How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick

How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon4-6 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

The behavior of a dog licking is very natural. When they are puppies, dogs are licked by their mothers to encourage movement, to show love, to keep them clean, and to provide affection. Dogs grow up using their mouths to explore the world. If your dog licks your face as he greets you, it is because he is saying hello in the way that is most natural to him. Your skin is soft and smooth, which is comforting for your dog. Your skin may even taste salty and yummy for your dog, as much as it may be annoying to people.

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Defining Tasks

Dogs also naturally lick their own wounds to encourage the healing process. Dogs will lick their paws excessively or their skin excessively to groom, clean, and to feel better. Excessive licking can not only be annoying to watch and hear, but it can also pose problems on your dog's skin. Licking wounds could cause potential bacterial infections or even pull stitches out if your dog has had recent surgery. Licking a paw excessively could indicate an injury you may know nothing about. At the same time, obsessively licking an injury could cause more damage.

Once you know your dog is safe, not injured, and only licking because of habit, you may want to begin to correct compulsive licking.

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Getting Started

To ensure your dog is not licking his body excessively for medical reasons, be sure to have your dog evaluated by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can check for things such as hay fever and allergy-related skin conditions. You can also talk about obsessive-compulsive disorders such as stress and separation anxiety.

Once your dog is cleared medically, if he is licking you to provide sweet puppy kisses or licking his body simply as a compulsive behavior you can address these problems with some retraining, positive reinforcement, patience, and lots of treats. Licking is a habit that takes time to forget. It might take your dog several weeks to forget this bad habit and replace it with a new habit.

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The Kisses Greeting Method

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Kisses Greeting method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick
1

Turn away

If your dog is used to licking you as a greeting, turn your face away to encourage the dog not to lick your face.

2

Reward

The moment your dog's tongue is withdrawn and away from your face, offer him a treat and attention by way of petting.

3

Offer alternatives

You can train your dog alternative ways of greeting such as the “give me your paw” command or a “sit” command, so you have a chance to pet and greet your dog without being licked in the face.

4

Practice and reward

As you are training these commands, turn your head away from your dog's face any time he tries to lick you. Once your dog pulls his tongue in and away from your face, give him a treat and some affection by way of petting.

5

Reinforce

Over time, your dog will be used to an alternative greeting such as remaining calm with his tongue in his mouth or sitting and waiting for a good petting from you.

The Distraction Method

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Distraction method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick
1

Retraining

If your dog is always licking his own body, you will need to begin to retrain and provide distractions.

2

Offer alternatives

When you see your dog licking his paws incessantly, for instance, offer him a toy to chew.

3

Encourage

While your dog chews on his toy, offer him a petting and a treat for every few minutes he is not licking his body.

4

Repeat and reward

Repeat this process every time you see your dog licking obsessively. Be sure to reward good behavior with treats when he pulls away from licking his paws or other areas on his body.

5

Reinforce

Eventually, your dog will find entertainment elsewhere, such as a toy, and recognize the reward in treats when he is not licking obsessively.

The Give Paw Method

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Give Paw method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick
1

Sit

Ask your dog to sit and offer a treat when he obeys. If your dog does not sit immediately, go back and revisit this command with your dog so every time you say the command, “sit,” he knows what to do.

2

Introduce a treat

Holding a treat in one closed hand show it to your dog but don't allow him to eat it.

3

Introduce command

Give the command, “give me your paw,” and wave the treat in your closed hand under your dog's nose.

4

Wait

Wait patiently for your dog to paw at your hand trying to get to the treat inside your closed fist. Your dog may sniff your hand, but stand firm and wait for that paw to come up to try to open your hand to release the treat.

5

Reward

Once the paw comes up and touches your hands to release the treat, tell him good boy, open your hand, and allow him to eat his reward.

6

Practice

Practice this several times until you can have an open hand with a treat sitting on top, and when you say the command, “give me your paw,” your dog touches your hand with his paw before eating his treat. This training may take several days several times a day to practice, but eventually when you say the command, “give me your paw.” your dog should put his paw up in your hand before expecting a treat reward

7

Add the alternative to your greeting

As part of the greeting process, before you allow your dog to lick your face to say hello, put your hand out and use the “give me your paw” command. Once your dog comprehends the command, use this as a greeting every time you see your dog to avoid the puppy kisses.

