Why Is My Dog Obsessively Licking Other Dogs?

Updated on March 22, 2016
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

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Does Your Dog Obsessively Lick Other Dogs?

Among the vast repertoire of dog behavior, some behaviors make us laugh, others can be quite annoying, and others simply leave us baffled. Like when dogs obsessively lick other dogs. Whenever I see it, I just can't help but wonder what on earth dogs are thinking.

Whether you own an adult dog or a puppy, obsessive licking is out of the norm. Yes, the occasional lick is often witnessed among some groups of social, friendly dogs, but what if all your dog wants to do is lick? What if he doesn't engage in other behaviors other than licking? At this point, you may be wondering if you're dealing with the canine version of an obsessive disorder.

Safety Concerns with Other Dogs

First and foremost, safety comes first. Not all dogs like to be repeatedly licked as you can imagine. So if you notice your pup repeatedly licking another dog, pay attention to the dog being licked. If the object of your dog's attention tries to move away, you may want to intervene before things escalate. Depending on that other dog's temperament, he could respond in any number of ways: some of them not so pretty. If moving away doesn't work, the other dog may growl. If that goes unheeded, then trouble is definitely brewing as the next step could be an air snap, an inhibited bite or a bite that causes damage.

Even if the other dog appears to have the patience of a saint, it's really not fair for him to sustain all that repeated licking. Even the most tolerant dogs may have a breaking point after some time. And even though they may not react as we would expect them to, they may start resenting being around other dogs, due to the negative associations.

Just separating the dogs likely won't solve the problem. Once they're back together, the licking dog may lick even more enthusiastically, almost as if he must catch up for the lost time. So what's going on with this dog, and most of all, how can you reduce this annoying behavior?

What Your Dog Licks and What it Means

When you observe your dog licking other dogs, pay close attention to whether the licking is targeted towards a specific body part. Is your dog obsessively licking the other dog's mouth? the ears? or the private areas? Interestingly, there may be some explanations based on what area your dog focuses on.

Licking Another Dog's Mouth

Licking other dogs' mouths is behavior that comes from early puppyhood, when puppies used to lick their mother's lips. The behavior was meant to encourage the mother dog to regurgitate food for them. This may sound odd, but when puppies were being weaned in the wild and started to no longer depend on mother's milk, mother dog would eat and regurgitate semi-digested food. This helped the pups transition from a diet of milk to one based on meat from prey.

As pups grow, they may still lick faces to greet other dogs and people. When dogs jump on you, they are simply trying to come near your face to say hello. You may therefore often see a dog lick his lips or mouth to communicate to others his peaceful intention and friendliness, explains author and dog behavior expert, Arden Moore. A dog may lick another dog's mouth after playing rough to communicate peaceful intent or to offer an apology.

A dog who does this obsessively though, may not have been properly socialized, and as such, may overuse this stereotypical behavior because he knows no other more appropriate way to approach dogs.

Some dogs will go as far as licking inside the other dog's open mouth. My female Rottie used to do this to my male when they were pups; we called it " dental treatment time" and my male dog didn't seem to object. In some cases though, a dog who obsessively licks another dog's mouth sense something out of the norm. The dog being licked may have a mouth infection, bleeding gums or even a tumor.

What Should You Do?

Observe your dog's behavior and interactions. If your dog licks briefly and the other dog is friendly, that's normal, social behavior, but if your dog insists on licking and it starts looking looking like an obsession, it's time to intervene. Step in when he's done licking once or twice, call your dog and redirect him into a different activity.

Licking Another Dog's Ear

And then you have dogs who are obsessed with other dogs' ears. Often, this is a puppy who finds the floppy ears of other dogs fun to play with. The more the other dog moves away, the more appealing the ears become as they get more mobile. Luckily, many adult dogs are tolerant of puppy behavior, but not all dogs will grant a puppy license to act this way and may growl or even give a correction to the boisterous pup.

Ear licking can also be part of a dog's grooming repertoire. Dogs who live together may lick each other's ears when they're napping close by to each other. Because a dog cannot groom its own ears, having them licked by another dog may be welcomed and even reciprocated. This can also signal a close bond between the dogs.

