Dogs don’t have hands, so their mouths are used quite a bit in their day to day lives. You’ve seen your dog consume some of the grossest things in existence, but they also use their mouths to explore their environment. Dogs don’t have the most fine tuned taste buds (which is why they eat almost anything), so they use their tongue in combination with their smell to explore their surroundings.
What does it mean, though, when your dog is happily and almost obsessively licking your couch and furniture?
Compulsive Behavior – The Cause of Couch Licking
This is the number one cause of couch licking. Some dogs are predisposed to compulsive behavior, and it manifests as severe licking. They may lick their paws, other dogs in the house, or any objects they happen to think taste good or feel good on their tongues.
Humans with obsessive compulsive disorder manifest their symptoms with behaviors like obsessive organization, counting, fears, and strict routines. Dogs don’t exactly exhibit compulsion like humans do, but their manifestations are still compulsive, extended, and frequent abnormal variations of normal behaviors.
Licking is a very common manifestation with dogs suffering from compulsion. Licking in itself isn’t abnormal in dogs but when they start licking something obsessively or in situations where you’d consider it abnormal, then it’s time to consider your dog might have a compulsion problem.
What Causes Compulsive Behavior?
The most common trigger for this kind of behavior is stress or a major life change. Maybe you’ve introduced a new pet, a baby, or you’ve recently made a big move. These are all things that trigger enough stress in your dog to elicit compulsive behaviors. Licking releases endorphins in your dog, giving them a sense of relaxation.
When a dog begins to lick during stress, the endorphins start to flow. Very quickly, the dog realizes they get a flood of good feelings during stress when they start licking. If they happened to be licking the couch or other pieces of furniture when they got their endorphin rush, they’ll keep going back to the couch because of their power of association.
How Do You Stop the Couch Licking?
There are two steps to treating compulsive behaviors. You should always start with a veterinary visit. Sometimes the stress can be coming from physical pain or another kind of medical problem, so it’s best to just rule out anything medical to begin with.
Another benefit to a medical visit is you can possibly get your dog started on medications that help with anxiety and compulsion.
If there aren’t any medical issues that are making your dog lick compulsively, then your dog needs behavior modification. This can be done with or without a trainer; how bad the licking is will dictate whether you need a trainer or can do it on your own. Redirecting their anxiety to something more productive and normal like exercise is an ideal treatment.
You’ll eventually notice your dog’s anxiety cues, and you can head off a full blown anxiety spiral if you recognize these cues and stimulate your dog’s brain in other ways. Sometimes a slight increase in activity and socialization is enough to reduce your dog’s stress and help discontinue their stress behaviors because their mind is stimulated.
Couch licking seems benign to start with, but eventually, your dog might start licking things that create other problems. A lot of compulsive dogs end up licking themselves until they develop bald patches, hot spots, and skin infections. When your dog starts exhibiting compulsive licking behavior, nip it in the bud as quickly as possible to keep your dog from developing a lot of hard-to-break habits.
Hi, I’m Jacob. I’ve been a professional blogger for over 6 years and in that time I’ve written countless blogs that have reached millions of people. I am a DVM by profession but all you need to know is that I LOVE DOGS!
SDO started way back in 2015 on a whim. I’d read a couple of dozen blogs online while searching for the best products for my pup and the amount of misinformation online from unqualified sources giving potentially harmful advice shocked me. Then suddenly it hit me, hey, I can do this too! And I can do this RIGHT! Without even knowing what a blog was or how it makes money. I jumped right in to share the years of knowledge I have of dogs with the world.
Within a few months I realized that people were reacting extremely positively to my blogs. My website had taken off and I would receive countless emails from happy dog owners telling me how my website was a God-send for them and their pups were doing so much better after they followed my advice. I would get so many questions as well, and in my attempt to consolidate and answer all the questions I would get from my readers, my blog has evolved to the website you see today. Over the years I encouraged my good friend Tina who is also a DVM to share her experiences and better guide the people who read us. By the Grace of God we now reach close a million people a year and we get such a warm feedback on how we have made life easier for new dog owners all over the globe.
As a dog owner only you would know the feeling you get when you come home at night and you pup is there at the door wagging their tail in sheer joy. The bond a person and their dog share can not be explained in mere words. Yet dogs are like children, and they need to be cared for and trained, and that’s why Smart Dog Owner exists, to give you the precise and exact information that you seek about your dog. No matter how minute that detail is, chances are we will be there to help you out! As someone who has raised 7 of her own dogs. Jacob will always help you out.