as PubMed research. have proved the antibacterial properties of saliva as dogs lick their wounds to promote healing, but they may also focus on body parts that have internal injury or arthritis.

Behavioral Reasons for Licking

Note that it’s important to rule out any medical reasons before addressing behavioral reasons.

  • Boredom

If your dog doesn’t have enough stimulation or exercise, they may turn to licking themselves as a way to alleviate boredom. Make sure your dog is getting enough physical and mental exercise to prevent boredom.

  • Stress and Anxiety

Dogs may lick as a way to soothe themselves when they’re feeling anxious or stressed. If you suspect your dog’s licking may be due to anxiety, try to identify the source of their stress and address or eliminate it.

A ScienceDirect study proved that mouthing in dogs is usually a response to emotional stimuli. They did this by presenting the test dogs with images of positive and negative facial expressions and observed more mouth-smacking in the negative images. So, this is often a sign that your dog is feeling stressed or nervous.

  • Habitual Behavior

Some dogs may simply have developed a habit of tasting household objects, and it may not be tied to any particular emotion or need. If this is the case, you may need to work with a professional trainer or behaviorist to help your dog break the habit.

Now that you know why your dog is exhibiting this behavior, you can either contact your vet if it’s medically related or train them if behavioral issues cause the licking.

2. Training Your Dog To Stop Licking

A woman with a clicker and a treat to train a dog to stop licking

Training your dog to stop licking can take some time and patience, but it can be worth it in the end. 

One technique is to use a verbal command, such as “no lick,” whenever your dog starts to lick you or something else. Be consistent with this command, and eventually, your dog will learn to associate it with the behavior you want them to stop.

Another training technique is to use the “leave it” command when you catch your dog in the act of licking. As soon as they stop, reward them with praise and a treat. 

3. Teach Your Dogs Other Ways of Saying “I love you.”

You can also train your dog to express their love differently if you don’t like all the slurping noises. You can do this by training your dog the “paw” command so that they feel close to you. 

You can also tell them to stay or roll over, then offer them pets and belly rubs. Playtime through tag-of-war, fetch, or balls is another great way of allowing your dog to express affection.

4. Diversion Tactics (Redirect Their Behavior)

Sometimes, distracting your dog with a command and then rewarding them with a toy or treat can be an effective way to stop them. When you see your dog starting to lick, give them a cue, even if it’s “sit” or “stay,” then offer them a toy or treat to redirect their attention.

However, be careful not to unintentionally train your dog that licking gives them rewards. Make sure to place a command between the undesirable licking and the reward. This can help break the habit of licking and teach them to focus on other activities instead.

5. Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool when it comes to training your dog. Whenever your dog refrains from licking, give them praise and a treat. This will help reinforce the behavior you want and encourage them to continue it in the future.

Remember, stopping your licking will take time and effort. Be patient and consistent with your training techniques, and eventually, your dog will learn to break the habit of licking.

6. Offer Plenty of Mental and Physical Stimulation

Ensure your dog gets sufficient physical exercise to expend energy and reduce anxiety, as constant licking can sometimes be a manifestation of stress. A ResearchGate study of 234 dogs (140 sedentary and 94 active ) found that physical exercise dramatically reduced unwanted behaviors in dogs.

Also, Offer engaging toys and activities to keep your dog mentally stimulated and occupied, reducing the likelihood of boredom-induced licking. 

7. Calm Your Dog Down

 Establish a calm and comfortable environment for your dog, providing a quiet space for relaxation and minimizing potential stressors. Anxiety triggers include new people, loud noises like thunder and fireworks, and moving to a new place. Tailor solutions based on triggers such as socializing your dog, creating a safe space, and assuring them they’re safe in new places.

8. Consult with a Professional Behaviorist

If your dog’s licking behavior is causing harm or is difficult to control, consider consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can offer personalized advice and training techniques to help address the issue.

9. Contact Your Vet for Medical Issues 

A vet can conduct a thorough examination to identify potential medical issues, such as allergies, infections, or dental problems, that may be contributing to the behavior. Once any underlying health concerns are addressed, the vet can offer tailored advice on behavior modification and management.

10. Use Deterrents

Deterrents can be an effective means to curb excessive slobbering in dogs. Consider using pet-safe bitter-tasting sprays like bitter apple spray or creams on areas where your dog tends to lick. The unpleasant taste serves as a deterrent, dissuading them from continuing the behavior.

