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Why Does My Dog Lick My Pillow? Asked & Answered - PawSafe

Why Does My Dog Lick My Pillow? Asked & Answered

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why does my dog lick my pillow

Have you ever found your dog licking your pillow? You’re not alone. Many dog owners have witnessed this habit and wondered why their furry friend is so interested in their bedding. While it may seem odd to us humans, there are a few reasons why dogs may choose to lick our pillows.

Licking is a natural and intuitive action in dogs. For them, it is a way of grooming and expressing their affection or to appease bigger dogs. It is also a common self soothing behavior, where dogs are known  to lick their paws, especially before bed.

While it may be a bit strange to see our dogs licking our pillows, there are a few reasons why they may do so. By understanding this aspect of canine behavior and the potential reasons behind it, we can better care for ourselves and our furry companions and ensure their health and happiness.

Dogs lick various things in the household, including another dog. The specific motivation for licking can vary from one dog to another and depends on the context and the individual dog’s manners.

Licking your pillow can also be your dog’s way to feel close to you and find comfort in your scent. While licking is often a normal and natural behavior, compulsive licking may signal the need for further investigation or intervention, especially if it is a sudden or persistent change in their ways.

12 Common Reasons For Dogs licking Pillows

If your dog is licking your pillow, there could be various reasons for this behavior. Here are some potential causes:

1. Taste and Smell

Your pillows may have absorbed various scents and flavors, especially if you’ve been using them for a while. Dogs have an acute sense of smell, and they may be attracted to the residual scents on your pillows.

2. Comfort

Dogs often associate licking with comfort and relaxation. The texture and softness of pillows can be soothing to them, much like how a child might suck their thumb for comfort. According to the Peninsula Humane Society, dog licking releases endorphins that give them a sense of security.

3. Salt and Minerals

Dogs may lick items for the salt or minerals they contain. Human skin, sweat, and tears contain salt, and some pillows may have absorbed these substances, making them appealing to your dog. If it’s been hot and you’ve been sweating into your pillow, your dog may be attracted to the salt residue in the fabric.

4. Attention-Seeking

Dogs are not known to be intelligent for nothing. When they suspect a particular manner grabs your attention, they may continue doing it, even if it is licking your pillow.

5. Anxiety or Stress

Dogs sometimes engage in repetitive behaviors like licking when anxious or stressed. If there have been changes in your dog’s routine environment, or if they are feeling anxious, they might lick objects, including pillows, as a coping mechanism.

6. Texture Preference

Another reason why your dog may be licking your pillow is that they enjoy the texture. Some dogs like to lick soft and fluffy fabrics, and your pillow may be the perfect texture. Additionally, your dog may enjoy licking something cool and smooth.

7. Displaced Grooming Activity

Dogs are natural groomers, and they spend a lot of time licking themselves to keep clean. When your dog licks your pillow, they may be engaging in displaced grooming activity.

This means that they are using the same behavior that they would use to groom and soothe themselves, but they are directing it toward your pillow instead.

8. Self Soothing

Sometimes, dogs lick their owners’ pillows to deal with anxiety. Licking releases endorphins in a dog’s brain, which can help them calm down and feel more relaxed. This way of acting is prevalent in dogs that have anxiety or are nervous.

When this is the case, you can help your dog feel more comfortable by providing a safe and quiet space, such as a crate or a cozy bed. You can also try calming aids, such as pheromone sprays or supplements, to help your dog feel more relaxed.

One such action is blanket sucking, which is when a dog sucks on a blanket or pillow as a form of self-soothing. While this behavior may seem harmless, it can lead to the ingestion of fabric or stuffing, which can cause digestive issues or blockages.

9. Oral Health Issues

Dogs, like humans, can suffer from dental problems such as gum disease, tooth decay, and infections. These issues can cause discomfort and pain, and your dog may seek relief by licking your pillow.

10. Boredom

A lack of physical and mental stimulation could lead to unwanted behavior kicking in. Dogs need mental and physical stimulation, and if they are not getting enough of it, they may turn to licking to occupy themselves.

If you notice that your dog is licking your pillow when they are left alone for long periods, it may be a sign that they are bored and need more stimulation.

11. Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors

Compulsive behavior is a repetition of an act to prevent or deal with stress. In one study by the NCBI, they have listed compulsive habits in dogs to include shadow chasing, light chasing, spinning, acral-lick dermatitis, self mutilation and excessive licking, just to name a few. 

If your dog is exhibiting obsessive-compulsive manners, it’s essential to address the underlying cause. This may involve providing more mental and physical stimulation, reducing anxiety through training or medication, or addressing any underlying medical conditions.

