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Dear Daisy Dog

Our dog licks every inanimate surface around: furniture, walls and even the floors and carpet. He does it for perhaps 15 minutes at a time, a few times every day. What can we do to discourage him?

Daisy Responds

Determining the cause will help you find a solution that works.

It may be as simple as discovering your dog has learned to lick up food crumbs dropped by the children.

If not, you’ll need to rule out medical causes with the help of your veterinarian.

Dogs sometimes lick repetitively when they’re experiencing abdominal discomfort, mouth pain, electrolyte abnormalities or a brain disorder.

Nausea, a common cause of excessive licking, can be brought on by ingesting table scraps, supplements or even medications, such as antibiotics and pain relievers, especially when they’re taken on an empty stomach.

If your dog’s repetitive licking isn’t traced to a medical problem, talk with your veterinarian about whether his behavior is a manifestation of anxiety, attention-seeking, compulsive disorder or cognitive dysfunction (“senility”).

If no underlying medical or psychological condition is found, and your dog isn’t ingesting enough carpet fibers to block his intestines, you can probably safely ignore his behavior.

On the other hand, if it irritates you, you can try behavior modification. Just as he’s about to begin licking, interrupt the behavior by distracting him – ask him to come and sit, or toss a squeaky toy for him to chase – and then reward him.

Enrich your dog’s environment by adding interactive toys, taking daily walks and joining a doggie play group or training group.

Never punish his repetitive licking, as the resulting anxiety may worsen the behavior.

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