Ask a Vet: Why Do Dogs Lick Everything?

Why Do Dogs Lick Everything?

Whether your dog seems to lick every surface in sight or they simply provide a wet kiss on the hand when you walk in the door, dogs and licking just seem to go together. While some find this canine trait cute, others think it’s annoying or downright disgusting. Either way, it can be a hard habit for most pets to break and a confusing one for their owners. So why, exactly, do some dogs lick everything?

Was it Something I Ate?

Some dogs are attracted to the salt, lotion, or other products that we use on our skin. Those slobbery kisses to the face may be a sign of love (mother dogs lick their puppies quite often during the first few weeks of life) or it could be that you failed to wipe all the tomato soup off your mouth after lunch.

Being deficient in one or more key nutrients can also bring on a bout of licking, so be sure to feed your dog a high-quality commercial pet food. A nutritional analysis can be helpful in determining whether your pet is getting what they need for optimal health.

Why Dogs Lick

No one knows exactly why some dogs lick practically everything around, but there are some prevailing theories:

  • Dogs explore the world with their mouths, and licking is a prime way to gather more information about their surroundings.
  • In some cases, dogs lick because they enjoy the texture or temperature of a surface, such as a window or tile floor.
  • Licking upholstery or carpeting may occur when food or liquid has spilled or when there’s an interesting smell to be investigated.
  • Just like humans, dogs are creatures of habit, and licking is one of many quirks a dog can develop over their lifetime.
  • Dogs may lick as an act of submission or to demonstrate affection for their owner or other human/animal.
  • Licking may also be the result of boredom, a means of stress relief, or a way to get attention from their owner. Daily playtime and walks, along with brain-building activities such as food puzzles and obedience training can go a long way to reducing the behavior.
  • Nausea or upset stomach can increase saliva production, which can lead to increased licking.

When to Seek Help

Although licking is a normal canine behavior, it can also be indicative of a deeper issue. Licking that seems obsessive in nature (for example, licking the same spot on the floor over and over again every day) should be discussed with your veterinarian. Similarly, continued licking of the paws or another spot on the body may be a sign of allergies, dental problems, cognitive issues, or injury or illness.  
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your dog’s licking behaviors, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care. We’re always here to help!