Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
If your Australian shepherd is constantly licking, it’s important to find out why and whether it’s something to be concerned about.
This article covers the common causes of excessive licking as well as what you can do about it.
I’ll help you identify the kind of licking your Aussie engages in, and what it means.
Reasons Why Your Australian Shepherd Keeps Licking
There are several reasons why your Australian shepherd is licking, including enjoying the taste of your skin, showing affection, smelling something, wetting the nose, in response to a stressful event, or underlying health issues.
I’ll break the following down into different sections depending on what it is that your Australian Shepherd is trying to lick.
1. Why Your Australian Shepherd Licks You
This is the one that’s too much for most people. Face-licking, finger-licking, or feet licking… Few people love it, most people hate it. It also creates an awkward situation when you have guests over!
When your Australian Shepherd tries licking you or your face it’s typically down to at least one of three different reasons: To show affection, gain your attention, or to smell/taste an interesting scent on your skin.
We use our hands to prepare food and touch many items that can leave a strong odor behind. The natural smell of our feet can also prove too irresistible for an Aussie not to give a few licks.
Additionally, licking is a sign of affection. Although it has not yet been proven that face-licking is the dog equivalent of a kiss, it is known that dogs often lick each other in the wild as a way of showing care and affection to the other.
Your good morning kisses are probably a good thing!
Related Read: Why Is My Australian Shepherd So Needy?
2. Why Your Australian Shepherd Licks The Air
Licking the air is a little more unusual, yet it’s still fairly common. Excessive air licking is something you should pay close attention to due to the following reasons.
If your Aussie is excessively licking the air it suggests one of the following: He’s purposefully wetting his nose, moistening his airways, something is stuck in the throat, or due to stress or a compulsive habit.
Wetting the nose can suggest that he’s either dehydrated or that he’s trying to take in a strong scent. Scent particles stick better to wet surfaces so wetting his noise actually helps to improve his ability to smell and take in scents.
Moistening of the airways could indicate he has an issue with his throat, stress, or other potential oral issues.
Licking the air can also indicate he has something stuck in his mouth. Unusual as this sounds, it’s a very common reaction to when dogs get food stuck on the roof of their mouth, or if their airways become partially blocked. If Aussie seems to be licking the air, always inspect his mouth as soon as possible.
Lastly, air licking could initially be caused by general stress and anxiety, and if lasts for long enough could transition into an obsessive compulsive disorder.
3. Why Your Australian Shepherd Licks His Paws
Excessive paw licking is something else that often warrants further investigation.
Paw licking can suggest that your Aussie is suffering from some form of irritation in that area. Yeast infections, mange, bacteria build-up, or small wounds can all cause him to lick. It could also indicate he is suffering from allergies or coping with stress & anxiety.
From that, you know that paw-licking isn’t something you should let slide without double-checking.
Either your Aussie has some kind of local irritation that needs seeing to, or it’s suggesting he’s pacifying himself to cope with stress and anxiety.
If you notice him licking his paws just a few times here and there, it’s likely nothing to worry about.
The paws, after all, are the first point of contact to the ground so they can hold a lot of smells that were picked up throughout the day. It’s when the licking becomes excessive, it suggests something more serious.
4. When Your Australian Shepherd Licks Surfaces
Surface licking is another peculiar yet common issue.
If your Australian Shepherd is constantly trying to lick surfaces like the walls, the floor, the carpets it could suggest he has PICA, which is a condition that compels dogs and other animals to crave non-food items. This sometimes indicates their real diet is lacking in certain vitamins or minerals.
In other cases, it could be a symptom of a digestive problem or gastrointestinal issue, although this is more uncommon.
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When Should You Visit a Veterinarian?
So you’re probably wondering when and if you should visit a veterinarian.
There are certainly times when you should prioritize contacting your veterinarian, and other times when you may not need to, so let’s run through them.
Times when you should contact your veterinarian:
● When your Aussie is excessively licking one area of his body
● When your Aussie has been licking anything excessively for a long time
● If your Aussie is excessively licking surfaces, walls, or the floor
● If you can’t find a logical explanation for the excessive licking
Time when you may not need to contact the veterinarian:
● When your Aussie periodically licks something, not excessively
● When he licks you or other people (this is a behavioral issue)
● When he licks randomly (could be taking in a strong scent)
● If you have a good idea as to what’s causing the licking
● He otherwise seems in good health and spirits
There is, however, no wrong moment to contact your vet for advice. Even if you just want to make sure everything is fine, contacting your veterinarian is the best thing to do.
How To Stop Your Australian Shepherd From Licking You
Let’s run through what you can do to stop your Aussie licking you and your guests!
Due to this being a behavioral issue and not a medical one, there’s a range of techniques you can start trying today.
1. Ignore The Licking
Your guests may not feel comfortable ignoring the behavior, but it’s certainly something you can try first.
Licking, even when it’s a display of affection is still an attention-seeking act and when you respond to it (positively or even negatively), you qualify your Aussie’s behavior.
Sometimes, the best way to train against behavior you don’t want is to show it no recognition at all. And once your Aussie realizes that licking you doesn’t gain your attention, he’ll stop doing it.
For some this will work like a charm, and for others, it may not work at all.
And of course, if he’s licking you because he can taste something on you, ignoring it isn’t the answer.
2. Redirect The Licking
If ignoring it doesn’t seem to work, then redirecting it is the next best option.
Redirection training is also used heavily throughout the teething stage to redirect mouthy pup’s onto items they are actually allowed to chew on…
The same idea can be applied here. If your Aussie tries licking you, calmly swap whatever body part he’s focusing on, with one of his toys, wait for his focus to remain on the toy, then reward him extensively for his change of focus.
As most licking stems from attention-seeking, your Aussie will slowly learn that he receives more of your attention and approval when he interacts with his toy, compared to when he licks you.
As I mentioned above, any reaction you give to his licks may be all he needs to justify doing it more. Try giving him a reason to choose his toys over you, which can be as simple as showing him more attention.
3. Increase His Exercise (physical and mental)
Exercise both physical and mental is extremely important for the overall health and behavior of all Australian Shepherds.
If your Aussie is otherwise healthy and in his prime years, 2 hours of physical exercise per day is a good place to start.
Additionally, mental exercise or otherwise known as mental stimulation is equally, if not more important. By keeping your Aussie’s mind sufficiently stimulated, he’ll remain calm, relaxed, and very satisfied at all times. This can seriously reduce his desire to constantly bug you for attention…
I have spoken to so many Aussie owners over the years and the amount of times that exercise alone has improved and “cured” behavioral issues, is uncountable.
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