It’s also important to provide alternativ-e-archive self-soothing for your dog, such as chew toys or puzzle feeders. Positively redirecting your dog’s behavior can help break the cycle of obsessive-compulsive habits.

12. Medical Reasons

In some cases, excessive licking could indicate an underlying medical issue.  If your dog is licking excessively and it’s not related to any of the above reasons, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any health problems.

How to Discourage the Behavior

If your dog has a habit of excessively licking your pillow, there are several steps you can take to discourage this action.

Provide Alternatives

One way to discourage your dog from licking your pillow is to provide them with an alternativ-e-archive item to lick. This could be a chew toy or a treat-dispensing toy that will keep them occupied and satisfied. You can also give them a special blanket or a dog lick mat that they can lick instead of your pillow.

Training Techniques

Training your dog to obey your commands can take time and patience, but it is possible. One effective technique is to teach your dog the “leave it” command. This involves teaching your dog to stop engaging with an object or behavior when you give the command.

You can also use positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewarding your dog with treats or praise when they refrain from licking your pillow.

Consult a Veterinarian

If your dog’s pillow-licking behavior is excessive or seems to be related to an underlying health issue, it is essential to consult a veterinarian. Your vet can help determine the cause of the efforts and guide you on addressing it.

Provide Mental and Physical Stimulation

Many compulsive actions are a result of boredom or excess energy. Keep your dogs entertained with enough mental and physical exercise through daily walks, workouts, playtime, puzzle toys, and training sessions. A tired dog is less likely to engage in compulsive habits.

Environmental Enrichment

Make your dog’s environment more interesting by adding new toys, puzzles, and interactive games. Rotating where you put their water bowl and toys to prevent monotony can also help.

Positive Reinforcement Training

Use positive reinforcement techniques to redirect your dog’s habit. When your dog engages in compulsive action, turn them to more appropriate manners, like performing a trick or playing with a toy. Reward them with treats, praise, and affection when they engage in the desired behavior.

Consistency

Consistency is critical in modifying your dog’s habits. Ensure that everyone in your household follows the same rules and training techniques.

Reduce Stressors

Identify and minimize sources of stress in your dog’s environment. This could include changes in routine, household dynamics, or exposure to specific triggers.

Be Patient

Changing compulsive habits takes time and patience. Be consistent with your efforts and allow your dog to learn new, healthier manners.

Remember, it is essential to be patient and consistent when discouraging your dog from licking your pillow. With time and effort, you can help your dog break this habit and redirect their behavior towards more appropriate activities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does my dog lick me so much?

Dogs may lick their owners because they taste like salt or as a way of showing affection, but it can also be a sign of anxiety or stress. It’s crucial to observe your dog’s actions and body language to determine the reason behind the excessive licking. 

Why does my dog like my pillow?

Dogs like to lick and chew on soft objects, such as pillows, as a way of self-soothing. It can also be a sign of separation anxiety or boredom. To prevent your dog from damaging your pillows, provide them with appropriate chew toys and ensure they have enough mental and physical stimulation throughout the day.

Why does my dog lick my face?

Dogs lick their owner’s face as a way of gaining their attention or showing affection and respect. However, excessive face licking can be a sign of anxiety or stress, so it’s important to observe your dog’s habits and body language to determine the reason behind the manners.

Why does my dog chew on my pillow?

Dogs chew on soft objects, such as pillows, as a way of self-soothing and relieving stress. It can also be a sign of teething or boredom. To prevent your dog from damaging your pillows, provide them with appropriate chew toys and ensure they have enough mental and physical stimulation throughout the day.

Why does my dog lick my feet?

Dogs lick their owner’s feet as a way of showing affection. It’s also a way for them to gather information about their owner’s emotional state and health. Dogs sometimes lick your feet if they sense an injury or illness.

Why do dogs lick furniture fabric?

Dogs like to lick and chew on soft objects, such as furniture fabric, as a way of self-soothing and relieving stress. In puppies, they can lick on the material during teething to alleviate the discomfort.

It can also be a sign of boredom or anxiety. To prevent your dog from damaging your furniture, apply an anti-chew spray to your furniture or provide them with appropriate chew toys and make sure they have enough mental and physical stimulation throughout the day.

Final Thoughts

While it can be strange and somewhat gross behavior, it is usually nothing to be too concerned about. Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell to navigate the world around them. So, it’s not surprising that they may be drawn to the scent of their favorite humans, even if that means licking their pillows.

There are a few things you can do to discourage your dog from licking your pillow. For example, you can provide them with their own designated space to sleep, or you can try using a deterrent spray to discourage them from licking certain areas.

Ultimately, every dog is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the best solution for you and your furry friend. But with a bit of patience and persistence, you should be able to find a solution that works for everyone.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

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.