Dogs do a lot of weird things, but one that is sure to top the list is random licking of carpets. You may think that your dog is the only one doing this, but you are not alone. Dogs randomly licking surfaces may seem odd, but puppies have reasons for this behavior. Figuring out the reason for that takes a bit of effort.
We expect dogs to lick certain things, like food, bones, and even our faces when they feel affectionate. However, when a lick turns into an object, it can go from funny to worrying. When is it time to worry about a dog licking the carpet? Is there anything that can be done to stop it?
You’re the one who knows your dog best, so if they exhibit behavior that worries you, always talk to your vet about it to address the issue. There may be a medical reason why your dog does the things they do. Alternatively, these actions could also stem from behavioral problems.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons your dog licks the carpet and what you can do to stop it.
Excessive Licking of Surfaces
Some dogs have a condition called excessive surface licking, or ELS. Symptoms of this condition include licking objects such as walls, carpets, floors, and furniture feet, and there can be several different reasons that cause this.
ELS was previously compared to obsessive-compulsions in dogs, leading people to believe that the condition is behaviorally linked. New evidence suggests that there may be medical reasons why dogs act this way. The way to determine if this behavior in your dog is medical or behavioral is to learn why the dog is doing this and try different solutions on your puppy to see what works.
10 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Carpets
If your dog is showing signs of ELS, here are some medical problems that could be causing it. If you see your dog licking the carpet, record their behavior, including the time, frequency, and last time they ate. All of this information is useful for the veterinarian to use to determine why this is happening.
If dogs feel nauseous, they will try to soothe their stomachs by licking them. This can be done on surfaces, such as floors and walls. Dogs sometimes lick their front paws or repeatedly lick the air. This behavior can be combined with drooling and frequent swallowing.
If you’re a seasoned dog owner and have ever seen a dog eat grass, you know what comes next: vomit. Dogs eat grass when they feel sick or when they lack nutrients, such as not enough fiber. If your dog has stomach discomfort and feels the need to eat grass while inside, this could turn into carpet licking. The dog couldn’t get to the grass and used the carpet instead.
2. Certain drugs
Some medications cause increased hunger in dogs. If your dog is taking drugs that starve him, they are actually trying to eat the carpet, not just lick it. This condition is known as polyphagia and can be caused by medications or the dog’s age. Sometimes, senior dogs are hungrier than they’ve ever shown. This problem can usually be corrected with dietary changes that include more fiber.
Medications that can cause polyphagia are usually steroids, such as Prednisone. Steroids can not only increase hunger in your dog, they can also cause increased thirst and urination.
Diabetes can cause polyphagia in dogs. Excessive hunger and thirst are symptoms of diabetes before the disease is controlled through medication. The glucose level in the dog’s body is too low for the brain to receive the message that it is receiving enough food. This can manifest itself in dogs with them trying to lick or eat the carpet in a panic.
If your dog has a seizure, they may lick the carpet without realizing it. If you notice this behavior and you can get your dog to stop licking the carpet by calling his name or directing him, it’s likely that the dog is not having a seizure. If carpet licking is accompanied by chewing, rapid lip licking, or biting of air (known as “biting a fly”), have your vet examine your dog.
5. Dog Cognitive Dysfunction
Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is also known as dementia in dogs, which causes decreased alertness, awareness and responsiveness. Excessive licking is a symptom of this condition. If your dog is older, they may have CCD and lick the carpet because of it.
Pica is a medical condition that causes animals to seek out and eat something inedible. Some dogs only eat one non-food item, while others will eat whatever they find. This includes socks, underwear, rocks, toys, towels, and books, to name a few. If your dog regularly swallows things they shouldn’t, licking the carpet could be a way for them to try to eat them too.
Reason for Behavior
Once you’ve determined with your vet that your dog’s carpet licking isn’t due to a medical condition, you can begin to rule out behavioral reasons.
7. Seeking attention
If a dog licks the carpet and receives attention for it, both positive and negative, they will then know that this is something they can do to get their owner to focus on them. When they crave attention, this behavior will get them what they want. Some dogs will do this when they are feeling lonely, forcing the attention they want on them.
Anxious dogs lick as a way to calm themselves. This is similar to a child sucking his thumb. The act of licking releases endorphins in the dog’s brain that make them feel good. If your dog is already anxious, licking is a way to calm down and relax.
When a dog needs something to lick to soothe themselves, they can turn to themselves. Anxious, licking dogs can lick their paws and paws in such a way that they cause sores, called lick granulomas. When dogs choose to lick something else, they will look for whatever they find. These can be sofa cushions, walls, table legs, or rugs.
Sometimes, a bored dog has just found something to do, and happens to be licking the carpet. If your dog spends a lot of time alone, this can be a way to pass the time.
You may see your dog licking the carpet and wonder why it happened until you remember that you spilled a plate of spaghetti on the spot last night. You may have cleaned it, but your dog can still smell it. If you have young children who tend to drop snacks, your dog will lick the carpet to help and clean it. This should only last a few minutes until the dog is satisfied that they got everything they could. If your dog is discreet with your children’s ways, they will often search the carpet for any food they leave behind.
How to Stop This Behavior
The first thing to do when you see your dog licking the carpet is to determine if the problem is medical or behavioral. This involves taking your dog to the vet and discussing any new changes to their routine or diet.
Dietary changes may be to satisfy your dog, keep him full longer, and provide whatever nutrition the dog is lacking.
Increase play and exercise, especially if your dog craves attention or is bored. By giving them more things to do, you will reduce their urge to sit at home and lick the carpet.
Anxious dogs can do well with changes in their environment. Anxiety usually causes dogs to retreat to their hiding places, but if no space is available, that’s when your dog can sit out in the open licking the carpet to cool off. Give your dog a quiet area to himself, such as a closed crate with a soft bed and an open door so they can come and go as they please. Giving your dog a place to feel safe can reduce anxiety-provoking behaviors.
Give them something to do so they forget the carpet! Puzzle games, ball treats and kong filled treats will keep your dog busy while providing them with mental stimulation to ward off boredom.
If your dog is licking the carpet as a way to get your attention, ignore the behavior and only reward your dog when he stops. Give your dog what they want most after they exhibit the desired behavior.
If your dog has cognitive dysfunction, talk to your veterinarian about medications that can help your dog cope better with his feelings.
Separate your dog from the children while they are eating if you want the dog to stop looking and licking the carpet for leftover snacks.
Use a spray to prevent your dog from licking by giving the carpet a bad taste. If you can’t get them to stop this behavior completely, make sure they don’t continue.
It can be frustrating and confusing to watch your dog lick the carpet. Plus, who wants to walk on dog saliva? But however unpleasant these activities may be, finding out and addressing the reasons behind them is important for your dog’s health.
With the help of your veterinarian, you can determine what is happening and why and then take the necessary steps to reverse this behavior. Your dog does this for a reason, and by knowing it, you can help him feel better.
We hope this article gave you some ideas why your dog is doing this and what you can do to stop it.
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Featured Image Credit: Studio Africa, Shutterstock