Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Wednesdays to see common pet behavior questions answered by our Senior Director of Operations and pet behavior expert, CJ Bentley. If you have an immediate behavior concern with your pet, please call a qualified trainer or behaviorist! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.
“How do you stop a dog from licking all the time. Licking everything from himself, me, the couch, the carpet… everything. What does he need?”
Great job on your actual question here. You asked the RIGHT question, which is “what does he need?” Because he does need something. If you haven’t already, I’d take him to a Michigan Humane Society Veterinary Center (www.michiganhumane.org) and tell them what’s going on. Before we can tackle the behavior aspect, we need to make sure that he’s not missing something in his diet and/or be sure his body is processing everything correctly. Then, assuming he’s a perfectly healthy boy…we’ll consider what else he might need.
There could be a lot of things – but let’s focus on the two most probable: (1) He needs a stress reliever or (2) He’s looking for attention. You may be able to identify if its stress by noting when he licks. I’d recommend keeping a journal of when and what he licks for say two weeks. While at first you may call me crazy (it happens all the time) you would be surprised what people learn when they document their dog’s (or cat’s) behaviors. When the behavior happens you need to be an observer not a “diagnoser.” We can only work with factual observations.
An entry could like this: Monday/8:30 a.m./licking my bedroom carpet/I am putting shoes on for work/it is raining outside/the garbage men are in the neighborhood/the kids left for school 15 minutes ago/the neighbor’s dog is barking – you get the picture. From there you can work to see if there is a pattern. It’ll be fun! And if it is stress, you can try a diffuser plug in like Comfort Zone in the room/s he’s most likely to “stress” in. If you know when the stress will occur you can provide a nice Squirrel Dude with kibble in it BEFORE he starts licking, and/or work with a behaviorist to help him become more comfortable in dealing with his stressors. On the other hand, if he’s a really smart boy who is using the behavior to get attention – well, that’s pretty easy to diagnose.
The only question is – what do you (or other family members) do when he licks? If he is yelled at, moved, actually paid any attention to at all – he could be doing it on purpose to get you to notice him. If that’s it…well the journal can help you here too. Because if you know when he will try to get your attention, use that Squirrel Dude type toy to keep him busy BEFORE he starts so he forgets to even start licking. And be sure to pay him lots of attention before he starts licking. If you miss a cue and he starts licking leave the room and find one of his most favorite toys. Start playing with it all by yourself. He’ll hear you and want to join in that fun – a much more appropriate way to get your attention.