And then, just as you have dogs licking mouths because of interesting smells and remnants of food, there are dogs who lick ears because they are lured by the smell of earwax—I know, yuck. But we all know well the discriminating sense of smell and taste Fido is blessed with, so it shouldn't come as a surprise. If another dog has an ear infection or a bleeding wound, the other dog may also be attracted by that.

Interestingly, it appears that the skin around an adult dog's ears may emit pheromones that make them attractive to younger animals, explains veterinary behaviorist Dr. Cam Day. This may play a role in dog social communication and cohesion, suggests Nicola Ackerman in her book The Consulting Veterinary Nurse. A dog may lick the ears briefly to signal peaceful intent or perhaps apologize after playing rough.

What Should You Do?

As with mouth licking, carefully observe your dog's behavior and the interaction. If your dog licks briefly and the other dog is friendly and doesn't seem to mind, that's normal, social behavior. If your dogs enjoy ear-licking grooming behavior, that's fine too as long as all parties agree to it, but if your dog insists on licking and it starts looking like an obsession, it's time to intervene. Step in when he's done licking once or twice, call your dog, and redirect him to a different activity. Also keep in mind that excessive ear licking will make the victim dog's ears moist and provide “a nice environment for yeast and bacteria to flourish,” explains Dr. Pike.

If your dog doesn't typically lick ears and now all of a sudden can't take his mind off the ears of your another dog, consider having that dog's ears checked out. Veterinarian Dr. Marie claims that almost every time when within a two-dog household one dog wants to lick the other dog's ears obsessively, it's because of some type of medical issue going on with the other dog's ears.

Licking Another Dog's Privates

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Normally, when dogs meet for the first time, they'll show some interest in each other's private areas. The dog's body has apocrine sweat glands scattered over its entire body that emit pheromones. Dog pheromones are highly concentrated in their private and rear-end areas, explains Stanley Coren. It's therefore natural for dogs to be drawn to these areas. When dogs sniff these areas they learn a lot about the other dog such as their age, health, gender, and even mood.

In an ideal social greeting, checking the private areas should take place for just a handful of seconds. If one dog persists in licking, the other dog may at some point communicate a need for the other dog to move on. Just as you may object to a person shaking your hand for an indefinite period of time, a dog may decide he has had enough by either moving away or emitting a growl.

As with other forms of licking we have seen, a dog who suddenly becomes obsessed with licking another dog's privates may be communicating that something is amiss health-wise with the other dog. The licked dog's private area may have some discharge in the form of drops of urine or pus. There may even be some irritation or wound.

What Should You Do?

As with the other forms of licking we have seen, carefully observe your dog's behavior and the interaction. If your dog licks briefly and the other dog is friendly and doesn't seem to mind, that's normal, social behavior. But if your dog insists on licking and it starts looking looking like an obsession, it's time to intervene. Step in when he's done licking once or twice, call your dog, and redirect him to a different activity. Have your licked dog checked out by a vet to ensure there's nothing medical going on.

If the licked dog has a clean bill of health, provide more stimulation to the instigator to keep his mind off of the licking. Prevent him from rehearsing the behavior over and over by using a positive interrupter and then invest in differential reinforcement of non-licking behaviors. Punishment may seem like a tempting solution, but consider that punishment is prone to fallout down the road and will only cause your dog to learn to lick your other dog when you're not around. Consider also that as with ear licking, continuous licking of the other dog's genitals may make them vulnerable to annoying local irritations and infections.

The Bottom Line

Licking can be normal, social dog behavior, but, as with other behaviors, when done excessively, it may signal some problem that needs investigating. A good place to start is to have the licked dog evaluated by a vet to rule out medical problems. Dogs have shown an uncanny ability to recognize medical problems.

But what if your dog's behavior is so obsessive that you have a hard time redirecting it and putting it to a stop? What if the issue doesn't lessen or subside despite providing environmental enrichment, exercise, and training? Dogs, similar to humans, may be also prone to obsessive, compulsive behaviors. Consult with a reputable force-free behavior professional to help you out.

