5 Ways to Stop Excessive Canine Licking

Canine licking occurs for many reasons, including stress, health problems and obsessive compulsive disorder. Recognizing the underlying cause of the licking is the most important part of treating it. Before beginning any behavior modification plan, consult your veterinarian to eliminate a medical cause.

1. Calm Your Dog

Many dogs lick excessively because they are anxious or fearful. Try to determine when your dog licks. If it seems to be always in conjunction with a certain event, like getting in the car, this is probably anxiety-related. To fix it, you must relieve his anxiety.

For example, if he is afraid of thunderstorms, help your dog become more comfortable. This involves exposing him to the stimulus at low levels, such as buying a thunderstorm sound CD and playing it at a very low level, where your dog's ears perk but he doesn't seem stressed. Gradually, make the CD louder and louder until it mimics a thunderstorm. Give your dog treats throughout this process. If he ever gets stressed, you're moving too fast.

2. Change His Diet

Canine licking can be brought about by allergies, and a common source of allergens is diet. Many dogs are allergic to corn, wheat or other preservatives used in commercial diets. Some dogs are allergic to certain protein sources, such as chicken.

Try putting your dog on a raw or homecooked diet that consists of no preservatives and only one protein. Some commercial diets also meet this requirement. Try one protein for two weeks and then switch to another. See if he does better on one particular diet.

3. Relieve the Itching

If your dog has environmental allergies, a dietary change won't help. The best thing to do is help ease the itching in his skin.

At least once a week, bathe him with an oatmeal shampoo or medicinal shampoo from your vet. Wipe him off with a wet rag when he comes in from outside to remove pollens on his skin. There are many types of soothing sprays available that go directly on the hot spots as well. Many of them are holistic, such as yucca spray.

4. Train a Stop Command

Teach your dog a "leave it" command by holding a handful of treats.

  • Give him one and say, "Take it."
  • Repeat.
  • Now say, "Leave it," and close your fist.
  • Hold your fist right by his nose and wait for him to look away from it.
  • Once he looks at you, say, "Good." Let him take a treat.
  • Repeat until he can look away from a treat in your flat palm.

Now, use that command when he licks himself. When he looks up at you, reward him. If you have fixed the underlying problem, he will stop licking on command.

5. Medication

If your dog has a medical condition that causes excessive grooming or sucking, you may have to put him on some medication, such as an SSRI that will help with his obsessive compulsive disorder. This must be done with veterinarian supervision.

There are many reasons why canine licking occurs, and the best way to reduce it is to reduce your dog's discomfort. Determine the cause of the licking and proceed to the solution.