“My dog licks all the time!” It drives me nuts and because my dog licks so much, I can’t seem to stay in a meaningful relationship” That’s exactly what my client said when I got all the background information for our lessons.
In fact, the licking was so bad that her dog would not only lick her and but also lick the new boyfriend constantly. “They just don’t call back after the first date. It’s just depressing.” So much for the saying, “Love me, love my dog!”
I told her I was not in the relationship business – just the dog training business. But, I added that perhaps if we/she could fix the licking problem, the “other problem” would fix itself and that would be a win-win situation in the love department.
So as always, we started with lesson one at her apartment and I got to meet my student. No. It wasn’t her Chihuahua, Buttercup. My student was Jane, the school teacher – Buttercup’s mom.
Jane was well organized – pen and pad in hand – ready to take notes. I applauded her for that. And, she did take lots of notes – almost to a fault. She really did want to get back in the dating game. I got it. She was serious. So I’m thinking to myself, “Boy, this is rare – a determined dog owner.”
I’ve always said that the dog won’t change until the owner changes.
Owners must reach a point in their minds with their dog problems where they say, “Enough! I’m serious about fixing my problem.” Their dedication is usually validated by their weekly progress which we discuss with emails between the first and the second lesson.
During our first lesson Jane wanted to know why dogs licked to begin with so I said, “Here’s the short answer.”
Brand new puppies usually lick at the mother dog’s mouth and can get a regurgitation of food by the mother dog but licking seems to acquire different meanings when the puppy comes to live with a human family.
Licking problems generally involve a submissive dog and an owner that permits the behavior (some people feel genuinely flattered when their dog licks them) and the dog appears to enjoy the owner’s response.
Additionally, if your dog barks and you feed him or if he licks your hand and you pet, what begins to form in your dog’s mind is a kind of, “who’s doing what for whom?” pattern. Dog does something to get something, owner immediately responds.
This consistent pattern, always started by your dog, begins to affirm his leadership over you as his dictates on a daily basis all the things he gets you to do for him.
In many past cases, licking, often times referred to as an attention-seeking behavior, was used by an owner’s dog to get the owner to pet and/or pay attention thereby affirming the dog’s leadership over it’s owner. And, in Jane’s case, the licking problem had extended to include her boy friends and other visitors.
Correcting Problem Licking
If your dog’s licking has become a problem in your home, here are some easy-to-follow steps to correct this bothersome habit. Before starting make sure your dog can do sits and downs.
Let me explain with this ‘blast from my past” when I was a kid:
“I remember growing up that every time I walked into a room my Mom was in, she would have me do a chore. It got to a point that I would avoid going into that room and take another route just to avoid doing chores. It worked.”
Puppies are the same way. If every time your puppy comes up to you – and you know he’s going to lick you – give him a chore to do. Make him do doggie push ups! You know, sits and downs for dogs. Pretty soon he’ll stop trying to lick you and take another route – maybe chew a chew stick. ‘Yeah, that works for me!’ he’s thinking!”
Here are the simple steps that made it work for Jane. They will work for you also:
• Timing is everything so as her dog approached to lick, she simply said, “Sit!”
• Once her dog was sitting, she should immediately followed that with a “Down!” followed by another sit and then a final down.
• She would pet her dog very briefly and then sent it off to play.
Additionally, I would recommend that you hold back on how much doting, coddling and petting you do on a daily basis. Use it very sparingly for a while. For example, if your dog is nudging you for attention, ask for a simple sit, briefly pet and send your dog off to play.
Alternatively, ignore your dog’s plea for affection and call him to you on your terms, ask for a simple sit, briefly pet and send your dog off to play.
After a few weeks of this corrective program, you’ll find that the licking problem has gone away.
I would also recommend that you schedule three (3), 2 minute training sessions daily working on sits and downs with your dog. You will be surprised at what a difference this “6 minutes” will make in your dog’s attitude on licking and leadership. You should now see why dog obedience training is important and should be practiced every day with your dog.
These training sessions will give your dog a sense of working for you rather than you addressing his needs all the time. You might also find that working your dog on a leash in the house will get you results more quickly as dogs are more compliant and responsible on leash than off leash.
During the initial stages of this corrective program, you might see other behaviors develop, such as whining, pacing or self-licking. Just ignore them and they usually go away in a few days.
Four weeks after starting this program, Jane happily reported that she was in a new relationship with a male friend and with new ground rules in place was enjoying a better relationship with her dog Buttercup.