how to train dog licking

Every month we ask you to send us your dog related quandaries and in turn we send them to our resident dog behaviour expert, Lisa Day — a certified IPG Master Groomer and obedience expert — for some advice. Here is this month’s question and answer all about the age-old quandry of how to stop a dog from licking so much?

Q:  I have a one-year old poodle-terrier mix: Champ. He is very loving and affectionate, but almost too much so. He is a very ‘licky’ dog and will lick at people’s hands and faces almost non-stop. If we curl up on the couch watching a movie, he will not settle down unless he is licking either my arm or hand. Needless to say, it’s kind of annoying, but I feel awful for trying to discipline his affection. What should I do? How to stop a dog from licking so much?


A:  Hi Margaret,
Well lucky you for having a pet that finds you so ‘tasty!’ But I can definitely see how quickly this over indulgent display of affection could become undesirable; if for no other reason than the constant feel of slathering on you and the subsequent need to shower from the saliva.

Many times dogs start a behavior all on their own. If it’s not discouraged, or if it’s rewarded (and the reward is something the dog decides, not you, especially if the act is self-rewarding and this sounds like it may be), the behavior continues.

In the beginning this action may have seemed cute as a puppy or even endearing. But as you’re finding out, the appeal is wearing thin — as well as your skin. It sounds like you  need  to start claiming your body parts as your own. When the licking starts, just give a mild but firm push away from your body and  follow up with a verbal enforcement, such as, “Leave it,” “Ah Ah,” or quite simply “No.” You could then offer a more acceptable oral diversion, like a chew toy or bone. You may have to repeat this process a few times as it is a habit that is over a year old.

Don’t allow your sense of guilt to dictate your definition of boundaries concerning your body. If it is uninvited, then it should not be allowed. You may be mistaking compulsive behavior as uncontrollable affection. A few licks here and there is perfectly acceptable. But any sort of non-stop compulsive behaviour, even licking, needs addressing. The premise of this situation is the same as if Champ were constantly jumping on people or barking all the time. He is demonstrating a behaviour that is undesirable and compulsive.

If you are firm about claiming your skin as your own and redirecting your pup’s energy into more productive measures, you will be perceived as the one in control. When someone else is in control and not the dog, it is a better place for the dog to be. It is far more safer for them. You will be better able to keep your dog safe from harm if they listen and respect you as leader.

Hope this helps and you’ll soon be able to watch movies without the constant ‘coating’ process.
All the best,

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