Alexadry © all rights reserved, do not copy.

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      BellatheBall 2 days ago

      Are you sure the other dogs are licking and not just sniffing?

      Sniffing a new dog, especially a puppy like yours, by older dogs, is completely normal.

      Older dogs will want to get the scent of the newcomer. If this is bothersome, just keep walking, with your dog on the leash. The other dogs with go away.

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 days ago from USA

      NCA, a medical reason can be a culprit but not necessarily. Does your dog have any odd discharge or cuts in that area? It could be that dog simply interacts that way. Does he do it to others dogs as well or only your dog? Are any other dogs attracted to your dog and lick him as well? It would be nice if the owner could redirect this dog rather than allowing such inappropriate interactions.

    • NCA profile image

      NCA 3 days ago

      I have a male 10 month old pitbull mix (neutered) and almost every time I take him to the park a dog will start liking his private parts obsessively (different dogs) sometimes making us leave. Based on what I'm reading here I should take him to the vet because there could be something wrong with him?

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      bellatheball 4 weeks ago

      Please see my comment below. Dogs get bored with limited activity which can happen especially in the Winter time. Obviously, Lola can't answer 'why' she is licking the couch, but you were on the right track when you asked her that. She sensed you didn't like it, so she stopped.

      But, when Lola started to lick Minnie, you didn't object.

      Dogs need a leader and that pack leader should be you, not another dog.

      Fortunately, you can object to any unwanted behavior at any time.

      Try this: The next time you see Lola licking Minnie, clap your hands together and say in a loud voice "Stop Lola".

      Repeat every time Lola begins to lick Minnie. Also provide another activity for both the dogs. When it is nice weather, take them for a walk, or a car ride.

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      Marianne 6 weeks ago

      I have a pitbull mix 44 lbs 2 1\2 yrs old lola that keeps licking our smaller dog rat terrier /Boston terrier mix 17 lbs 4yrs old minnie both females both fixid.. lola was licking the couch n i looked at her n i said why r u licking my couch n then she started to lick Minnie and from that point on she constantly licks minnie all over. Minnie don't seem to mind but its bothering me.. I do give them less baths in the winter because it's cold out n there indoors more could that be a possibility that they need to be bathed more often. We have a male dog boxer mix 3yrs 71 lbs n she doesn't seam to lick him.. it does seam minnie is are pack leader any thoughts

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      BellatheBall 7 weeks ago

      While it is always a great idea to take your dog to the vet first to rule out any medical conditions, most veterinary schools do not teach dog behavior.

      Dogs can and do develop obsessive behaviors if they are not provided with enough exercise or mental stimulation, as I have previously stated.

      Focusing on the behavior may not be the correct approach to changing the behavior. Virtually all dog breeds were bred to do some type of work, and if you (the owner) do not give them a job to do, they will find their own job.

      And I guarantee , you won't like it!

      Whether it is chasing the cat, digging holes in the back yard, or obsessively licking their canine housemate, it is what we call "maladaptive", (they are doing it for lack of something else to do).

      So, take your dog for a walk!

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      BellatheBall 7 weeks ago

      I agree that is always a good idea to get a medical or vet consult for your dog. But Veterinary school does not normally teach dog behavior.

      My intention was not to say that you were incorrect. Rather, that focusing on the behavior may not be the right approach.

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 7 weeks ago from USA

      Hello Bellatheball, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am a dog trainer and behavior consultant too in case you haven't seen my bio. When dealing with certain behaviors, I believe it's always a good idea to rule out medical problems first. See, before being a dog trainer, I worked for a vet hospital and therefore know for a fact that many times excessive licking of certain body parts are due to underlying medical problems. It's a fact that dogs are drawn to discharges and unusual odors. This is often the case especially when this behavior comes out of the blue. So before implementing enrichment and training, it's always best to consider this possibility. One may miss a potential medical condition that needs addressed. And that in my opinion may be a big root cause even before implementing training exercise etc. I think you may have missed the end of the article where I state "Provide more stimulation to the instigator to keep his mind off of the licking"and then "What if the issue doesn't lessen or subside despite providing environmental enrichment, exercise, and training?" Every time I say "redirect him to a different activity"it infers providing more exercise mental stimulation and training.

