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Why Is My Dog Licking Everything? Explaining the Sloppy Mystery - PawSafe

Why Is My Dog Licking Everything? Explaining the Sloppy Mystery

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why is my dog licking everything

As pet owners, we naturally want to understand “Why is my dog licking everything?” and determine whether or not it’s something we should be worried about. We’ve all seen it before – our beloved dogs just can’t seem to stop licking everything and anything around them. From their paws to our feet, furniture, and even the air, it seems like they can’t get enough of this peculiar behavior. 

Understanding your dog’s behavior is essential to maintaining their overall health and well-being. Dogs communicate with us in various ways, and sometimes, excessive licking can be their way of telling us that something is amiss. Deciphering the hidden meaning behind this behavior can help us address potential issues and find ways to manage or resolve them.

So, what’s behind your dog’s obsession with getting their tongues on everything? Upon consultation, Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver BS DVM MS DACVB tells us that licking can be care-soliciting (they want food, attention, etc.), serve as self-stimulation, or be a behavioral response.  In this article, we’ll delve into some possible causes of prolonged licking, discuss when it’s time to be concerned, and how to address it. 

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding your dog’s licking behavior is crucial for their well-being.
  • This behavior can be due to anxiety, medical issues like stomach and neurological conditions, and compulsive disorders.
  • Identifying possible causes of this behavior helps address potential issues.
  • Consult a vet for concerns and follow their recommendations for managing prolonged presentation.

Our article on dogs licking the floor observes that dogs getting their tongues on unusual stuff often means more than meets the eye. This is because, on the one hand, self-licking at the paws, butt, and anywhere else on the body can be due to grooming or self-soothing. But, doing it on other household objects typically suggests a medical issue. 

By paying attention to your dog’s behavior and taking note of any changes, you can better understand and address the reasons behind this prolonged behavior. Whether it’s communication, grooming, anxiety, or a medical issue, taking the time to understand your dog’s behavior will help both of you lead happier lives together.

Understanding Your Dog’s Sloppy Behavior

Whippet dog licking the everything and the air

It’s 3:00 AM, and your dog clocks into relentlessly licking their butt and paws. You’re annoyed but this is normal for you. But imagine your shock when this behavior spills over to pillows, covers, couch, and getting your floors squeaky clean for you.

Dogs use their tongues on themselves all the time. In fact, recent studies have shown that a dog’s saliva has anti-bacterial properties, which is why dogs groom their wounds. Additionally, the action itself has been proven to release feel-good endorphins, which is why dogs engage in the activity to cope with life stresses. 

Dogs even use the behavior as a way to communicate with us. It can be their way of saying they’re hungry, thirsty, or even just seeking attention. Keep an eye on your dog’s body language to help decipher what they might be trying to tell you.

However, when the sloppy behavior gets out of hand, it could also signal an underlying problem. If you notice any unusual behavior, such as loss of appetite or lethargy, it’s best to consult your vet to rule out any health concerns.

Possible Causes of Excessive Licking

Shiba Inu dog licking the carpet

So, let’s dive into the common reasons that dogs may lick everything.

1. Boredom

Dogs are neophiliac (love for new things), so boredom can trigger this behavior. They might do this to cope with a lack of stimulation or to calm themselves down. The problem with this is the risk of complications like acral lick dermatitis and self-mutilation when the grooming gets out of hand.

Check out our article on how to stop licking in dogs, which highlights the importance of plenty of mental and physical activities for our dogs. This is to make sure they cope well with being bored or stressed.

2. Stress

Dogs may resort to mouthing stuff as a coping mechanism when anxious or stressed due to new environments, new people, loud sounds, or discomfort. Our consultant vet, Dr. Bonnie Beaver, places lip-smacking as a behavioral response of avoidance.

This behavior can provide comfort and a sense of security, similar to how humans might engage in repetitive actions during times of stress. These dogs display other signs like yawning, smacking their lips, hiding, cowering posture, and pinned tails and ears. 

3. They’re Curious 

Dogs explore their environment through their sense of taste and smell. Tongueing on objects could be a way for them to investigate and gather information about their surroundings. This is often referred to as the “flehman response,” where flicking the tongue and curling back the upper lip allows smell molecules into the vomeronasal organ. 

4. Habitual Behavior

Another reason for this action might be habitual behavior. Just like humans, dogs can form habits that are difficult to break. If a dog starts the action out of boredom or anxiety and finds it effective, they may continue to do so and form a habit.

5. Hunger or Nutritional Deficiencies

Dogs may mouth on surfaces or objects if they are experiencing hunger or if there are residual food smells. Additionally, certain nutritional deficiencies might drive dogs to take to non-food items, a behavior known as pica/indiscriminate eating.

