People have a range of opinions on being licked by a dog. I have seen someone bend down and pucker her lips for her dog to lick or “kiss” her, and I’ve also seen firm discipline given to the family pet for licking a dribble of food off someone’s hand.
No matter how you view licking by a dog, this behavior is extremely common, yet a nuisance to some people. (For the record, licking comes naturally to dogs, for perfectly good reasons.)
A behavior becomes a behavior problem only if it’s bothersome to you. For example, most dog owners see jumping to be problem that must be curbed. However, because I train service dogs, from my perspective jumping can become very helpful if the dog needs to retrieve an item. So for my dogs, it’s not typically seen as a behavior problem.
The same logic can be used if the dog is constantly licking you. If it’s not an annoyance or something you want to stop, you certainly don’t need to stop the behavior.
When to Be Concerned
The only time you should stop constant licking is if the dog is licking himself incessantly, using licking as a fear reaction, or licking as an obsessive compulsive behavior.
This part is very important: Before training your dog not to lick, you should work with a veterinarian and/or a behaviorist to determine the underlying cause of the licking—because in some cases, it can be a symptom of a larger problem.
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Once you determine that the licking is not connected to a health concern, or some larger problem, you can move on to the next step.
How to Stop a Dog From Licking You
When training your dog not to lick you, understand that this behavior is typically attention-seeking. So if you give your dog any type of attention because of the licking, whether it’s positive or negative, you are unintentionally rewarding the behavior.
The best way to eliminate the licking, then, is to eliminate the attention you give your dog when he licks.
Other than removing your attention, a change in body language will help you make your point. When your dog starts to lick you, say, “Nope!” and withdraw your attention while moving away. (It may help to put a little bitter apple spray or lemon on your skin to make the licking less desirable.) Make sure your eyes and face are dramatically averted from the dog.
When you get up and move away, your dog may follow you and try licking you again. If this occurs, just repeat the training process. Because your dog has been rewarded in the past for this behavior, you may have to evade the licking and repeat this process many times before your dog gets the point.
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What if My Dog Just Doesn’t Get It?
If your dog doesn’t seem to understand what you are doing, it may help to say, “Nope!” the second your dog begins to lick and then dramatically storm off.
You should leave the dog in the room he is in and slam the door behind you. Leave the dog alone for about 20 seconds and repeat the process and see if he tries to lick you again.
The key to training a dog is consistency — and in this case, it’s especially important because your pet was probably unintentionally rewarded in the past for licking.
Create Positive Attention With Another Task
Other than showing your dog that being licked is not what you want, it may help to teach your pet another behavior that allows him to get your attention that doesn’t end in you being slobbered. For example, teach your dog to shake, sit up, lie down or roll over to get your attention. In this way, your dog can still get your attention without licking you.
To complete this training, you need to outmatch your dog’s persistency when it comes to incessant licking. To be successful, you must be consistent in not allowing your dog to lick you. Become creative and try different things.
Check Out This Video
The trainer in the video below offers another take on how to stop a dog from licking you, plus a few great tips: