Why Does My Dog Lick Everything? Is There Something Wrong?

Licking is a natural canine behavior, but if your pup seems to be licking everything constantly, you may wonder if something is wrong with them. If you’ve ever wondered why dogs lick so much or how much licking is too much, keep reading!

Why Do Dogs Lick Things?

There are tons of reasons why dogs lick themselves, things in their environment, and people. Some of the most common reasons dogs lick include:

  • They’re itchy

  • They enjoy the taste of salt

  • They’re grooming themselves

  • They are thirsty or hungry

  • They enjoy it

  • They’re exploring the world

  • They are nauseous

  • They have cognitive issues

  • They’re bored, stressed, or anxious

  • They have an oral or dental problem

  • They’re showing respect

  • They want to play

  • They’re in pain

Do Puppies Stop Licking When They Grow Up?

While puppies do outgrow many behaviors people may find “undesirable,” licking isn’t one of them. You can expect your pooch to continue licking throughout their lifespan.

What Do Dogs Lick and Why?

Dogs lick a wide variety of things for any number of reasons, including:

  • They lick their puppies to keep them clean, encourage bowel movements, and remove smells that could attract predators.

  • Dogs may lick the air if they have allergies, a gastrointestinal problem, dental pain, or even neurological problems.

  • Dogs love the taste of salt on human skin and also lick people’s faces to show respect and affection.

  • They lick their butt to keep it clean, but excessive licking of “private parts” may indicate fleas, an anal gland infection, a urinary tract infection, or another health condition.

  • The sofa may be covered in crumbs, spills, or the salt and oil from a human’s skin - all tasty things for a pup to want to lick!

  • Dogs lick other dogs to submit to them or groom them.

Can Licking Be Caused By a Medical Problem?

Yes, certain medical issues can definitely cause your dog to lick themselves - and too much licking can also cause health problems like hot spots. Medical issues that may cause your dog to lick themselves a lot include:

  • Allergies

  • Anal gland infection

  • Nausea

  • Cognitive failure

  • Behavioral problems

  • Fleas

  • Dental or oral issues

  • Anxiety or stress

  • Skin problems

  • Injuries

If you’re concerned about your dog’s licking or notice other symptoms, you should take your pup to the vet for an exam.

How Much Licking Is Too Much in Dogs?

It never hurts to talk to your vet if you’re worried your pup is licking too much, but you should definitely go to the vet if you notice these signs of excessive licking:

  • Hair loss, oozing, or skin redness anywhere on their body

  • Dog whines or moans when licking a specific area

  • Mats in the fur close to the skin in areas the dog likes to lick

  • Dog wakes frequently to lick or chew on themselves

  • Dog often stops playing to lick

  • Your dog is unable to live their life normally due to their constant licking

How to Get Your Pup to Stop Licking Things

The first thing you should do if your dog is licking excessively is to take them to the vet to look for a medical cause of their licking. If there isn’t a medical condition causing your dog to lick so much, you can try giving them appropriate distractions like chew toys, food puzzles, treat balls, or lick mats.

If you’re trying to get your dog to stop licking something specific, a bitter spray may help deter them.

If nothing else seems to help, a certified animal behaviorist may be able to help determine the cause of your dog’s licking and work with you to create a plan that addresses the issue.