Doggie licks come with the territory. Your dog will use his tongue to communicate a lot of things to you and others, clean himself, as well as eat. But have you noticed that sometimes during a lick fest he will close his eyes? As humans, it is difficult to not put our own feelings and interpretations behind what a dog does, especially since they cannot tell you for themselves. It is important to look at what his species does, factor in the domestication, and then at times make an educated guess. Understanding why a dog licks can help you understand why he closes his eyes. As long as his licking does not seem obsessive or medically related, do not worry about the closed eyes. If it does seem to be a problem, seek the advice of a vet and perhaps trainer.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs will also lick because something hurts. Sometimes it is obvious in that he is licking between his toes because there is a burr or cut in there. But other times it could be because he is struggling with allergies, inflammation, joint or nerve pain, or an infection. He may also lick because he is dehydrated and his dry mouth drives him to lick. An infection in his mouth, gums, or teeth can cause him to lick often. Nausea may lead to excessive licking as well. While exceedingly rare, dogs that develop canine distemper may have seizures called “chewing gum fits” that resemble licking. Older dogs may lick often as a part of dementia. Dogs may lick as a part of obsessive-compulsive disorder and can cause granuloma lesions on their skin. Even dogs without OCD can lick from stress, separation, boredom, or anxiety.
Encouraging the Behavior
Licking for reasons other than pleasure or to say hello can be a problem if not handled properly. If you find your pet licking a particular area, investigate. Does he have a bur, cut, tick, or other object lodged in a part of his body? Does he have an open wound? Perhaps his teeth or gums are bothering him. If his licking is accompanied by nausea, or you witness him panting a lot, consider taking him to the veterinarian for an evaluation. It is essential that he visit the vet if you suspect any type of neurological problem such as seizures.