Dogs do some very strange things on occasion. Truth is, that's part of why we love them so much. It's what makes them unique and gives them their own cute, personal character. Although some won't be detrimental to your pets health, not all habits are good for your dog and some can be downright worrying. Air licking is one of the latter. Have you noticed your pup has suddenly started to stick his tongue out frequently? At first you may think he's just trying to show you how healthy and pink his slobbery choppers are or how long his tongue is, but when it continues for any length of time, you'll need to consider he may have begun air licking.
The Root of the Behavior
When a dog constantly licks at nothing, you might suppose he's got something tasty on his lips and he's just enjoying the moment. You may even think that he can smell something far beyond your personal nasal range and is savoring that scent long distance while devouring it in his imagination. It's possible, but not really very likely. Is he hungry and letting you know he wants his dinner the only way he knows how? It's probable, but could there be more to his constant tongue display than a desire to munch on his favorite Kibble pellets? Has he decided to try his luck as a lizard impersonator? Definitely not.
If he is air licking a lot, what is more probable is that he's feeling anxious or suffering some kind of stress which you haven't picked up on. If you're somewhere new, it could just be the change of environment which is causing him unease and he's got no other way of letting you know he's not happy. If you're at home, he could just be worried because he's somehow got the impression you're taking him to the vet and there's no way he wants to go there.
Is air licking something new for your dog? Try and think about where you've been with him and what you've been doing. Have you been out for a walk or spent time in the park? Is it possible he may have eaten something, maybe grass or rubbish, which has made him feel sick. Air licking can often be the first sign that your dog is about to retch or worse, he may even vomit. He may be doing it because whatever he ate has given him a pretty bad tummy ache. It could also be because something, part of a bone, chew stick or anything else he's been chomping on, has got stuck between his teeth and he's figuring out, with his tongue, how to get rid of it.
Encouraging the Behavior
Although dogs do like to lick, air licking is not really a natural thing for a dog to do. For that reason alone, air licking deserves to be given some attention. You do need to find out just why your dog has started to do it and if it is his way of trying to tell you something important. If it is a temporary thing with an easily solvable cause, such as something in his tooth which you can easily remove, then all well and good. However, if your dog has ingested something harmless, like part of the lawn, that may not be too much to worry about as the solution will happen naturally in due course. If you just can't think of a reason why he is doing this new thing, then consulting your pet's veterinary professional as soon as possible is the best idea. There are some medical conditions that can cause your dog to lick the air such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disorders, and canine cognitive dysfunction. So, if you think your dog is not just trying to lick the crumbs off his nose or just having fun, you should see your veterinarian as soon as you can.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Air licking, if it continues for any length of time, shouldn't be ignored as it can indicate your pet might have a serious medical condition. Dogs often air lick when suffering from convulsions. Even though your dog might not be displaying any other common symptoms associated with canine convulsions or there's none which are particularly apparent, air licking is a signal you should take notice of. Another thing which is worth taking into consideration is that, after air licking a few times, your dog has developed a liking for it. He may well have noticed the worried look on your face, enjoyed the extra attention you bestowed on him while trying to find out what was wrong, and this, through no fault of your own, as evolved into a compulsive behaviour disorder. This is not to say you should ignore his air licking by any means, but a visit to the vet would be well in order.
Now you are aware that air licking is not a normal canine habit. You’ve read about some of the reasons why dogs do it, the times when you should be concerned, and also have a good idea when you need to take action. But, as with pretty much everything in life, there's always one exception to the rule. If you're out walking your dog, pass by a house where they're having a summer barbecue and the aroma of hamburgers cooking floats to your nostrils shortly before your dog starts air licking, then you could possibly consider it to be normal. You'll probably be doing it too.