8

Get support

Ask anyone who greets your dog not to allow puppy kisses and face licking but rather to ask your dog to give them his paw as a greeting. Once your dog has been trained to use shaking your hand as a normal greeting, he will expect everyone who crosses his path to shake instead of offering sloppy wet puppy kisses.

By PB Getz

Published: 09/20/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Maisie

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maltease

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Six Months

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Question

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Hi I have 3 maltease dogs Louie is 9 Rosie is 2 Maisie 6 months I had to put rugs on the floor Louie has got knuckling when iam out maise she chewing the rugs really bad she has lots of toys and the other dogs to play with and she only does it when iam out please help x

Jan. 11, 2023

Maisie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, At this age, Maisie is still in the destructive chewing phase - where older puppies' jaws develop strength and it leads to another surge in puppy chewing. This period often lasts until 9-12 months. When you can't supervise pup to teach her to Leave It and give her a chew toy instead, I recommend either crate training or setting up an exercise pen and placing durable chew toys in the crate or pen. To help pup learn during this phase to chew her own toys, don't give anything with fabric that could reminder of a rug, and stuff some of the toys, like hollow kongs, with dog food or treats to encourage interest in her own toys. The main goal at this point is to prevent the temporary chewing behavior common at this age from becoming a habit that persists past the chewing phase she is in by preventing the chewing when you can't address it in person, while also encouraging her to chew her own toys by limiting access to other chew options and making her own toys enticing so she will have a habit of chewing those when its time to give more freedom again once older. If she isn't used to being confined, check out the article I have linked below, especially the Surprise method - this method is for crate training but can also be used for teaching calmness in a pen. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 16, 2023

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Georgie

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Golden Doodle

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Eight Years

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My dog licks himself raw. Anxiety when we leave but now catch him licking even though we are home. Sprays don’t work on him. Lives half his life in a cone

Sept. 20, 2022

Georgie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, I would speak with your vet about a possible food or contact allergy, or a skin infection that's keeping the habit going. I am not a vet. As a fellow pet owner, I have personally deal with a food allergy encouraging licking behavior in my own dog. Licking can also be behavioral, or both medical and behavioral - where it starts as medical - like something causing a skin irritation then the dog keeps the habit going by licking it constantly, especially if anxious. In situations like that, I would address anything that needs addressing medical first, then once that's resolved, work on breaking the habit by giving pup something else to focus on while you are away, such as a frozen kong or automatic treat dispensing device, like pet tutor or autotrainer. You may also need to use a form of low level remote collar training to interrupt pup from licking for a while. I would teach Leave It while you are home first, then when pup doesn't leave it when you tell them to, correct on pup's "working level" stimulation level, or vibration if pup responds well to that, or tone if that's all it takes. A good remote training collar like e-collar technologies brand will have collars with stimulation, tone, and vibration options so you can use whatever gets him to pause the licking effectively without being too harsh. It's extremely important to also give him something he can be rewarded for, to redirect his attention to instead though, like the automatic treat dispensing device or frozen kong. The correction is just to surprise pup so the licking is less rewarding and soothing, so they will choose something else, that's not destructive, to sooth themselves with. To stuff a kong you can either place pup's dry dog food loosely in it and cover 1/2 of the opening with a larger treat - so the dog food will dispense more slowly, or place pup's food in a bowl, cover with water, let sit out until the food turns to mush, mix the mush with a little liver paste, treat paste, or peanut butter (avoid xylitol! - it's extremely toxic to dogs and a common sweetener substitute), place a straw through the kong's holes, loosely stuff the kong with the mush, place in a baggie, and freeze overnight. Remove the straw before giving pup and grab the kong from the freezer as needed - for a time-released treat. You can also purchase several durable hollow chew toys and stuff them at the same time so that you have a stash in the freezer to grab from as needed. Leave It section: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Example of remote training collar used as interrupter - in this case the dog is barking and whining to express their anxiety. Notice the rewards for calmness used in combination with the interruptions. That's very important. Finding the gentlest level that pup feels and responds to ahead of time is also important - called a working level. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3j882MAYDU Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Sept. 22, 2022


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