As dog owners, we’ve all witnessed our dogs engage in a wide range of quirky behaviors that leave us both amused and curious. One such behavior that often catches our attention is when our beloved pups start licking blankets. You might have wondered, “Why do dogs lick blankets?” I first noticed this habit with my Australian Shepherd, Lacy. I started to notice small “wet” spots on some of our blankets that Lacy had previously been on. Her excessive licking of blankets had me quite puzzled and I wanted to know the underlying cause of this seemingly weird behavior.
Picture this: you’re cozied up on the couch with your pup, and suddenly, they start licking the blanket draped across your legs. You’re left wondering why your dog is giving your blanket a thorough tongue bath. This common behavior can be attributed to a combination of natural instincts, sensory exploration, communication, comfort, and sometimes underlying health or behavioral issues.
So, Why Do Dogs Lick Blankets? Let’s Explore the Possible Reasons
Sensory Exploration and Comfort
Dogs experience the world primarily through their senses, and blankets offer a rich sensory experience. The texture of the fabric provides tactile stimulation, similar to how dogs explore their surroundings with their paws and noses. Additionally, the familiar scent of the blanket, often infused with your strong scent, provides a sense of comfort and security. Licking the blanket becomes a way for your dog to engage with these sensory cues and create a connection with their environment.
Communication and Social Bonds
Licking plays a crucial role in canine communication and social bonding. You’ve likely experienced your dog licking your face or hands as a sign of affection. This is totally normal behavior because dogs communicate with each other through grooming and licking. Dogs do this behavior within their “packs.” When your dog licks blankets or even bed sheets, it could be an extension of this bonding behavior, a way of including the blanket as a member of their “pack.” Whoever thought a blanket could be part of your pup’s pack?
Resource licking is another aspect of communication where dogs might lick objects (like blankets) to communicate ownership or indicate that the object holds value to them. This behavior is often seen in multi-dog households. This is definitely something I see in my household between my two dogs.
Stress and Anxiety
Blanket licking or in this case “anxious licking” can also be linked to emotions such as stress and anxiety. Dogs, like humans, have their ways of coping with emotions, and licking can be a self-soothing behavior. If your dog is experiencing stressors in their environment or changes in routine, they might turn to blanket licking as a way to self-soothe. Actually, research has shown that repetitive licking releases hormones that help to ease your dog’s anxiety or stress. This is especially common in dogs that suffer from separation anxiety.
Dogs with too much pent-up energy or insufficient mental stimulation might engage in repetitive behaviors like blanket licking out of boredom. Ensuring that your dog gets enough physical exercise and mental enrichment through play, training, and chew toy/puzzle toys can help alleviate boredom-related behaviors. If you are looking for ways to tire out your pup or ways to provide some interactive games or mental stimulation check out this post here.
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Lack of Outlet for Oral Fixation
Dogs have a natural need to explore their world through their mouths. If your dog doesn’t have appropriate chew toys or items to interact with, they might redirect their oral fixation towards licking blankets. My personal suggestion is to get a lick mat for your dog. If you are unaware, a lick mat is a silicone-like mat that has tiny grooves on the surface of the mat. Dog food or other food that are part of your dog’s diet placed on the mat and your dog is encouraged to lick the food particles off the mat.
This activity is usually very comforting for dogs. My pups absolutely love their lick mats and we make it part of their weekly rotation of activities. Check out one of our most popular posts all about lick mats here.
Puppyhood and Developmental Phases
Puppies, in particular, tend to explore the world around them through their mouths and tongues. Blanket licking is common among puppies as they go through their developmental stages. It’s a way for them to learn about different textures and tastes, and it’s often a precursor to their adult grooming behaviors. While puppy blanket licking is generally normal, it’s essential to monitor and guide them to ensure balanced behavior and avoid any destructive behavior.
While a dog’s licking behavior is often harmless, it’s important to consider potential health issues/medical issues. If your dog suddenly starts licking blankets excessively or if the behavior is accompanied by other unusual symptoms, it could indicate itchy skin or other skin irritations, allergic reaction, upset stomach/gastrointestinal problems, or another possible medical condition.
With that being said, I am NOT a veterinary professional so if your dog is showing any health problems, discussing these concerns with your regular veterinarian is always a good idea. Professional veterinary check-ups can help give you peace of mind there is no underlying medical condition you aren’t aware of.
Toothache or Oral Discomfort
On the note of possible causes, dogs with dental problems, such as toothaches, gum disease, or oral infections, may lick objects like blankets as a way to alleviate the discomfort. Licking provides a soothing sensation and might temporarily relieve the pain in their mouths.
