Licking is part of what dogs do. They lick themselves for grooming purposes, they lick other dogs or animals they are close to, they lick you, and sometimes, they lick the carpet.
If your dog starts licking the carpet, you may find this behavior to be strange as well as disconcerting. It can be one of those quirky dog behaviors, or there might be more to it.
Take a look at some of the non-quirky reasons that dogs lick the carpet.
Your Dog Could Be Stressed Out
When your dog is happy, you can see it. It will wag its tail and follow you around. It might lick you, but more in an affectionate way.
When your dog is stressed out, the stress can manifest itself in different behaviors. Licking the carpet is one of those behaviors.
If the licking is accompanied by panting and pacing, that suggests that stress might be playing a role here. If you suspect stress, you may want to call your veterinarian and find out what you can do, as there are different ways of dealing with stress depending on its source.
Here are some common stressors for dogs:
- New person or pet in the home
- Changes in the home
- Separation from you
- Being confined
- Underlying health condition
- Moving to a new home
You can go through the list and rule out anything that’s not a fit, but if you have health concerns, you may want to call your veterinarian.
There is actually a name for anxiety-based licking. Some veterinarians call it Excessive Licking of Surfaces, or ELS. Dogs with this disorder lick the carpet, but they may also lick walls, furniture, and all surfaces they have access to.
To be diagnosed with ELS, your dog has to show a pattern of obsessive licking. It is important to address this condition because in all of that licking, your dog may ingest harmful substances that could even lead to an intestinal blockage.
Dogs who lick the carpet compulsively may have internal parasites or other irritants that are leading to the licking. This is the main reason that it’s important to check with your vet if you think your dog’s carpet licking is too obsessive.
Your Dog Might Be Bored
Sometimes, a bored dog will chew your shoes or furniture, and other times, it might lick the carpet. Dogs do need a certain amount of mental and physical stimulation, and if your dog isn’t getting this, it might start licking the carpet.
If you think that boredom may be causing your dog to lick your carpet, you should try to increase its exercise. Maybe your dog needs an extra walk or to go to the dog park and play. You can just go out in the yard and think of some fun dog games to play. Favorites are fetch and just running around.
You can also buy some fun dog toys for your dog to play with during the day while you are at work. There are so many amazing toys on the market today, and you can find puzzle toys that will occupy your dog’s attention for hours.
Some of these toys release a treat if the dog solves the problem, and dogs really do enjoy them.
Finally, if you are concerned that your dog is bored, you can always call a pet sitter or drop your pup at doggie daycare a few times a week. You might be the main person your dog wants to hang out with, but usually dogs are happy with anyone over nobody.
Your Dog Might Need Nutrients
When a dog is lacking in certain nutrients, it can start licking the carpet, as well as other surfaces. By feeding your dog a high-quality dog food, you will not only help to prevent the carpet licking, but there are other benefits a well.
Just as with people, carbohydrates are essential for dogs to have energy. The best dog foods have carbs in the form of whole grains, as well as brown rice, whole corn, barley, and potatoes, which will maintain your dog’s blood sugar levels and keep them feeling full for a longer time.
Healthy Fats and Oils
Healthy fats and oils are another important part of your dog’s diet. When dogs are lacking this, they can start licking because they sense that they need something, even if they don’t know what it is.
Make sure that your dog food has fats and oils from sources including pork fat, sunflower oil, or chicken fat.
Essential Minerals and Vitamins
The more you realize what dogs need in their diet, the more you can see that they really aren’t that different from humans in this regard. You want your dog food to have ingredients that offer a source of vitamins and minerals.
For instance, fish, broccoli, beans, and sweet potato are great for water-soluble vitamins, and carrots, corn, and cabbage are great fat-soluble vitamin sources. This will help your dog to be healthier and have a stronger immune system, and it might help stop the carpet licking.
You May Want to Check for Underlying Health Problems
If you notice that your dog is licking the carpet as well as its paws and other surfaces, it really could be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Studies have shown that dogs that lick obsessively often have a gastrointestinal problem. The licking doesn’t necessarily cause the problem, it is normally a result of an underlying issue.
One major issue mentioned above is internal parasites. Once a parasite infects the intestines, it can cause your dog to lose weight, become lethargic, and have terrible diarrhea.
This parasite comes from contaminated water, soil, and feces. In addition, a dog that licks everything can lick outside and pick this parasite up. It is a good idea to make sure that this is not your dog’s issue.
Another common problem is pancreatitis. The pancreas helps to break down food for digestion, and they secrete enzymes for this purpose.
When the pancreas has an issue, these enzymes might move into the abdomen, which can cause huge problems for the dog. You can check with your vet to rule pancreatitis out.
Finally, some dogs have issues with food not going through the digestive system quickly enough, and this can also lead to obsessive carpet licking. This issue may not surface until it becomes an emergency situation, so having your dog checked out sooner is a good idea.
How to Get Your Dog to Stop Licking the Carpet
If you have checked in with your vet and an underlying health problem isn’t causing the licking, there are ways that you can deter your dog from licking. You need to make sure that your home is not a stressful place for the dog.
If you have recently moved, the dog will adjust in time. The same holds true if there is a new family member or a temporary guest. If stress is causing the licking, eliminating the stress should take care of the problem.
You can always consult with an animal behavior specialist if you are worried that the problem is stress from something in the environment, this kind of specialist can really help you learn how to relieve your dog’s stress.
Finally, you can make repellants to spray on the carpet or other areas that your dog licks. You can use a spray bottle, and mix water with a tiny bit of hot sauce, and spray the area. Just be sure to dilute the hot sauce because you don’t want to burn your dog or leave it on the carpet.
How to Interact with Your Dog When it Licks
The most important thing you can do is try to figure out why your dog is licking the carpet. Once you figure out what is causing the behavior, you will be able to start the process of teaching the dog not to do it.
Make sure that you don’t lose your patience with your dog. The dog doesn’t know if it is doing anything wrong. Dogs pick up habits and they don’t even realize it, and they have no idea why they are doing it. It’s instinctual, whatever the underlying cause, and they don’t know how to stop without training.
If you have ruled out a health problem and eliminated any potential stressors, you may need to train your dog to break the habit. Exercise will help, along with toys to prevent boredom.
If you can replace the licking with other behaviors, your dog may even forget about it altogether. An animal behavior specialist can be very helpful in this situation, if you have the time and the resources, this could really help you learn how to teach your dog not to lick the carpet.
Always remember that your dog loves you, and it only wants to make you happy. This will remind you to keep your patience and really focus on training your pup to stop licking the carpet.