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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Privates? Seven Reasons Dogs Lick Their Crotch

why do dogs lick their privates

Pet owners can’t help but wonder why dogs lick their privates. Dogs seem to sense the most inopportune times to indulge in this behavior, like when guests are over. Dogs don’t have that human sense of appropriate vs. gross behavior, and licking their genitals is just like licking any other part of their body.

Most of the time, crotch-licking is perfectly normal canine behavior to keep themselves clean. However, if the licking gets excessive or there’s an odor from these areas, it becomes a cause for alarm. Some stenchy genital situations can be fixed with a good dog wash, while others need medical attention.

Read along to look at seven reasons why dogs lick their private areas and whether you should discourage the behavior or when it’s a sign of a medical problem.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Private Areas A lot? (7 Reasons)

While not as intensively as cats, dogs also lick themselves to stay clean. Males and females may lick their genitals after urinating and their anal region if feces are stuck their fur. Excessive licking can indicate something sinister like allergies or UTIs, so beware of other symptoms like rashes or discharge.

Genital licking is a universal dog practice, not limited by gender, age, size, or even level of training. Usually, canines should be allowed to lick their crotches, as it’s perfectly normal behavior. If it’s entirely inappropriate for your dog to do this, such as when you have guests over, you can redirect them by offering them a toy.

Remember that mother dogs start licking their puppy’s genitals to clean up after them in the first weeks of life. So, in essence, this is very basic grooming behavior.

7 Reasons dogs lick their genitals

Ordinary licking of the genitals is swift, like a quick swipe, and is not persistent. But, if dogs can’t seem to stop licking private parts, it can indicate a health or behavioral issue.

1. Licking the crotch area is a normal part of grooming

Dogs don’t have the luxury of a tissue or a wet wipe like we do, so they resort to licking themselves clean. Dogs don’t have body hang-ups; if their genitals need cleaning, they will do so without feeling ashamed.

Cleaning the privates is an acceptable form of crotch licking in dogs. You may also see your dog cleaning their anus after pooping, particularly if the stool is loose. Firm stools typically don’t need cleaning in dogs.

A simple case of licking for hygiene can turn obsessive, as observed in a study of 126 cats and dogs with OCD—yes, animals can get it too. An animal behaviorist and veterinarian is best suited to deal with this issue.

2. Dogs lick genitals when one is in heat

It’s hard to miss a dog in heat because the signs of this stage in the reproductive cycle are pretty obvious. One such sign is increased licking of the genitals in females in response to the discharge and swelling of the vulva that occurs.

You’ll also notice more attention to your doggo as random male dogs try to sniff their butt. Other signs that show the licking is due to heat include friendliness to male dogs, agitation, and bloody discharge around the house.

Intact females are the only ones that lick the crotch due to estrus because spaying eliminates the heat cycle.

3. Licking is a form of self soothing

Licking any part of the body is a soothing mechanism in dogs, and the genitals aren’t exempt. You’ll see a nervous dog licking their paws and legs, so why not the crotch? Bored dogs can also lick themselves to get some stimulation. Other dogs lick their nose as an early sign of stress to soothe themselves.

Signs That a dog licking their genitals indicates a problem include:

  • Red, swollen penis, vulva, or anus
  • Color discoloration around the private areas
  • Scooting the anus on the ground
  • Discharge from the genitals
  • Foul odor from the privates
  • Straining to urinate
  • Increased frequency of urination

These signs can point to any of the following issues:

4. Urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and licking genitals

UTIs cause discomfort, and dogs may lick their privates to try and minimize the pain. A study of 42 dogs showed that dogs with hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus have a higher risk of contracting UTIs.

Other signs of UTI include:

  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Little to no urine released
  • Bloody urine
  • Pain and discomfort when peeing

Another possibility is stones in the urinary tract, such as bladder stones or obstructions in the urethra. This can cause a great deal of pain and result in your dog licking the area.

5. Anal gland impactions can lead to licking

Anal glands release secretions that give every dog a distinct scent, which are released when pooping. Dogs with diarrhea or soft stools don’t stimulate (express) their glands adequately, leading to impactions.

