Does your dog try to give your feet a bath every time you take off your shoes? While licking is a natural behavior in a puppy’s litter, it sometimes continues into adulthood as a greeting, show of affection, or a means of communication. If your dog is a compulsive kisser, the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Director and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Mary Burch, Ph.D., offers the following tips on how to help stop this behavior. Among them:
Don’t reinforce any licking. Until you solve the problem, don’t happily fuss over the dog as it “gives kisses” to greet you. In many cases, the licking problem began with the dog giving you kisses.
Teach a new skill. Train your dog to do a new command that does not involve licking, but does involve getting affection and attention from you. You can teach your dog to “get your brush” and then spend time brushing your dog when she completes the command. Brushing is also a great way for you to bond with your dog.
Try redirecting the behavior. If your dog is a serious licker, try directing the behavior somewhere else, like going outside, throwing the ball around, or practicing some obedience skills. It’s important to remember timing. You don’t want to start a fun game with your dog while she’s in the middle of licking—that will simply reinforce the behavior you don’t want.
Take a time out. In serious cases, consider giving your dog a brief, two-minute time out. If she licks you and won’t stop, say “no lick” and take her to the other side of the room. Put her in a down-stay and do not give her attention for the two minutes—having contact with you will reinforce the licking. After the time out, release your dog. If she starts to lick you again, repeat the process. Make sure that you still do plenty of positive activities and provide play and exercise with her.
Is your dog a compulsive kisser? Which tips work best for you?