We know that dogs love to lick – a peanut butter treat, their paws, us, and sometimes, soft things in the house like carpets or sofas. They use their tongues for self-grooming, to show affection to humans, because they like the taste of our salty skin, or to indulge in something delicious. But if you notice your dog frequently and constantly licking furniture, there could be more reasons for concern. Does your dog lick the sofa, your favorite chair, bed pillows, and other surfaces? Probably not because the sofa is smeared with peanut butter. Licking furniture can signal anxiety, stress, or even a medical condition. The dog may lick furniture out of boredom. Lacking any other stimulation to engage his mind and body, he may just be trying to pass the time. If the behavior is intermittent and if he gets easily distracted, try to make sure he has toys, games, and snacks to occupy himself when you’re not around. due to a change in the dog’s environment or habits. For example, is there someone new in the house, or an activity that stands out? Dogs are creatures of habit, and changes in their routine can make your dog nervous. Repeated licking releases endorphins and is a way for dogs to self-soothe. In many cases, occasional sofa licking is a response to occasional stress, loneliness, or boredom. However, it can become a habit if left unchecked. Try adding more exercise, stimulation, and socialization to your dog’s life. Play more often; bring new toys and challenging puzzles; arrange play dates; or take up a new activity like a dog sport. Exercise and activity are known to reduce stress and by the way, it works for humans too. It’s the simplest fix and really has no downside, even if it doesn’t solve the problem.
Licking things and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
In some dogs, excessive licking of furniture is actually an obsessive-compulsive behavior. If your dog can’t be distracted from licking, intense or aggressive licking, or close distance from each other, it’s obsessive and/or compulsive behavior. In humans, it’s the difference between biting your nails when you’re nervous or can’t get out of the house without checking seven times to see if the door is locked.No particular breed is more or less susceptible to OCD in dogs, but some dogs may be more susceptible to compulsive behaviors than others. This is seen in dogs that undergo severely restrictive, sterile environments, like being chained in a yard or confined to a cage without exercise or socialization. These dogs may exhibit stereotypy, defined as a single, specific, non-functional behavior that they repeat repeatedly, in this case, licking furniture. Even moving to a nurturing, stimulant-rich environment is unlikely to change behavior, because stereotypes can become deeply ingrained and difficult to break. Distractions and stimulation may not work in this case. Talk to your vet about possible treatments, like anti-anxiety medications and behavior modification therapy. Over time, you’ll also learn to discern triggers and predict behavior. Excessive licking of furniture can also have a physical cause. Dogs have sensitive digestive systems and it may indicate that your dog is nauseated or has an upset stomach. Older dogs may experience canine cognitive dysfunction (dementia) and that can lead to compulsive licking.
So, before your dog licks the sofa thread, what can you do?
If you can figure out what’s causing the behavior, you have a good chance of stopping it.
- Assume the simplest explanation, boredom, and offer him an alternative stimulus, like a toy or game.
- Watch for stressors in his environment, like visitors, a new baby, outside noises, or the sound of a doorbell. Once you know what’s causing the behavior, you can eliminate the cause or distract your dog with more appropriate stimulation.
- Consider medical problems, such as gastrointestinal problems or dementia.
- Consult your veterinarian. Once she rules out specific medical causes, she can offer treatment for an anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
If your dog occasionally licks the sofa and can get distracted, that’s not necessarily unusual behavior. After all, dogs will lick everything as a way to explore and experience their environment. It’s also an uncommon way to handle anxiety. But when licking leaves sofa cushions or armchairs wet, and hauntingly persistent, it’s time to take steps. You will save your belongings from falling into disrepair and your pet from suffering mental or physical discomfort.
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