Impacted glands cause a dog discomfort, and they may respond by licking their anal area. Manual extraction of the trapped fluid should improve the situation. Neglected impacted anal glands can get infected, causing abscessed anal glands.

6. Allergies can cause crotch licking

Food or environmental allergies can cause itchy genitals, rashes, and secondary infections that can result in licking. Other signs include:

  • Sneezing
  • Red, Inflamed skin around the affected area
  • Swelling
  • Dry skin

Removal of the allergen, like walking dogs with pollen allergies in the morning or evening when there is less pollen in the air, can reduce crotch licking. Food allergies are much harder to diagnose since they must eliminate every ingredient to identify the culprit.

7. Skin Infection in the genital areas

Dogs suffering from bacterial or fungal infections experience itchiness and lick affected areas for relief. Red, itchy bumps around the area typically suggest a skin infection, and antibiotics is usually the best treatment.

Why Do Male Dogs Lick Their Private Areas?

Male dogs lick themselves at their privates to keep them privates clean. However, abnormal preputial (sheath) discharge is the biggest cause of excessive genital licking in male dogs. UTIs, prostate cancer, and urinary incontinence are leading causes of discharge and issues of a dog’s privates.

Their penis is covered by a sheath, the preputial, and any discharge or pus emanating from it indicates an issue. A dog can have normal whitish-yellow “smegma” discharge that’s not a medical issue. This causes the male dog to lick the genitals more frequently to clean the area.

Why Do Female Dogs Lick Their Privates?

Female dogs, like males, typically lick their privates to clean themselves, for instance, after peeing or pooping. Female dogs can also lick their privates more frequently when in heat.

Vulva engorgement and discharge cause increased licking around the genitals in female dogs. However, abnormal genital licking can indicate medical issues such as:

  • urogenital tract infections,
  • pyometra
  • vaginitis
  • Foreign body or trauma to the urogenital tract

My Dog Keeps Licking His Private Area and Crying: Meaning

This behavior indicates pain around the genitals due to illness or injury. Investigate your dog’s private areas for any wounds or lacerations if you suspect the licking is due to an injury. You’ll likely see blood if an injury is the cause of excessive crotch licking, but look out for signs of bladder stones.

If you’re googling “why does my dog keep biting his privates, ” it may be time to see the vet to rule out infections or obstructions.

Licking the crotch due to pain allows a dog to stimulate healing due to their saliva’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. The act of licking also triggers the release of endorphins which helps injured dogs deal with the pain better.

If the affected area has blood, the dog will lick more intensely to help with clotting and eliminate dirt and debris. Illnesses that cause pain and discomfort around the genitals, like urogenital tract cancers and infections of the urinary tract.

My Dog Keeps Licking Her Private Area In Heat–what does it mean?

My Dog Keeps Licking Her Private Area In Heat–what does it mean?

Dogs lick their vulva when in heat to clean the area of the bloody discharge and for self-comfort. This is perfectly normal behavior that is to be expected in spayed females as a response to vulva swelling and discharge.

Crotch licking is likely due to another reason besides being in heat for spayed female dogs. Since sterilization involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus, the heat cycle is complexly eliminated in spayed dogs.

My Dog Keeps Licking Their Private Area, and It’s Red

Red, inflamed genitals may indicate an allergic reaction or an infection and cause increased licking of the privates in dogs. Food and seasonal allergies and contact dermatitis be the issue, but a vet will need to look for UTIs or bacteria and fungal infections.

If you notice your dog licking the genitals after walks or only after meals, they’re likely allergic to something. Dogs with allergies suffer from intense itchiness and will lick and scratch themselves incessantly. They will lick their entire body and even look like they’re licking air if they can’t reach the area.

Allergic reactions causing crotch licking will settle after allergy medications or the allergen removal. You’ll need to consult your vet if you suspect your dog has allergies for diagnosis and treatment.

Final Thoughts

Dogs lick their private parts no matter who’s watching, and it’s normal. They lick their genitals to clean themselves or when in heat for female dogs. Sometimes excessive crotch licking indicates a health issue if accompanied by other signs like yelping, discharge, and redness.


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.

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