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      Yvonne 8 weeks ago

      I have a 9 yr old Aussie/German Shepard Lab mix, a 3 yr old Pug and a 11 yr old Rottie/ Lab mix... The Rottie mix and Pug are both neutered and the Ozzie is not, (all males) The Ozzie, ( his name is Ozzie, lol) and the Pug is Herbert.....those 2 are constantly follow and lick the Rottie's (Boomer) butthole and his private.. Ozzie is absolutely obsessed with it to the point of just plain discussing, we have tried everything and Ozzie seeks Boomer out constantly to just lick his butt....and where ever Boomer lays whenever he gets up orkoves Ozzie is all over the spot, licking the carpet and making a weird movement with his mouth....it is driving me crazy , I have separated the 2 big dogs ....it is hard because they have grown up together and it's like separating your kids.....I'm just at a lose I have no idea what to do now...

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      Linwood 2 months ago

      My dog wants to lick the private parts of other dogs what can I do about this it not normal??

    • BellatheBall profile image

      BellatheBall 2 months ago

      Sorry, AJF, but you are over thinking the problem.

      I am a dog trainer with more than 30 years of experience and I can tell you what the problem with these dogs is:

      1: Not enough exercise: Dogs full of pent up energy will look for an outlet. (This is the Number 1 cause of dog behavior problems!)

      2: Not enough training: Dogs need stimulation of the mind, not just the body.

      3. Socialization: Take your trained dog to the off-leash dog park, PetsMart, the neighborhood park, go for car rides, etc.

      A less experienced trainer (than me) will focus on the problem behavior. But I know to get to root cause of the behavior: Not enough exercise and not enough training.

      A: Do not crate your dogs. This is harmful to the dog and should only be used for travel or dog shows.

      B: Exercise your dog(s) by leash walking at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 times a week.

      C: Enroll the dog in an AKC (American Kennel Club) Obedience Class (Basic Obedience).

      D: Play with your dog(s)! Get tennis balls or Frisbees and play fetch with your dog every day in the house or back yard.

      Dogs need to work! If you do not give them a job to do, they will make up a job on their own. And I guarantee it will be a job that you don't like. Even a job that makes no sense to you, such as obsessively licking a pack mate or digging holes in back yard!

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      Abbey 4 months ago

      My dog is mini labradoodle she loves to lick my lab-pot mix’s back. Seriously she’ll lick my other dogs whole back and when I pull her away she goes right back like a magnet.

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      Barbara Mohorc 5 months ago

      I have a 11lb mini pin male dog (1 1/2yrs) will not stop licking the inside of my daughter female dogs mouth. (3yrs old lab- pit mix) its intense, licking deep inside her mouth and rubs his head on her teeth.

      My daughter just moved back home. The dogs play great. Any thoughts.

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      CF79 7 months ago

      I have a Jack Russell named Sadie. Sadie is almost 7. Sadie licks the faces of her dog friends because, she's Sadie. It's not a problem. Their is no issue of non-socialization. There are no tumors or issues with the the other dogs. She does not love the taste of ear wax. It's not submissive She just loves to lick the faces of her BFF's. If she loves her canine friend, she will lick their faces on many an occasion. If she does not have a good relationship with a canine (which is rare) she will not. She does not know of dominance or submissiveness. She has never understood this.

      She has hung out with another JRT female and, although the JRT was alot more grumpier than Sadie, she would still lick her face because she loved her. The other JRT would growl and growl but they never ever ever fought. The other JRT was a nown fighter. Sadie just is a hybrid of puppy, playful, hunter, assertively and hilarious clown.

      Often times people say she's more of a cartoon character than an actual dog. She's even grown the affection's of larger rescue dogs such as Rotty's and Dobermans who are confused and taken aback to her fearless abandon of them as well as her ability to lick their noses on first meeting. However, she is not doing it out of submissiveness, as she will soon have a dog like a larger Yellow Lab go belly up due to her insistence to keep playing.

