OCD licking

Photo by Keith Cannataro |

Some dogs are prone to compulsive self-grooming on a particular area of the body, causing wounds to form and making them hard to heal. This is called acral lick dermatitis or lick granuloma, but licking can also occur on objects or other materials and is usually a displacement behavior that helps relieve a dog’s boredom or anxiety.

How Do I Stop My Dog from Compulsive Licking?

  • Dogs will sometimes lick an area of the body that is causing them pain or discomfort. In some cases, the pain can be referred pain from elsewhere in the body but is soothed with the dog licking a seemingly unrelated area.
  • A full medical investigation is needed to determine if the behavior is exacerbated by a medical condition.
  • Dogs that suffer with food or environmental allergies will often lick themselves, especially in areas of the body that come in contact with the ground, such as the paws.
  • These areas will often become red and inflamed, requiring immediate medical intervention to reduce the build-up of moisture-loving yeast or infection.
  • Give your dog more exercise and other outlets to relieve boredom or anxiety.
  • Sports, games, activity toys and dog to human play helps redirect licking behavior onto something more positive.

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  • Paula

    How much licking should be considered compulsive? My dog licks himself a lot but not enough to cause him damage to the skin. He mainly licks his tummy/genitals and his legs/paws.

  • Justine

    We have a Blue Heeler, almost two years old, and we found him after he'd been abandoned on our street, unfortunately, because he was traumatized, it was almost a month before we got him, that was a cold stormy month he'd lived on the street alone. He's been a great dog, best in a long time, but when he's nervous or bored he'll lick or scratch himself obsessively. Even when he's running outside or playing he'll stop to scratch/groom. He has no medical issues we've found, and he refuses chew toys to occupy himself. (except snack ones) but those have a lot of fat, and, i can't just let him fill up on snacks all day. When ever we catch him going at it, in his stressful way, we'll tell him it's oke and give him positive attention, we spend A LOT of time with him and our other 2 dogs, we take walks to the park and let them run around almost daily as the weather allows, but he'll still stop to scratch/groom even mid run or play, somedays it's so bad his legs, groin and stomach are blistery red. we're just not sure what to do about it at this point.

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