The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Liz R. Kover
Animal Assisted Activities Director Marleys Mutts Dog Rescue 

Ask a trainer!

It's a Dog's Life


M.B. writes, “My dog constantly wants to lick my hands and face! I don’t mind some kisses, but once she starts licking, she doesn’t know when to stop. Correcting her only seems to make it worse. Can you help?”

Dear M.B., thank you for your question.

First and foremost, if your dog is exhibiting any kind of abnormal behavior that has arisen out of the blue, or is atypical, I always suggest first ruling out any potential underlying medical cause. In other words, before you address the behavioral issue, you always want to make sure it’s not rooted in any physical illness or injury of which you are currently unaware. Assuming a health problem is not to blame, understanding where the behavior stems from will help you most effectively change it.

Some people fidget with their hair; others smoke cigarettes; I bite my fingernails. For your dog, licking might be an outlet for nervous energy that has nowhere else to go. Engaging your dog in daily physical and mental exercise – i.e. taking walks, working on obedience commands, doing agility, or playing with toys meant to stimulate your dog’s mind -- will help redirect that energy into something productive and fun.

Secondly, you made a valuable observation regarding the ineffectiveness of “correcting” a behavior like this by meeting “fire with fire”. In other words, the behavior already stems from nervous, anxious, or excited energy. So doing things like talking loudly (saying “NO!” or “STOP IT!”), or pushing her away from you, will only add excitement to the situation, thereby exacerbating the problem. When your dog starts this behavior, I would stay very calm and quiet, and simply stand up and walk away. A minute or so later, sit back down and give your dog the chance to do something differently. If she sits calmly by you without licking, pet her gently to let her know you appreciate this behavior; reward her with your affection. If she starts licking again, simply repeat the ignoring and walking away process. If you do this consistently over enough time, she will get the message that licking gets her nowhere in her quest for interaction with you.

There is a fundamental difference between the occasional happy-puppy-smooch and an obsessive licking habit. Therefore, if you try these suggestions and the behavior persists, please seek help from a qualified trainer or behaviorist in your area.

I hope this helps! Please keep me posted:

Readers, please send your dog training and behavior questions to the afore-mentioned email address, and I will do my best to answer them right here in The Loop!


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