Additionally, explore the option of protective gear, such as a cone or inflatable collar, to physically prevent access to specific areas if your dog keeps licking themselves.

11. Remove Items They Lick or Gently Move Them Away From You

You gently remove your dog away from you if the slobbery kisses overwhelm you. Removing items that dogs tend to lick can be an effective strategy but be sure to give your dog something better, like a chew toy. Identify the specific objects or surfaces that trigger the licking, such as certain fabrics, lotions, or furniture. Temporarily remove or limit access to these items to interrupt the habit.

When to Seek Professional Help

If your dog’s continual licking is causing harm to themselves or others, it may be time to consult a professional. Here are some signs that it’s time to seek help:

  • The licking is causing open sores or infections on the dog’s skin.
  • The dog’s behavior has changed, such as becoming more aggressive or withdrawn.
  • The behavior interferes with the dog’s daily activities, such as eating or sleeping.
  • The licking is causing damage to household items or furniture.

In these cases, it’s important to consult with a vet or a certified dog behaviorist. They can help determine the underlying cause of the licking and provide appropriate treatment options.

Maintaining Your Dog’s Health

As pet owners, we all want to ensure our dogs are healthy and happy. One way to maintain your dog’s health is to prevent licking excessively. Here are a few tips to help you out:

Keep Your Dog Hydrated

Ensure your dog has access to clean drinking water at all times. Dehydration can cause your dog to lick excessively.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Feeding your dog a balanced diet can help prevent skin irritations, which can lead to constant licking.

Regular Grooming

Regular grooming can help prevent skin irritations, hot spots, and other skin issues that can cause your dog to lick excessively.

Check for Allergies

Allergies can cause skin irritations and itching, which can lead to chewing and mouthing the itchy areas. If you suspect your dog has allergies, consult with your veterinarian.

Provide Mental Stimulation

Boredom can cause your dog to lick excessively. Providing mental stimulation, such as puzzle toys or interactive games, can help prevent boredom.

By following these tips, you can help maintain your dog’s health and prevent compulsive licking.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is my dog constantly licking himself?

Dogs lick themselves for a variety of reasons, including grooming, cleaning, and soothing. However, if your dog is constantly licking himself, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition or behavioral issue. Some common causes of excessive licking include allergies, skin infections, anxiety, and boredom. If you are concerned about your dog’s licking behavior, it is best to consult with your veterinarian.

How to stop a dog from licking at night?

If your dog is licking at night, it may be a sign of stress or anxiety. To help your dog relax, you can try providing a comfortable and quiet sleeping environment, playing calming music or white noise, and using a pheromone diffuser. Additionally, you can provide your dog with a chew toy or treat to redirect his licking behavior.

Dog won’t stop licking air, what should I do?

If your dog is licking the air excessively, it may be a sign of a medical condition such as epilepsy or a neurological disorder. It is important to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues. If no medical issues are found, your dog may be experiencing a compulsive behavior that requires behavioral training and management.

Why does my dog lick me excessively at night?

Dogs may lick their owners excessively at night as a way to seek attention or show affection. However, if the behavior becomes excessive or bothersome, you can redirect your dog’s attention by providing a chew toy or treat, or by gently moving them away from you.

What does it mean when a dog licks you in the face?

Dogs may lick their owners’ faces as a way to show affection or to communicate. However, excessive licking can be a sign of anxiety or stress. If your dog’s licking behavior becomes excessive or bothersome, you can redirect his attention by providing a chew toy or treat, or by gently moving away from them.

How do I get my dog to stop licking his skin?

If your dog is licking his skin excessively, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as allergies or skin infections. It is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan. Additionally, you can provide your dog with a chew toy or treat to redirect this behavior.

Final Thoughts

Remember, licking is a natural behavior for dogs, but it can become problematic if it’s done excessively or in inappropriate situations. To stop the behavior, begin by consulting with a veterinarian to rule out any potential medical issues contributing to the behavior.

Then, implement positive reinforcement techniques, rewarding your dog for refraining from licking and redirecting their attention to more appropriate activities. Consider the use of bitter-tasting deterrents on surfaces your dog frequently licks.

Every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. If you’re having trouble stopping your dog from licking, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for additional guidance and support.


Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.