Why Do Dogs Always Chew or Lick Themselves?

by Melodie Anne Coffman Google
Nonstop grooming could be a sign of boredom.

Nonstop grooming could be a sign of boredom.

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Your adoring canine companion has his own personality and bizarre little quirks -- one of them being a continuous need to chew and lick himself all the time. While your pooch may find solace in repeatedly bathing himself, sometimes it could be a warning sign that something is awry in his body.

Feeling Bored

When you’re bored, all you have to do is simply flip on the tube, pick up a book or get yourself out of the house. Poor Baxter doesn’t have the capability of doing any of that. So when he has nothing else to do, he may turn to excessive grooming. He’ll start with his front paws, nipping and licking away, and work his entire coat all the way down to his tail. Primping and getting his coat in primo shape give him something to do, alleviating his boredom.

Curbing Anxiety

The first memory your pooch has is that comforting warmth of his mama licking him all over. It relaxed him, took away all of his fears and put him at ease. Now that he’s all settled in with his human family, the only way he knows to soothe himself is by nibbling at his coat and licking himself. He’s simply putting himself back in that happy place anytime he starts feeling a bit anxious.

Being Compulsive

You surely have compulsive behaviors that you might not be aware of. Maybe you bite your nails, tap your foot on the floor or tap your fingers along your desktop. Chewing and licking -- in the dog world -- are equally comparable. For him, tugging at his curly locks is just a force of habit; he doesn’t realize he’s doing it.

Nixing That Itch

It’s possible that excessive chewing and licking stems from some sort of allergy. His new kibble could be the culprit, making his coat dry and itchy. Of course, he could also have seasonal allergies just like you. Those blooming buds in your yard or tall blades of grass at the park could send his allergies into a frenzy, forcing him to tug at his luscious locks to nix that itch.

What To Do

A little biting and licking here and there generally isn’t a big concern. But if Baxter’s skin appears red, flaky or irritated or if he has bald spots, you’ll need to get him in to the vet to get to the root of the problem. Boredom, anxiety and compulsive biting and licking can often be curbed by wearing him down and giving him something to do. Take him out for walks often or play fetch with him in the yard. Make sure he has lots of toys to play with while you’re away and rotate them every few days, leaving him a fresh stock of new stuff to play with frequently. In some cases, your fur ball could need medication from your vet to help with severe anxiety. If his behavior stems from allergies though, your veterinarian could make a change in his diet or offer pills or topical treatments to minimize his flare-ups.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

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