Licking, a dog health problem

Dogs are wonderful pets and it is the responsibility of their owners to be aware of the many dog health problems. This article is about one dog health problem – licking.

Just about every dog owner has observed this common vice in a pet. There are many reasons for dogs to engage in face licking and not all of them can conclusively be considered related to health problems.


A mother dog will always lick her newborn puppies. This helps to rouse them from their post-partum stupor and clean away the birth sac. It also stimulates their breathing and to pass feces and urine. This is also the beginning of the bonding between a mother and her puppies. Even if the dog owner cleans the puppies, the mother will still lick them. Sometimes, a puppy may be observed licking the mother lip to stimulate the mother to vomit. When this vomiting occurs, the puppies will eat it.


When nervous or stressed, dogs will exhibit certain behaviors just the same as humans. The next time you are stopped at a traffic light, observe the driver of the car next to you. He or she may be paying with his or her hair or chewing the fingernails. Dogs will also exhibit odd behaviors, such as lip licking, as an expression of nervousness or stress. Visiting the same vet’s office where a previous visit had been unpleasant or painful may very well cause such a behavior.


Under conditions of stress, dogs of a sensitive nature will often lick themselves. This can possibly cause acral lick dermatitis, depending on where the dog licks. Sometimes, a dog under stress will lick walls, floors and furniture rather than its own body. To put a stop to this kind of licking behavior, the root cause, such as stress or anxiety, must be identified and treated.

When the owner doesn’t like the licking, regardless of the reason, the best way to stop it is with reward and mild punishment. Reward is the most likely way to elicit a positive response according to psychologist BF Skinner.