Dog owners love their furry friends. They make for great companions thanks to their immense loyalty and the love they show. But there are things they do that can leave us feeling puzzled from time to time.
One of those times of puzzlement is when they start licking your pillow. If you think it’s a weird behavior that’s because it is. Whenever you see your dog doing this, you want to know why. Is it something weird with them? Is there something on the pillow?
So, it is time to get down to the bottom of why your dog may be licking your pillow and what can be done about it.
Why Your Dog Licks Your Pillow
Generally speaking, it comes down to one of a couple things. The most likely reason is that there is something on your pillow that they like the taste of. This is usually enough reason for them to start giving your pillow a tongue bath.
But it can also be behavioral issues that can vary from pup to pup. First, let’s talk about the taste. No, it doesn’t have to be that you dropped food on it at any point.
1 – Your Dog Likes the Taste
The most likely reason that your dog is licking your pillow is because it likes the taste. While your initial thought may be “but I didn’t spill anything on it,” it has nothing to do with that. It comes down to the things that you leave on your pillowcase at night.
When you sleep at night, there are dead skin cells and sweat that will start to collect on your pillowcase. This can provide a salty taste. If the dog smells it, it may be inclined to lick it. That could be enough to keep your dog licking it.
If you tend to get sweaty during the night, this can be the primary reason why your dog keeps licking the pillow.
If your dog is excessively licking the pillow (because of the taste), it could also be a sign that there are issues with its diet. Dogs who lick pillows are far more likely to do this after there has been a change to their diet.
Consider any recent changes and monitor your dog’s behavior in the days following that change.
Also, make sure that you wash your bedding at least once per week. This will help to mitigate the sweat, dirt, and dead skin that gets on it. Keeping that limited should help to deter your dog from wanting to lick your pillow on a regular basis.
2 – Your Dog May Have Separation Anxiety
Maybe you haven’t caught your dog in the act of licking but have noticed that your pillow is randomly damp. While it may not jump out to you immediately, it should become apparent before long that your dog is the culprit.
The reason that your dog might be licking the pillow while you are gone is that it is experiencing separation anxiety. Dogs commonly experience this when their owner leaves for any amount of time and the dog becomes anxious.
It doesn’t even have to be all that long; dogs don’t have a concept of time, so you could be gone for hours to them even if it has been just a short period of time. Dogs can display their anxiety in a number of different ways.
One of those is that they lick your pillow when you aren’t around. They can smell your scent on the pillow and the licking gives them reassurance even if you aren’t there.
It can be difficult to dispel this kind of behavior, especially because they only display it when you are leaving or gone.
There are some dogs that simply have compulsive behavioral traits. Your dog may start a certain behavior and then continue to do it excessively. They may seem like they have no way to stop, either.
Dogs that lick (or do anything else) compulsively should be taken to the vet. There could be neurological issues at play and the vet will be able to best assess what to do.
Certain compulsive behaviors are more serious than others. Licking the pillow is a minor one, but you should still consult the vet just to make sure that there aren’t larger issues at play.
Things to Keep Under Consideration
There are some helpful suggestions for not only figuring out when your dog began licking your pillow, but how to address the problem as well. The key is recognizing a few different things that can give you the information that you need to proceed.
There is also a chance that you have been inadvertently training your dog to lick your pillow. Though it isn’t likely, perhaps you have been giving it treats right after it licked your pillow.
This can happen without your realizing this is the case.
Consider When it Started
Try to think back to the first time you noticed your dog licking your pillow. This can be a little tough to pinpoint because you may have just written off the first couple of times.
Still, the closer you can get to when the problem started, the better you’ll be able to identify the factors that contributed to the licking.
There is a good chance that your dog didn’t always lick the pillow. If that’s the case, there were definitely triggers that started the habit. Those changes could have come due to inadvertent rewarding, changing its diet, or a particularly hot and sweaty night.
There are also dogs that simply do it from the start. That doesn’t mean the aforementioned factors aren’t a cause for doing it, it just means there is likely some kind of compulsive behavioral issue at play.
Pinpointing when you first began to notice it can give you a better idea of whether or not it was a random factor at play or if it is a behavioral issue.
