Training

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How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick Faces

Training

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2 min read

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How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick Faces
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon1-2 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Okay, sure, we get it. We all love our dogs. We love when they bring us their favorite ball or toy for a quick game of fetch. We love how they always seem to know when we’re upset and are ready with a wag of the tail. Snuggles on the couch and quality time spent walking the local trails or teaching a fun new trick also top the list of doggie benefits that make humans’ lives more enjoyable.

There are, however, just a couple of traits that maybe we could do with a little less of. Or, maybe, we’d like to be able to tell our dog to stop, knock it off, or otherwise cease their behavior when friends and family are present who aren’t quite as enraptured of your pooch’s gorgeous mug. Of these traits, face licking is perhaps the most divisive behavior. Most dog owners will readily admit they’ve allowed a kiss here and there from their canine companion. But the tricky part becomes teaching your dog to not lick faces when the attention may be unwanted. Turns out there are several methods for doing just that, and we’ve got three of our favorites listed below.

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Defining Tasks

When training your dog, it’s important to remember that your pooch doesn’t communicate in the same way a human would. Dogs do not inherently understand words or commands such as stop, no or “eew, don’t do that”, regardless of how loudly or how many times you may repeat these phrases.

This means that when you want to teach a dog to not perform a certain behavior, you’ll need to start with training for an alternative, acceptable action instead. Dogs often lick each other’s faces as a form of communication or a way to show affection, which means your pooch probably thinks slobbering all over your mug is more than acceptable. In order to train your dog not to lick faces, you’ll need to teach Fido to take another action that isn’t quite so invasive of personal boundaries.

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Getting Started

Before starting your anti-face licking training session, you and your pooch are going to need a few supplies. Locate a calm and quiet location which will serve as the starting spot for teaching any new behavior. Your aim is to find a familiar area, free of distractions to give your dog the best possible chance of success. Once your pooch has mastered a behavior, practice in areas that contain distractions such as public parks or around other people or dogs.

You’ll also need a treat pouch that hooks to your belt or pants for easy access of goodies. Don’t forget the training treats. For best results, choose several varieties of treats in differing “value” levels. Items ranging from dry dog cookies to cheese, hot dog slices, or steak will allow you to give bonus rewards for particularly well-performed tasks and will also keep your dog guessing and eager to learn. Once you’ve accumulated these easy items, it’s time to pick a training method that works best for you and your dog.

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The Alternative Behavior Method

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1

Find a pattern

Identify when your dog is most prone to licking faces. Since face licking is a method of communication or affection, dogs believe it to be completely natural behavior. By identifying a pattern for face licking you can help encourage alternatives behaviors in those scenarios.

2

Withdraw

For dogs that lick faces when greeting people, ignore the dog or pull away when they act as if they are about to lick a face.

3

Alternate greeting

When your dog has calmed, move back forward towards them to say hello with a pat on the head or other appropriate greeting. Repeat this process of backing up or ignoring your dog when they are attempting to lick your face.

4

Recruit

Ask a friend or family member to help practice this behavior. Have your friend approach your dog and bend down as if to pet them. If your dog moves to lick their face, have your friend back up out of reach. Your dog should only get the attention they desire when they are waiting calmly and patiently for a greeting.

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Repeat and apply

Use this same training method for other scenarios, such as when your dog hops into bed, sits with you on the couch or greets strangers in public. Ignore your dog and move out of their area of access to you until they’ve calmed down. The moment the dog looks like he is about go in for the lick, step out of his reach, enforcing that only the best behavior gets tummy rubs, head pats and, of course, treats.

The Teach 'Off' Method

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Find a trigger

Teaching ‘off’ is another great way to keep your dog from licking your face and sets the foundation for many other good doggy behaviors. Start out by setting your dog up in a situation where they would typically lick your face. This may take some planning and identification of common triggers of face licking.

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Diversion

Once your dog is in this scenario and is starting to lick your face, calmly toss a treat a short distance away while saying the word “off”. Your dog will move away to get the treat. The moment your dog moves away from your face, instantly praise.

3

Repeat

Repeat step 2 numerous times, always saying "off" when tossing the treat and praising when your dog stops licking your face. Train this in different scenarios such as sitting on the couch or when greeting people.

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Phase out the lure

After your dog has thoroughly associated the word "off" with a treat being somewhere else, start phasing out the throwing of the treat and instead just use the word. When your dog turns away from licking you, praise and treat from your hand or by tossing a treat to the ground. This removes the luring aspect and, instead, teaches the dog that the command should be the trigger for the behavior with the reward coming afterward.

5

Practice

Repeat the above steps until your dog is reliably backing away from your personal space with the “off” command. Remember to slow down or go back a step or two if at any time your dog seems like they aren’t understanding the behavior you are asking them to perform.

The Teach 'Leave It' Method

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Lure

'Leave it' is a great command for eliminating a variety of behaviors. From teaching your dog to not chase bunnies to not licking your face, leave it is a critical behavior that can help with manners and with teaching other tasks down the line. Start off with a treat in your closed hand. Let your dog see that you placed a treat in your hand and let them mouth or sniff it. The first time your dog backs up from your hand immediately praise and feed them the treat.

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Add cues

Repeat step 1 until there is less and less mouthing and more waiting for you to open your hand and provide the treat. Once this is happening reliably, add in the verbal “leave it” cue. When you provide the treat, add in a “take it” command that gives a verbal signal that the treat can now be eaten.

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Challenge

Once your dog is mastering the closed handed 'leave it', it’s time to up the ante. Place a treat in your open hand and tell your pooch “leave it.” If your dog moves to eat the treat regardless, immediately close your hand. Open your hand when your dog backs up. Only allow the dog to have the treat with a “take it” command once they are able to look at the treat in your open hand without eating it.

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Change it up

Change treats out for toys by initiating a game of tug or other play session. Tell your dog “leave it” when taking the toy from them. If they give up the toy willingly, immediately praise and reward with a food treat before giving the toy back. Repeat this step until your dog is performing 'leave it' reliably.

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Apply to face licking

Once your dog has mastered the basic 'leave it' command, use this in a variety of situations with any behavior that involves your dog placing its mouth on or near something. Varying the use of “leave it” will ensure that when you use the command in connection with kissing he will immediately back up and wait patiently for a treat. Remember to always praise and reward with a treat when your dog performs well and to alter your treats and provide the occasional “jackpot” of several treats to create a solid and unshakable behavior.

By Kimberly Maciejewski

Published: 01/24/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

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