How to Get Your Dog to Stop Licking

Dogs' nature dictates their inclination to lick almost everything: their owners, other four-legged friends, their fur and their food.

But while receiving the occasional slobbery lick from your pet dog is an endearing sign of affection, this behavior can become bothersome—as well as being unhygienic.

Dr. Jerry Klein, the American Kennel Club's (AKC) chief veterinary officer, cautions that while most licking is harmless, owners should be aware it is very occasionally a symptom of a serious problem.

"Always look for the underlying cause and seek the advice of your veterinarian", he told Newsweek.

"Occasional paw licking is normal and is a part of a dog's self-grooming process.

"Dogs may lick or chew their paws because of injuries; skin problems; environmental, parasite, or food allergies; and boredom or anxiety.

"If the licking begins very suddenly and is only on one paw, examine the paws to check for an injury such as a cut, torn nail, growth, thorn, or ice ball stuck between the pads.

Dr. Klein adds skin conditions, parasite infections and food allergies may also contribute to excessive licking in dogs, and these should all be treated by a veterinarian.

"If your vet has run tests and confirmed that the licking isn't due to any of these reasons, then it may be from boredom or a behavioral problem such as anxiety. These issues are harder to pinpoint and require further evaluation."

And although the exact reasons why most healthy dogs like to lick remains a mystery, animal experts have some top tips to curb excessive slobbery tongue action.

Here are some tried and tested techniques to prevent your pet from licking you.

1. Ignore The Dog's Licking

 dog begins licking you,
When the dog begins licking you, simply walk away and immediately cease all attention, in particular eye contact melissaperryphotography/Getty Images

When the dog begins licking you, simply walk away and immediately cease all attention, in particular eye contact.

Should this irritating behavior continue to be unrewarded by its master's attention, the licking should soon start to die down.

2. Insert An Alternative Into The Dog's Mouth

Insert An Alternative Into The Dog's Mouth
Redirect a dog’s desire to lick its owner by offering something like a chewy toy or a bone as an oral alternative smrm1977/Getty Images

Redirect a dog's desire to lick its owner by offering something like a chewy toy or a bone as an oral alternative.

Such substitutes should keep the dog both entertained and preoccupied by giving the pet pooch something more appropriate to lick.

3. Exercise The Dog

dog  lick its owner
Enjoying a long walk should cut a dog's stress levels, which may reduce the animal's urge to lick its owner Getty Images

Enjoying a long walk should cut a dog's stress levels, which may reduce the animal's urge to lick its owner.

Such a technique is believed to be particularly effective for dogs who seemingly lick from a nervous compulsion.

4. Wash Yourself

Wash Yourself
Washing the salt away from the skin should deter the dog from viewing its master as a delicious object to lick slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Taking a long bath or shower immediately after a long, sweaty walk with your dog is not only effective for keeping yourself clean.

Washing the salt away from the skin should deter the dog from viewing its master as a delicious object to lick.

5. Alter Your Body's Scent

Dog licking
Some smells, like tastes, are more appealing to dogs, so updating your musk might help dissuade your dog's tongue attentions Fly_dragonfly/Getty Images

Some smells, like tastes, are more appealing to dogs, so updating your musk might help dissuade your dog's tongue attentions.

One suggestion is to experiment by switching your usual body wash or scent to something the dog might find a little less attractive.

6. Reward A Well Behaved Dog

doh licking
Give the dog some well-deserved attention when they begin noticeably cutting down excessive licking/Getty Images Halfpoint/Getty Images

Give the dog some well-deserved attention when they begin noticeably cutting down excessive licking.

Rewards should occur straight after the desired behavior for the dog to intuit a positive association.

7. Train Your Dog to Lick on Command

Train Your Dog to Lick on Command
Strict training helps teach dogs licking is only acceptable when initiated by their master Photoboyko/Getty Images

Strict training helps teach dogs licking is only acceptable when initiated by their master.

A good way to start is to select a keyword to initiate licking and use a small dab of peanut butter on your hand to prompt licking—but only if the dog is not aggressive with food.

An end command can then be issued and the dog should be rewarded with a small treat if it stops licking, if only for a short time.

8. Be Consistent With The Dog

dog licking
Fully commit to stopping the behavior completely when you wish your dog to stop licking Seregraff//Getty Images

Fully commit to stopping the behavior completely when you wish your dog to stop licking.

Consistency is key with this tip, meaning owners should always avoid praising their dog for licking, then scolding them for the identical behavior at another time, as this will only confuse the creature.

9. Use Bitters On a Dog

 dog’s stress levels
Bitter sprays are both safe and non-toxic and simply taste disgusting to dogs, so should instantly discourage licking Vanessa Nunes/Getty Images

Using bitters is considered an effective deterrent for a dog to stop licking.

Bitter sprays are both safe and non-toxic and simply taste disgusting to dogs, so should instantly discourage licking.

10. Use Dog-Appeasing Pheromones

dog licking
Dog-Appeasing Pheromones are considered an effective technique for treating the animals' obsessive licking behavior Art_rich/Getty Images

This is also considered an effective technique for treating dogs' obsessive licking behavior.

Specific pheromones can replicate those released naturally by a nursing bitch, which can calm easy anxious or distressed dogs.