Dogs like to lick all sorts of things but licking their private parts can be embarrassing, especially if you have special guests around. Unfortunately, no one has told dogs they have private parts and so to lick that area of their bodies is just licking another part of their anatomy. Male dogs will lick their penis and female dogs will lick their vulva and both sexes will lick their anus. The fact that they do this in public can make their owners feel uncomfortable, but dogs do lick their private parts for many different reasons. The licking of private parts could be for pleasure or to relieve some discomfort. It could be part of the sexual behavior of a dog if there is a bitch in heat. Then the licking could also just be the dog’s desire to keep clean.
The Root of the Behavior
Male and female dogs are equipped differently to fulfill their roles in the procreation of their species. Male dogs have their penis protected by a sheath called the preputical. It is a fold of skin that covers the penis and when the dog is aroused the penis may protrude from the preputical sheath. Licking is a natural part of the male dog’s behavior. Female dogs will lick their vulva quite vigorously sometimes as they derive pleasure from this activity. Licking the vulva from a sexual perspective could be the sign that your female is coming into heat. The vulva will swell and there will be some discharge and even some blood as the heat period progresses. A bitch will come into heat about every six months unless she has been spayed. A spayed bitch does not come into heat because she will not be able to have puppies.
wsThere are other reasons why both male and female dogs will lick their private parts and if you notice excessive licking then this could be the indication of a problem. Blood or urine tests to diagnose the problem and the bacteria that is causing the irritation may be necessary. There is a possibility that your dog’s licking could just be cleaning up after a walk in the garden or urinating outside. If the licking persists, look for a discharge or signs of constant urinating. Your dog could have a urinary tract infection. A visit to the vet would be advisable for further investigation and the vet may do some blood or urine tests. Yeast infections, pustules, and red bumps in the genital area will indicate infection and cause your dog to want to lick to relieve the irritation. This is a very sensitive area and your dog will feel the prickly heat of a rash here more than other parts of his body. Keep the area clean with a damp cloth if necessary but do not apply petroleum jelly or other products without advice from your vet.
Encouraging the Behavior
Male and female dogs may lick their anal area as a part of keeping clean or it may be the result of more serious problems. All dogs have anal glands and licking this area could be an indication of a blocked anal gland. The anal gland fills up with unpleasant fluid that is normally discharged with pressure by your dog during defecation. If this gland becomes impacted and blocked, the discomfort and irritation could cause your dog to lick this area excessively. Another indication of irritation in the anal area is scooting along the floor to relieve the pressure of the blocked gland. A vet will need to drain the gland to stop the irritation then your dog will no longer feel this discomfort. Allergies to food and damp grass or pesticides can also cause irritation. Remembering to deworm your dog is an important factor and would keep your dog more comfortable in the anal area as well as ensuring that your family is not at risk from these worms. If your dog continues to lick frantically after seeing there is no physical problem, there is always the possibility that excessive licking is an emotional reaction from a fearful or stressed dog. You may need some help or advice from a professional animal behaviorist to resolve this kind of excessive licking of your dog’s private parts.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs and some of their habits can make dog owners feel embarrassed. Licking their private parts is one of these embarrassing moments but it is a natural behavior. Giving your dog's private parts comical names doesn’t really change the fact that this behavior is foreign to humans but natural to dogs. Different dog behaviors that can help their owners understand underlying problems and have a role to play in living with a dog. Dogs are part of our domestic environment so it is important to know when to worry about an excessive behavior or just to relax in the face of what is normal for a dog.
Every dog owner will realize that there are some differences in what is acceptable for dogs and what their owners find they can tolerate. Imagine if there was a serenity prayer for dogs! We would pledge to accept the things we cannot change - like licking private parts! Have the courage to change the things we can - learning about dog behavior. And we would find the wisdom to know the difference between natural dog behavior and a dog in distress mode.
Written by a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 01/30/2020