Does your dog seem to spend an infinite amount of time licking himself? Why is he doing it? And how do you, as a dog owner, correct that annoying licking habit? Here are five of the most common reasons why your dog might be incessantly licking himself and the solutions to correcting the habit.
1. Your dog might have developed an unrelenting licking habit because he needs a bath.
If your dog spends a lot of time outside, romping through the woods, tramping in the mud, rolling in the grass, or wading in the nearest stream or pond, he is probably dirty. So, your dog may be constantly licking himself because the dirt is irritating him! Plus, all that outdoor activity may have gotten him infested with ticks, fleas, mites, or lice. Your dog’s incessant licking may be an attempt to rid himself of those nasty varmints!
Give him a bath with a veterinarian-approved flea and tick shampoo. Before bathing him, make sure you brush out all the mats and tangles from his coat or the bathing will make them worse.
2. Your dog might have developed a chronic licking habit because he has a skin disorder.
Some common skin disorders that a dog may develop are mange or dermatitis. Mange is a skin disease in dogs that is caused by various types of mites. Dermatitis could be caused by an allergic reaction to fleas, dust mites, mold, or a certain brand of dog food. If you suspect that your dog has a case of mange or dermatitis, your veterinarian will be able to diagnose what the disorder is and prescribe a course of treatment.
3. Your dog might have developed a persistent licking habit because he is under stress.
The stress may be a result of a new adoption, physical abuse, separation anxiety, or even a reaction to a new food. If you think separation anxiety might be the cause of his stress, there are several methods for solving the problem. Try exposing your dog to being alone for very short periods of time. When your dog has adjusted to being alone for that duration of time, gradually increase your departure period. If you must be away from your dog for a long period of time, while you are away at work, try to find a friend or neighbor who could come over and take him for a walk a couple of times during the day.
Perhaps a new dog in the family is causing the stress? It is very common to experience a period of stress and adjustment when a new dog is brought into a household that has an established pet. One way to help make the transition a little easier is to give your older dog a lot of attention and love. It will let him know that he’s still a vital part of the family. Just remember that it will take time for your dogs to adjust to one another and be one happy dog family!
Changing your dog’s diet can also cause stress. If you’re thinking of feeding your dog a new brand of dry dog food, do it gradually and over a period of four days or longer. On the first day that you change the food, feed your dog one-quarter of the new food with three-quarters of the old food. Add in another quarter of the new food after a couple of days or so. After another two days, add in another quarter of the new dog food. Finally, after another couple of days or so, you will be able to leave out the old dog food entirely!
If you cannot determine the cause of your dog’s stress, talk to your veterinarian. He’ll be able to refer you to a dog behaviorist who will be able to determine the cause of your dog’s stress. If your dog has severe separation anxiety, an anti-anxiety medication might be considered to alleviate the anxiety. Drugs are not a complete solution, however, and should be used along with a treatment program.
4. Your dog might have developed an incessant licking habit because he has an injury that has resulted in an open wound.
A dog that has developed an injury that has resulted in an open wound will lick himself incessantly in an attempt to clean the wound and keep it free from bacteria. Dog saliva has been proven to kill some germs and when your dog licks an open wound, it will aid in keeping the wound infection-free.
Veterinarian treatment may be required if your dog appears to be in pain, the wound contains a foreign material and is deep enough to require stitches, is bleeding excessively, or becomes infected.
5. Your dog might have developed a relentless licking habit because he has developed the bad habit of doing so.
Some dogs develop the habit of licking their paws incessantly despite them being clean, uninjured, and parasite-free!
Your dog may develop the habit of constantly licking himself because he has a lot of nervous energy and no way to alleviate the stress. He also may have learned this behavior because he is bored and this is a way to entertain himself!
Give your dog lots of time to play and run and work off any excess energy. If your dog is well-exercised and happy, he won’t feel the need to relentlessly lick himself to relieve stress or boredom!
The information detailed above will help you discover and correct your dog’s habit of chronic licking. With careful observation and a little attention to proper grooming, training, along with regular veterinarian visits, you can ‘lick’ your dog’s incessant licking habit!