      Sometimes, a dog just has a way about them. Sadie is a licker of other dogs. And the more she loves them. The more they get a good tongue bath. The only issue that has ever ocurred is the grooming issue of her current sister of the house, a maltese schnauzer mix who needs alot more baths do to her unshedable hair which neds constant baths due to her Jack Russell's love!

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 12 months ago from USA

      I always think a vet visit is important, just to check for underlying medical problems, especially when new behavior pop up like this. You may need to use a baby gate to prevent rehearsal of behavior when you are not around. You can give a stuffed Kong to train your dog to look for other activities, in the meanwhile and redirect to the stuffed Kong when your dog tries to get to the schnauzer. If you are concerned about calories, stuff the Kong with daily ratio of kibble given a little at a time in it. Keep your springer busy with activities during the day. these dogs have lots of energy!

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 12 months ago from USA

      You may have to keep them separated, use a baby gate. At other times, provide your doxie with a stuffed Kong to keep him entertained and keep his mind off your other dog. Redirect him to the Kong if at any times he tries to go back to licking.

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      Debbie 12 months ago

      I have a english springer spaniel that is 2 yrs old and a minature schnauzer the springer licks the schnauzer constantly on the head and back keeping her soaking wet, i have no clue how to stop this. and now he is hunching her and its all i can do to pull him off of her, she was fixed when she was 9 months old and she is 8 yrs now. i need some advice.

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      Crystal Martin 12 months ago

      We have a 16yr old male dachshund and a 3yr old male dachshund. The 16yr old has lymphatic cancer but is responding well to treatment. He obsessively licks the younger one all over. The last few days has gotten really bad. If he can't get to him he whines and cries now. Please help!

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      Ladybug73 12 months ago

      I have a 16yr old male dachshund that was just diagnosed with Lymphatic Cancer and a 3yr old male dachshund. For the last 6 months or so the older one licks the younger one like he is grooming him and the younger one just sits and enjoys it. . No really specific area just all over. No mouth or genitals. We've tried redirecting him and nothing has worked. Why is he doing this?

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 12 months ago from USA

      He may be getting information from this area as it's an area where dogs secrete pheromones.

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 12 months ago from USA

      Patricia, I would have the dog checked out if there is any issue with the anal glands. Is this a female dog or male dog?

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      Patricia 12 months ago

      I have a dog that will not stop picking my other dogs rectum,why does he do this?

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      Delmer 13 months ago

      I have an American bulldog thst constantly licks every animal he comes in contact with cats other dogs etc. We just bought another dog as soon as we get home with the puppy my bulldog licks her as much as he can . If we push him away from her he lays there and whines. But if we let him he does not stop the puppy has shown that she doesn't like it as she growls and barks at him but he don't care he continues to try to lick her. At night time my bulldog lays there and whines all night unless we let him lick her so what should I do about this.

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      susan brown 13 months ago

      My male chihuahua will sit there behind my female and lick the spot right above her tail, he will do it for long periods of time, he's actually licked a bare spot above her tail and now he does it with his Daughter who is a little over a year old!

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 14 months ago from USA

      You will have to keep them separate (baby gate, umbilical leash) or find a mechanical means to discourage this habit. Have your bulldog wear a shirt or pair of boxers that covers his whole back area and monitor all interactions, another option is to spray a bit of bitter yuck or Grannick's Apple around the wounds or on the shirt area to discourage trying to remove it. Also, you may want to train your cheweenie a leave it cue followed by a treat so that you can re-direct him or offer interactive toy to keep him mind off the wounds.

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      Lenore Walker 14 months ago

      I have a 3 year old English Bulldog and a 1 1/2 years old Cheweenie. Well my cheweenie in the last 4 months has started locking my bulldog, on her back tI'll there is literally a raw bleeding, almost hole, on her back. We have trod redirecting the cheweenie to another activity and put him in his crate, but what do I do to stop this behavior?? My poor bulldog has probally 4 or 5 spots on her back that my cheweenie has obsessively licked and now are balb and hairless. Please how do I fix this habit?? My husband is ready to get ride of him, and my kids and I love the little guy very much and would be heart broken if we have to find him a new home. Please any advice would help

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      Guest 15 months ago

      Patricia, here's a start, take those poor animals to the vet already. Neosporin is not going to heal an infected hole in the poor dog. Good grief!!! Is there CPS for dogs??

