You walk into the house after a long day at work and your pooch pounces on you, slobbering you liberally as he swishes his tongue all over you. You will definitely feel loved and welcome, knowing how much you were missed.
Licking is one of the ways in which the dogs communicate. They lick to express their love and to clean themselves and their little ones. Many times, the licking is just normal behavior. So if you see them licking the bed, should you worry?
Reasons Dogs Lick
Let’s quickly review some of the reasons they could be doing this:
- It’s Just Who They Are! Hmmm… that’s an interesting smell and they are going to get to the root of it. Yes, your Roxy may have detected some curiously vague smell, could be your dried, salty sweat (yes, that sounds gross to you but not him) and is wetting it to investigate further, in the right earnest.
- For Health and Hygiene: When dogs have puppies, licking is a way to keep the little ones clean. If Lucy has become a new mother, you will find her licking the bed to make it clean and safe for the pups.
- Looking for Mamma: A recently separated pup could be longing for its mamma and licking is an indication of insecurity. Give it lots of cuddles and love.
- Stress and Anxiety: In fact, even in adult dogs, excessive bed licking could be an indication of seeking attention or anxiety. If your Bruno has experienced some trauma or there has been some dramatic change in your lives, it may be affecting him. Give him more time to feel safe and loved.
- I Am Cleaning Myself, Silly! Dogs keep themselves clean by licking, and if they are doing it when on the bed, licking the bed may be unintentional. Though it is unpleasant for you to sleep on a bed slobbered with Luna’s drool, that’s the least of your concerns.
- Dadda, I Am Hungry: Has Riley had enough to eat? Is it hunger that is making him lick in the quest for food? There could be crumbs he has saved up on the bed that he is lapping up greedily.
- Seeking a Leader: Being a pack animal, your Bella may be seeking a strong, calm and assertive leader. Dogs demonstrate submission by licking in front of a dominating leader. If you are not giving her what she is seeking, then it could be messing up with her head and she is reacting by licking not just the bed, but anything that comes her way. You know what, you may need training to become an assertive leader.
- Can’t Lick Master! Have you firmly told your poor little pet that he cannot lick you because you are grappling with your own OCDs! Awww, he will seek replacement and objects where he can smell you to make up for it. And what better place than the bed? Remember, he has to show his love and licking is one of the ways he communicates it.
- A Sign of Boredom: An environment that does not provide your pooch with enough stimulation can lead to compulsive grooming behavior. Bed licking may be one of the forms in which it manifests itself. Make sure you give your pet enough exercise, time and attention.
- Just Some Comfort: It could be that your canine pet is showing that the bed is as much hers and licking it to stake a claim. If she licks just before nap time, it may be a settling down routing to clean it and spread her scent.
- A Sign of Aging: Like humans, dogs too suffer as they age and bed licking behavior may be one of the age-related symptoms like loss of appetite, defiance, slow reflexes, longer nap times and irritability.
Handle with Care
If it is any of these reasons, you can deal with it by providing your pooch with a lot of natural chews and bones. Give him time, attention and plenty of exercise to ward off boredom and anxiety. Playing with him can be a great way to overcome some of the unwanted behaviors. If there is going to be a change, make it gradual and give her time to get accustomed to it. Also, make sure she is well fed and has plenty of naps.
Excessive bed licking could lead to hot spots, hair loss or skin irritation. Do not punish your pet, though. Positive reinforcement through rewards for listening to you might be more effective in getting your dog to stop licking indiscriminately.
Oh, and do not feed your dog near the bed and keep the bed always clean.
But if none of these work and there are other worrying symptoms, it may be time to see the vet.
Time for the Vet
Do you notice your loyal friend going off into a trance while licking furiously? It may be more than just boredom or anxiety. An underlying medical condition such as gastrointestinal problems may cause your pet to lick strange surfaces like your bed to get some relief. Some pet medicines, changes in diet or increased consumption of human food can trigger nausea and the dog may lick the bed to overcome it.
Liver problems or a neurological disorder can also make your pooch lick surfaces a lot.
According to one study of 19 dogs, 74% were found to lick objects excessively because of health conditions such as:
- Eosinophilic and/or lymphoplasmacytic infiltration or the presence of a foreign body in the GI tract
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Intestinal lymphosarcoma
- Liver disease
These are easily treatable with a timely visit to the vet. So, while you may not want to worry too much, don’t delay going to a professional for guidance. It may be that you need a trainer or the vet, but either way, getting your pooch out of the habit is good for you and him.
You Can Do It
You are your pooch’s pack and leader. You are his family. You are everything to this loving, lovable canine. Give him the right social cues, the right attention, diet and exercise so that he can remain healthy and a joy forever. But if things seem to go out of hand, do not hesitate to consult a professional.