Dogs can be oddballs at the best of times, although their weirdness is often harmless and rather endearing. But if they are showing an obsessive behavior that’s causing you concern, it is always wise to get them checked out.
One such activity is wall licking, which some dogs are prone to. Watching a dog lick the wall can be puzzling for their owners, and you may be unsure what to do. We put ourselves in your dog’s shoes to get the answers to the question – why is my dog licking the wall?
Reasons Why Your Dog Likes to Lick the Wall
Dogs are curious creatures and use their sense of smell and taste to check out the world around them. So, dogs sniffing and even licking something like a wall is not that unusual. But if they become obsessive about wall licking or it’s happening frequently and not a one-off, then this is a sign that things are not right and need checking out.
Especially if the wall licking behavior is accompanied by other symptoms such as panting or signs of illness, then it’s important that you speak to your vet. To help you assess whether your dog’s odd behavior needs further attention, here are the main reasons why dogs may be drawn to lick the walls.
Dog Lick Out of Curiosity
Your dog may lick a wall out of simple curiosity. Spilt food, enticing smells, and signs of other animals or pets – are just some of the reasons why your dog’s attention may be drawn to a particular wall. And when dogs lick a wall, they are using their tongue to check things out. But if they continually lick a wall, keep returning or obsess about a particular space, then something else may be going on.
Hunger or Thirst
If your dog likes to lick the walls then another reason is that they are hungry or thirsty, especially if it’s getting near to feeding time. The wall may have some moisture or a tasty trace of food on it. Or it could be an indication that his current diet isn’t giving him everything he needs.
However, if your dog has constant access to fresh water and is fed appropriately, then this licking could have another cause.
Stress and Anxiety
Compulsively licking surfaces, including walls, could indicate that your pet is stressed or anxious. And if the source of the anxiety is not addressed, then this licking could become your dog’s default behavior when things get too much.
Causes of stress or anxiety in dogs include a new environment or new families, changes in routine, strangers, or a new pet in their home, and loud noises. Separation anxiety can also cause your dog to act out, especially if he’s left home alone for long periods of time.
An underlying health condition or disorder could be behind your dog’s wall licking behavior, especially if it’s sudden. Examples of health issues that can cause a dog to lick walls include liver failure, Cushing’s disease, and some neurological conditions.
If you suspect that your dog licks a wall as he is poorly and his behavior is accompanied by other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and reduced appetite, get him checked out by a veterinarian pronto.
As on-the-go animals, dogs need stimulation to keep their minds positively focused. So, boredom could be a contributing factor to compulsive wall licking. Left home alone for too long, not enough playtime or insufficient exercise, can leave your dog under-stimulated, meaning he will look for other ways – including developing a wall licking habit – to keep occupied.
All dog breeds can develop behavioral issues. And these include obsessive-compulsive disorders, where he has an irresistible urge to repeatedly carry out an action.
One type of obsessive-compulsive behavior in animals is a condition called Pica, where a dog is compelled to eat non-food items. This problem can manifest itself in repeatedly licking a wall, amongst other behaviors. It’s also thought that Pica can develop due to nutritional deficiencies. And walls, which are usually made of calcium sulfate (gypsum) could attract a dog with a calcium deficiency.
Whether it’s a behavioral disorder or nutritional, a trip to the vet is advised if you suspect this condition.
The Wall is Cool
If the weather is hot, then a simple reason why your dog is licking a wall is that he is feeling overheated and is trying to cool off. A wall that’s in the shade will feel cool to an overheating pooch so licking it can bring him some welcome relief.
If you catch your dog licking a wall in this situation, take him inside to a cool room, give him plenty of fresh water and let him rest.
How to Stop Your Dog from Licking the Walls
Repetitively wanting to lick the wall is not normal for dogs and so if you have ruled out an underlying health issue, then you need to look at ways to address the reason behind the behavior.
Don’t Encourage it
While licking a wall is no reason to punish your dog, you should not encourage or reward him for it either. Instead, try to positively redirect his focus or move his attention elsewhere. And if you do want to give him a treat, offer it to him once he has stopped licking, so he doesn’t associate the act of wall licking with a reward.
Reduce His Anxiety
If you suspect anxiety is the root cause, then look to limit or remove the sources of stress to reduce your dog’s wall-licking behavior. Then increase more positive, anxiety-reducing activities such as exercise, good nutrition, plus time, love, and attention.
Give Him Alternatives
If boredom is a culprit for his wall licking or you need to divert your dog away from his favorite wall, then give him alternative objects to focus his attention on. Pet-safe treats and toys that are designed to be chewed or licked or attention-grabbing puzzle toys that also contain a foodie treat placed on the floor are all good alternatives to help break that dog licking wall habit.
Seek Expert Help
If your at-home interventions don’t have the desired impact on your wall-licking dog, then it’s time to seek the help of the experts.
A trip to the vet can rule out any other more serious causes as well as provide you with the best information on your dog’s nutrition and care. Your vet can also advise on additional support from an animal behaviorist or problem behavior training.
But one thing is sure – when your dog licks a wall a lot, it is a sign he is trying to tell you something. By appropriately responding to your dog and getting all the right help, care and information can ensure you and your pet gets back to a happy, wall-licking-free life.
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