Consider When Your Dog Licks the Pillow
While it is important to figure out when this all began, it is also important to pinpoint if there are specific times when your dog licks the pillow. If it does it seemingly at random, it is more than likely a behavioral issue.
But if you notice that the dog is licking your pillow just before you leave, this could be due to potential separation anxiety. If you have been preoccupied and haven’t been giving your dog attention, it could be trying to do just that.
Try to show your dog some attention and love for a short period before going back to whatever it was you were doing. This could be enough to dispel the licking.
How to Get Your Dog to Stop Licking Your Pillow
Whatever the reason is, the ultimate goal is to ensure that your dog stops licking your pillow. While there aren’t any dangers to it, there are negatives. The first is that your pillow will be wet with dog saliva and that is just gross.
There is also the fact that your dog is repeating behavior that is not acceptable. You will always want to deter behaviors that are detrimental in any way and try to instill discipline in your dog. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to deter your dog.
What you do will depend on the cause of the licking, which is why it is so important that you monitor the behavior and try to pinpoint where and why.
1 – Negative Reinforcement
If you catch your dog in the act, it could be as simple as providing some negative reinforcement. Say their name sternly and take the pillow away.
It may take a little bit of time for them to pick up on the message, but this could be all you need to do to deter them from licking the pillow.
But if repeated negative reinforcement doesn’t work, it may be time to try other tactics. Don’t just yell at the dog if it isn’t working; it won’t change anything. It will just continue to make both you and the dog upset, and you will still have a wet pillow.
2 – Try to Reduce Separation Anxiety
Because separation anxiety could be the culprit, it will require a bit of training to get your dog feeling comfortable when you leave. Start out with small periods of time so your dog doesn’t get anxious. When you get back, reward the dog.
With each successful trip, reward the dog to show it that there will be a reward for proper behavior. Each time you do this, spread out the time. It will take some time to build up to the point where your dog can handle you being gone for hours at a time.
If your dog has severe separation anxiety, you may need to start at the very beginning. Don’t even leave the room, just get ready like you normally would before you leave. Try to be patient with your dog and show it love in addition to giving it treats.
This will help to build to the point where your dog can feel comfortable with you not only leaving but being gone for hours at a time.
3 – Other Things to Chew/Lick
Diverting its focus can be another thing to consider, especially if it has compulsive behavior. They may be licking your pillow because it provides comfort for that compulsiveness. Try to give it something new to focus on.
You can give it chews or bones or a new toy to focus its attention on. Keep in mind that this may not work 100%.
It could distract them for a little while before they return back to the pillow. But anything you can do to distract them from licking your pillow is a step in the right direction.
4 – Introduce Training
There is a specific kind of training known as “leave it” training. This is to get the dog to understand that they are to leave the pillow alone and not lick it. This requires positive reinforcement, both verbally and using treats.
First, get some treats that you know the dog likes and then go grab the pillow. Place the pillow away from the dog and tell it to “leave it.” If the dog acknowledges the pillow but doesn’t lick it, reward them with a treat, pets, or any other kind of positive reinforcement.
If the dog does end up licking the pillow, take it away and place it away from the dog. Repeat the “leave it” command and see what it does. Repeat these steps until the dog starts to get the idea and stops moving to lick the pillow.
Eventually, this repeated direction/rewarding should teach your dog not to lick the pillow without constant reminding. How long it takes depends on your dog.
5 – Reduce Access
Generally speaking, licking pillows will only happen with bed pillows. This is because your scent will be strongest on these pillows. So, if you are having issues keeping them away from your pillow, the easiest solution could be to cut off their access.
Keep the bedroom door closed whenever you aren’t in it. This can be difficult to remember initially but try to do so. This could be enough to break them of the habit simply because they can’t get at the pillows when you aren’t there.
The less access they have to your pillow, the more likely they are to shift their attention to other areas. Soon, they will forget all about the pillow and your problem will be solved.
6 – Check Their Diet
Dogs need a proper diet to remain healthy, bring a greater shine to their coat, and even prevent some behavioral issues. Look into what type of dog you have and the diet they should have.
Make the requisite changes and see if your dog keeps licking the pillows. If it doesn’t, try one of the aforementioned suggestions. It all depends on the type of dog you have.