It should be no surprise that dogs love to lick. Dogs lick when they clean themselves and when they want to make sure that they have eaten every last drop of food from their bowl. However, it can be confusing when your dog starts licking your furniture or the carpet. There are a variety of reasons behind this mysterious furniture-licking behavior. You should always mention any unusual behavior to your veterinarian, as she may be able to offer valuable insight or determine if there is a more serious underlying condition.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
Dogs are capable of developing obsessively compulsive behaviors. When continually present, these behaviors can be diagnosed as an obsessive compulsive disorder. One of the more common compulsive behaviors is excessive licking. Your dog may lick the air, carpet, bed, walls or himself. OCD is caused by stress, so to treat this behavior you should eliminate any environmental stressors that cause him to lick in the first place. It is also important to make sure that your dog has plenty of distractions and exercise throughout the day. This should tire him out and make him too busy to lick!
Early Maternal Separation
Dogs who are removed from their mother too early in development can develop compulsive licking later in life. While usually not harmful, this behavior appears after puberty and manifests in self directed or external licking when your dog is bored or slightly stressed by his environment. Puppies who are separated from their mother at an early age should always be fed in a way that closely mimics natural feeding. While licking of the floor or furniture is usually not considered problematic, watch for irritation on the dog's tongue if he is licking a particular rough surface.
Excessive licking furniture most often occurs when your dog is relaxed, or even bored. If not much is going on around the dog, he may be licking to provide himself with an activity or stimulation. This type of behavior can also self-soothe and provide comfort. This can be remedied if you engage your dog in play or exercise to distract him from his bored and relaxed state.
Excessive licking in dogs is a relatively common occurrence. However, it is always important to consult a veterinarian, as licking can be a secondary condition for a variety of medical issues. Once you rule out secondary causes, examine if your dog's licking is caused by a particular environmental stressor. If you are able to identify an environmental trigger, do your best to expose your dog to the trigger in a way that allows your dog to gradually adjust to its presence. If you are unable to completely eliminate the behavior, take solace in the comfort that it is rarely a harmful condition.
Hannah Reid has a Master of Education from Harvard University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in English and psychology from Hamilton College. She has worked with children in grades three through 12, providing academic support in the areas of writing and reading comprehension. Hannah also blogs about her family farm and offers tips on everything from chicken coops to kitten care.