Although some people (PAH staff, you know who you are!) love to be licked by their dogs, it’s not for everyone. This is a behavior that all dogs possess as it is both instinctual and taught to them by their mothers the minute they are born. Thankfully, it if happens to be a pet peeve to have dog drool on your hands or face, it is possible to train your dog to stop licking.
Why does my dog lick?
Before we talk about how to stop your dog from licking, let’s first look at why they lick in the first place. As we said, dogs are initially taught to lick at birth. Mother dogs will lick their new babies as a way to stimulate them to breathe. She also does this to communicate with them, sort of a mom-to-pup “hello, little one! Welcome to this big new world!” and also to clean them off. In the wild, dogs do not have access to bathtubs or grooming centers, so they instinctually clean themselves by licking, as gross as that may seem to us.
Dogs will also lick as a sign of submission to each other, and also for no reason other than they like the taste of your hand, face, feet, couch, etc. Have you ever noticed your dog enjoys licking your toes after a shower or when you get home from exercising? It’s because you have added flavor (in these cases, water, lotion, and salt).
How to stop your dog from licking:
Ok, so you’ve decided it’s gross and you are not a fan of the licking. We admit it’s not for everyone. As mentioned on our blog previously, the best way to train a dog is to reward positive behavior in action.
In this case, the positive behavior would be to not lick you. Any time your dog does lick you, move away or walk into another room or space. They will quickly begin to associate their licking with you leaving. Be consistent and only reward the non-licking behaviors you want.
Another option (still based in positive reinforcement) is to train your dog to lick on command. Rewarding the behavior only when invited will help your dog understand that it is not wanted all the time.
Choose a command word (“kiss”, “lick”, etc.), say the word to your dog, and then let them lick your hand. If they don’t seem to get it or do not always lick your hand, place a small amount of peanut butter on your palm. Be very careful with any dog that is food aggressive, as we do not want you to be bitten.
Tell your dog to “lick,” and show them your palm. Once they lick, praise them for doing as you asked. Ignoring the behavior when it is not asked for, and doing repetitive “lick”-training will teach your dog that to “lick” is a command, and the behavior should not be done any other time.
If your pet continues to lick to no avail, call and speak with your dog’s doctor for further information on how to stop this behavior.