6. Gastrointestinal Issues and Discomfort

This behavior, when prolonged, can also be an indication of gastrointestinal issues. A study on gastrointestinal disorders in dogs with excessive licking of surfaces found that about half of dogs may tongue surfaces excessively due to discomfort in their stomach or intestines. These issues can range from eating something bad, to inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) to even pancreatitis.

7. Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors (Canine OCD)

In some cases, affected dogs can suffer from obsessive-compulsive behaviors, which are repetitive actions with no apparent reason. These behaviors can be triggered by stress, genetics, or other environmental factors. Affected dogs may also display other repetitive actions like chasing the tail, chasing shadows, fly biting, snapping, and moving in circles.

8. Neurological Problems like Seizures

Abnormal behaviors or repetitive actions may be indicative of a neurological issue or seizure activity in dogs. Seizures can manifest in different ways, and some dogs may display repetitive behaviors, such as pacing, circling, or mouth smacking on the air or floors, during or after a seizure episode. Some people even refer to these morions as “fly catcher syndrome” since the affected dog suddenly looks up and starts smacking the lips. Like this dog:

9. Self-Soothing due to Pain 

Sometimes, dogs use licking as a form of self-soothing. This can be similar to reasons such as stress or boredom, but it might also be a response to physical discomfort (e.g., itchiness, pain, or dry skin). Pay attention to any signs your dog may be in discomfort and address them accordingly.

10. Dental Issues 

Oral discomfort, such as dental problems or mouth pain, may lead a dog to smack and swallow in an attempt to soothe the discomfort. These issues include tooth pain, gum disorders, and foreign objects. 

11. Other Medical Conditions

Lastly, other medical conditions could result in this presentation. For example, conditions like allergies, hormonal imbalances, and dermatitis can cause itchiness or discomfort that leads to licking. In these situations, seeking a veterinarian’s help is vital to provide proper care and treatment for our dogs.

When To Worry About Licking

Maltese dog licking paws and floor close up

While common, this behavior can sometimes it can become an area of concern. In this section, we’ll discuss when you should worry and the signs and behaviors to look out for.

Signs of Distress

This activity can be a sign of distress when it is excessive, persistent, or accompanied by other concerning behaviors. Keep an eye out for the following signs that may indicate your dog is in distress:

  • Excessive drooling: This can be a sign of a medical issue, such as dental problems or gastrointestinal troubles.
  • Skin issues: If your dog is constantly grooming a specific area, it may be due to an irritation, infection, or allergy. Check their skin for redness, inflammation, or open sores.
  • Hair loss: Excessive self grooming can lead to hair loss or bald patches when your dog is constantly grooming themselves.

Behavioral Changes

In some cases, changes in your dog’s behavior could signal an underlying issue. Look out for these behavioral indicators:

  1. Sudden increase in licking: If your dog has suddenly started engaging in the activity indiscriminately more than usual, it may be due to stress, anxiety, or medical problems.
  2. Licking objects or surfaces: If your dog is ambushing walls, floors, or other non-food surfaces, they might be trying to soothe themselves or suffer from a neurological or gastric issue.
  3. Compulsive licking: This refers to repeating the action without an apparent reason. If your dog seems unable to stop, consult your veterinarian, as there might be an underlying health issue or anxiety disorder.

Remember to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right or if you notice any of the above signs or behavioral changes, don’t hesitate to consult with your veterinarian.

Consulting a Vet For Excessive Licking

Chihuahua dog close up licking a toy

We all know that it’s normal for dogs to lick themselves and other things occasionally. However, when done excessively, it can be a cause for concern. If we notice our furry friends having this presentation more than usual, it’s time to consult our trusted veterinarian.

So, how can our vet help? They will likely begin with a thorough examination and ask us some questions about our dog’s recent behavior and environmental changes. Depending on the findings, they might recommend:

  1. Medication to alleviate allergies, pain, or anxiety;
  2. Changes in diet or supplements to address gastrointestinal issues; and
  3. Advice on keeping our pups engaged or solutions for providing them with a stable, stress-free environment.

Keep in mind that our vet might need to run tests to determine the root cause of the symptom. So, we must be patient and ready to follow their expert guidance. After all, our dogs’ well-being is our top priority.

Tips to Manage Excessive Licking

French Bulldog licking a child's face

So, let’s delve into dealing with this issue.