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      Nicol 18 months ago

      What if you dog keeps licking a puppies private part

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      Patricia Pruett 18 months ago

      My dog has licked a hole on my other dog's head, just behind the ear. It is severely infected and Cappuccino, the male dog's name is, will not stop licking Emma's head. I have put things such as neosporin and as far as antibiotics to try and stop the infection but he will not stop licking. Before that, he licked a hole in my couch, in his crotch, in the wall and now on my other dog. What am I supposed to do? I cant put anti-chewing stuff on there, can I? its not only bad for Emma, a very short tempered dog who has already three times bitten and drawn blood from Cappuccino but she has now gotten sick and lays on the vent by the door with the infected side on the floor. How can I deal with this?

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      MargieR 20 months ago

      Had interesting encounter while walking my 1yr old German shepherd/ husky mix male. He is unpredictable with other dogs after a bad experience and most times will growl or the hackles go up. While walking on leash, a BIG male pit bull off leash came up to us and started licking my dogs penis. My dog stood there and did not get annoyed or upset, although I swear he looked very nervous. I had to distract the other dog and get my dog to start moving to break the action. He was in no hurry to stop. It made me very nervous..and I was quite shocked by it.

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      I would start with a vet visit for both dogs to check for medical problems.

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      Angie 23 months ago

      My Golden Retriever is 6 and Is CONSTANTLY liking My Blood Hounds Genitals, Ears and Butt.. Non stop seriously! Both dogs could be just laying in the living room, and the Golden will jump up walk over and just start liking the others Dogs Genitals.. I say stop, go lay down, and 5 secs later hes at it again.. HELP! Does the Golden have an anxiety disorder or something!

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      Play with him, train him, walk him, and engage in confidence building exercises https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Behavior-Exercises...

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      Michael 23 months ago

      I have a pit bull Garry and another small dog lokie Garry is like 65 lbs and lokie is maybe 3 lbs Garry will case lokie and kick him for may be 20 minutes. Plus he licks EVERY thing in the house he is a pound rescue, and in a lot of ways is damaged I think he's been beaten really bad but is a great dog. He don't like confrontation big groups of people and jumps at loud noises. What can I do to help him get his confidence back

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      Eyes can be "tasty" from a dog's perspective due to tears or ocular discharge.

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      Lyndsay 2 years ago

      What about eyes? My dog licks my other dogs eyes at any time anywhere

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      Dogs are so interesting, as they often have their unique ways of communicating. If it seems to be happening mostly in that context, you calling the dog for attention, perhaps it's a displacement behavior. Often, when getting attention from owners, it's a time of conflict for dogs. Your dog that licks may be using the licking as a displacement behavior instead of biting. In a similar example, a dog may be frustrated by a child who removes his toy, and therefore may feel compelled to bite, but chooses to suddenly lick his paw as a displacement behavior. Of course, until dogs can talk and really tell us what is going on their minds, one can make only assumptions. Here's a read about displacement behaviors:https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Understanding-Dog-Disp...

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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Very helpful. I have three dogs and they lick each other at different times in different parts of the body. This has been a real eye opener, and now I know how to respond to their licking behavior. I also realize that licking is a loving activity. But strangely, when I call one dog, the other deliberately distracts it by licking its face over and over. I can't figure out if its out of dog love or (am I being presumptive?) because the dog is jealous that he is not getting human attention, and wants to provide a distraction to his fellow dog to deprive her.

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      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Thankfully I am not familiar with these behaviors but it was educational. The more we know about our friends the better we can treat them.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks DDE, frustrating is the right word when dealing with the obsessive dog licking, luckily there are ways to help these dogs out, but in some cases they may need the intervention of a behaviorist.

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      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting and such behavior can be frustrating. Your reasons sounds helpful.

    working