How to Stop Excessive Blanket Licking in Dogs
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As we discussed, excessive blanket licking in dogs can be puzzling and even concerning if it seems to be non-stop. While this behavior might have various underlying causes, understanding the reasons behind it is the first step toward finding effective solutions. Whether it’s stemming from anxiety, boredom, or a medical issue, here are practical strategies to help you curb your dog’s excessive blanket licking behavior.
Identify the Underlying Cause
Before you can address the behavior, it’s crucial to determine the root cause of your dog’s excessive blanket licking. Observing when the behavior occurs and whether there are any triggers can provide insights. If you suspect a medical issue, consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health problems.
Provide Mental and Physical Stimulation
A bored dog is more likely to engage in repetitive behaviors like excessive licking. Personally, I notice my dog doing this behavior at night particularly while we are relaxing and laying in bed. It might not always be a practical time to go play fetch or something active with your dog. This is why it is important your dog receives adequate physical exercise throughout the day. At night, you can provide interactive toys or puzzles to keep your pup’s mind busy. Remember, a busy dog is a happy dog!
Offer Appropriate Chew Toys
Giving your dog safe and durable chew toys can satisfy their natural urge to explore the world with their mouths. This is especially important if your dog is a puppy. Opt for toys that are designed to keep dogs engaged for extended periods, helping to distract them from blanket licking. I have always been a fan of the KONG brand in dog toys. They are durable and keep my dogs occupied for a long time. You can find KONG toys at nearly any pet store. .
Provide Comfort and Security
If your dog licks blankets for comfort, consider providing them with a cozy and safe space. A comfortable dog bed or a crate with their favorite toys and a familiar scent can help alleviate anxiety-related licking. My sister’s dog is very anxious in nature and she noticed he excessively licks blankets when he feels nervous. She noticed he seemed comforted when he had a safe space he could go to in the house that was filled with all his favorite things. Try it out with your pup if you feel as though anxiety might be the root cause of the blanket licking,
Address Anxiety and Stress
If your dog’s excessive licking is rooted in anxiety, consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist. They can recommend strategies to manage anxiety, which might include behavior modification techniques, calming supplements, or training programs.
Seek Professional Guidance
You know what they say, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Sometimes, you will find yourself at a loss and have felt like you have tried everything to get this behavior to end. If the excessive licking persists despite your efforts, consulting a veterinarian or a certified dog behaviorist is advisable. They can conduct a thorough assessment of your dog’s behavior and provide tailored recommendations to address the issue.
Why Do Dogs Lick Blankets? Frequently Asked Questions:
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Are certain dog breeds more prone to excessive licking behavior?
- There’s no specific breed predisposition to blanket licking behavior, as it can occur in any breed. However, individual dogs within a breed might have varying tendencies based on their personality, experiences, and environment.
How long does it typically take to see improvements after implementing behavior modification strategies?
- The timeline for improvement varies based on the underlying cause, the dog’s individual temperament, and the consistency of the training. Some dogs might show progress within a few weeks, while others might take much longer. Every situation is different depending on the pup.
What role does a dog’s age play in excessive blanket licking behavior?
- Excessive blanket licking can occur at any age, but it might be more common in puppies due to their exploratory behaviors. Older dogs might also engage in excessive licking due to anxiety or medical issues.
Can dogs outgrow excessive blanket licking behavior?
- Depending on the underlying cause, some dogs might naturally outgrow excessive licking behavior as they mature. This has been the case with my dog, Maverick. He was very “mouthy” when he was a young puppy. As he has gotten older, I have noticed a huge decrease in the amount he is chewing/licking. So, if you feel like you are winning a losing battle at the moment, just give your puppy time. However, addressing the behavior through training and environmental management can expedite this process.
Are there any specific training techniques to discourage blanket licking at night?
- Implementing a consistent bedtime routine and providing calming activities before sleep can help reduce nighttime blanket licking. Training commands like “leave it” and offering appropriate chew toys can also be helpful.
As devoted dog moms (or dog dads), delving into the reasons behind the question “why do dogs lick blankets?” empowers us to better care for our pups. Remember that every dog is unique, and the motivations behind their actions can vary. Patience, understanding, and a proactive approach are key when addressing excessive blanket licking.
Through the practical strategies shared in this article, you have the tools to guide your canine companion toward healthier behaviors. From identifying triggers and offering mental stimulation to training techniques and seeking professional guidance, the journey to curbing excessive blanket licking is one of mutual growth and connection.