Most animals clean themselves by licking their fur coats. This includes our dogs. I’m sure many of us dog owners have spent more time than we’d like to admit just observing our pups partake in their lengthy bathing rituals. They can sometimes get quite intense with their bath times, but sometimes our dogs can get downright weird. Have you ever stopped to notice that your dog isn’t necessarily cleaning themselves anymore, but they’re just licking air? This action, while seemingly bizarre is quite normal behavior. However, if it goes on for no apparent reason it can turn into a compulsive habit. 

Dogs mainly communicate with other dogs using body language. Licking their lips is more of a self-soothing gesture, so if a dog is feeling a little shyer around others they might lick their lips a bit more as a way of expressing their timidness and signally to others that they want to be friends. Or, if a dog is in a new environment that is causing them to be anxious, such as a new home, they may lick their lips more often than normal. The best way to get your dog to break this habit or to help them feel more confident in themselves is to remain calm yourself. Don’t ever punish your dog – it just makes things worse. If your dog is feeling nervous due to a situational stressor the easiest way to make them feel better is to remove the item that is stressing them. If it seems that your dog’s stress is coming from a psychological perspective, then you may want to think about talking to your vet about other possibilities. Air licking could be a sign that your dog needs treatment from a trained animal behaviorist.  They could provide solutions to help treat their psychological needs, such as suggesting more exercise, changing up their routine, etc. – all the different solutions that could be helpful to treat a compulsive order. 

Another reason it’s a good idea to consult with your vet is that constant air licking could be a sign of something more, like an underlying health issue. It could be a sign that your dog is experiencing dental problems or is nauseous. Furthermore, they can sometimes be associated with certain seizures that can cause them to begin flicking their tongues in a compulsive manner. If it turns out that your dog does indeed have underlying medical problems, then your vet can prescribe the correct course of action for treatment. Or, if it’s not health-related, they can still offer insightful information that will best help your pup live his best life. 

Have you ever had a dog that constantly licks the air? What did you do about it? How did you manage to get them out of the habit or how did you figure out that something was wrong? Let us know!

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