Why Do Dogs Lick and When It’s Too Much

Updated On: Friday, May 27, 2022 12:41:01 PM America/Los_Angeles

There’s no welcome home greeting like a couple of sloppy kisses from your fur baby. But what happens when some drool-y affection or curiosity turns into obsessive licking? While it’s no secret that dogs love to lick everything in sight, licking can become harmful when it’s excessive. Knowing the reasons behind why canines lick can help dog pawrents be more aware of when the behavior is starting to get out of control. 

Photo by John Salzarulo 

The Reasons Dogs Lick

Licking is one of the central ways that dogs learn about and move through their environment. This means that there are numerous reasons behind those licks! They include:

  • Exploring: Licks help dogs explore more than just the exciting world of food. They can also use licking as a way to become familiar with a person or another animal. Since taste and smell are important for these natural hunters, canines will often lick the object of their curiosity to find out more about them. 
  • Grooming or cleaning: Canines use their saliva to groom themselves, whether it’s to tidy up after using the dog bathroom or to clean a wound. Grooming is typically seen after meals or walks, but it’s not unusual to see dogs “grooming” in response to irritated or itchy skin, too. 
  • Greeting or communicating: Your pooch isn’t just saying hello when they lick your hand. Other reasons a dog might lick humans are to say that they’re hungry, want to go outside, or to simply get your attention. 
  • Self-soothing: Licking is often used by canines to calm themselves or those around them, and when dogs excessively lick themselves they’re likely trying to self-soothe. Hot spots can form as a result of anxiety-driven grooming.

How Much Licking Is Too Much? 

Even natural behaviors like licking a wound can quickly become excessive if it prevents healing or causes damage to the skin. That being said, how much licking is too much really depends on the situation. While it can be distressing to see your furry one licking a toy to no end, that isn’t necessarily harmful. The underlying reason–perhaps boredom or anxiety–should be addressed, but licking isn’t the primary issue there. Rather, licking itself becomes a concern when it causes harm by irritating or breaking the skin. If a dog licks to the point of irritating skin or preventing healing, then it’s a behavior that needs to be addressed. 

Using a soothing no chew spray can deter dogs from grooming hot spots and bug bites if the licking gets too excessive. For pups who are using licking as a self-soothing behavior, lick mats can offer an appropriate distraction. And for injured doggos needing more time to heal? A real grass pee pad like DoggieLawn can provide some relief from exposing skin to the elements!