Distraction Techniques

Sometimes, our dogs just need a little distraction to help them break the habit. Here are a few tried-and-tested techniques that have worked for us:

  • Toys: We can always provide interactive or chew toys to keep their mind and mouth occupied.
  • Puzzle games: Engaging them in puzzle games or treat dispensers can make their brain work and reduce the behavior.
  • Training: Teaching them new tricks or commands not only helps distract them but also strengthens the bond.

Remember, it’s important to be patient and consistent when using these techniques.

Providing Plenty of Exercise

Getting enough exercise is crucial for our dogs’ overall well-being. A well-exercised dog is usually less likely to exhibit any unusual behaviors. Here’s a quick rundown of our favorite exercise ideas:

Daily walksMorning and evening walks to match their energy level
FetchIndoor or outdoor games to stimulate their hunting instincts
Dog park visitsSocialize and let them burn off their energy at the local dog park

Regular exercise not only helps to curb the behavior but also keeps our canines in the best of health.

Maintain a Balanced Diet

We believe a balanced diet plays a crucial role in reducing this presentation. Keep these points in mind when planning their meals:

  1. High-quality dog food with essential nutrients.
  2. Limited table scraps and no toxic human foods, as they can cause allergies
  3. Consult a veterinarian for optimal guidance on their diet and portion sizes.

A well-rounded diet not only helps in managing their habits but also promotes overall good health and longevity.

Importance of Regular Check-Ups

Firstly, routine check-ups help us catch any potential health issues early on, allowing for timely treatment and increasing the chances of a full recovery. For example, by detecting dental problems, skin conditions, or growths at an early stage, our vet can prevent the situation from worsening and minimize any discomfort our dog may experience.

When it comes to the check-up process, here’s a brief breakdown of what to expect:

  • Physical examination: The vet will check your dog’s overall condition, looking for any signs of illness or injury.
  • Vaccinations: Vaccines help protect our dogs against various diseases. Be sure to keep track of your dog’s vaccination schedule.
  • Parasite control: Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention should be discussed to keep your dog safe from these dangerous nuisances.
  • Blood tests: These tests can detect underlying issues such as organ function, infections, or hormonal imbalances.

It’s also important to remember that regular check-ups are not just about addressing health concerns. They also offer an opportunity to monitor our dog’s weight, nutrition, and exercise habits, ensuring a healthy lifestyle that can significantly contribute to their overall well-being.

As our dogs grow and age, their needs change as well. Puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs all have different requirements, so be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian. This will ensure you provide the best care possible throughout your dog’s life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does my dog lick the floor and carpet?

There could be several reasons for this behavior. Your dog might be trying to clean up any leftover food crumbs or just enjoying the taste of something on the floor. They could also be seeking comfort if they’re feeling bored or anxious. Keep an eye on their overall behavior and consult your vet if you’re concerned.

Should I be worried about excessive licking?

Too much licking could be a sign of an underlying issue, such as anxiety, allergies, or a medical problem. If you notice your dog consistently doing this to objects or themselves, it’s best to consult your vet to rule out any potential health concerns.

Why is my dog suddenly licking the couch?

Much like noticing this behavior on the floor and carpet, your dog might be doing this for several reasons. It could be for taste, comfort because they can sniff your scent, or even an allergic reaction. 

Do dogs lick objects when they’re anxious?

Yes, this can be a coping mechanism for dogs when they’re feeling anxious or stressed. It’s a form of self-soothing that can help calm them down. However, doing this excessively due to anxiety should be addressed and managed with the help of a professional.

Does eating grass and licking relate?

While not directly related, both behaviors can be signs that your dog is feeling unwell or attempting to soothe themselves. If eating grass is followed by the action, your dog may have an upset stomach or be trying to induce vomiting. 

Is nighttime licking a concern?

This behavior at night might just be your dog’s way of winding down and soothing themselves before bedtime. However, if it becomes excessive or seems to be causing distress, it could indicate an underlying issue, such as anxiety or a medical problem. 

Final Thoughts

We know how concerning it can be to see our furry friends suddenly start licking everything. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all reason, a few possibilities could be boredom, anxiety, dental or GI issues, neurological problems, and compulsive disorders. 

Here’s a helpful checklist for a quick evaluation:

  1. Observe your dog: any sudden changes in behavior?
  2. Monitor their diet: any new additions or modifications?
  3. Look for signs of stress: moving homes, new family members, etc.
  4. Assess their daily routine: is there enough physical and mental stimulation?
  5. Check for health issues: visits to the vet might help rule out possible medical conditions.

It’s essential to determine the root cause of our dog’s worrisome activity to help them regain their normal behavior. We recommend consulting a veterinarian for guidance and discussing any concerns. Remember, our paw-friends rely on us for their well-being, and it’s our responsibility to ensure they live a happy and healthy life.

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.