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What does it mean when my dog licks the air?

 by lucy on 27 Dec 2017 |
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We’ve all watched our canine companions lick themselves clean, but some dogs lick at the air for seemingly no reason. While lip licking is perfectly normal in some cases, such as before a meal or after eating, this behavior can signal something’s wrong when it continues for no apparent reason or becomes a compulsive habit.
 
Dogs use body language to communicate and in the canine world, lip licking is an appeasement gesture. Dogs suffering from stress or trauma, or those that are more timid in general, are more prone to this behavior, which is your pet’s way of saying, “Let’s be friends.” To help reassure your dog, remain calm and assertive—but not forceful—and never use punishment as a part of his training. If he is suffering situational stress, such as from moving homes, try reducing the stressors as much as possible.

If your dog is licking the air outside of stressful situations, there may be a physical or psychological reason behind his behavior. Licking the air constantly can indicate digestive problems or nausea as well as dental pain. Air licking is also associated with certain types of seizures, so it’s important to take your pet to the vet if he starts compulsively flapping his tongue. Your vet can help diagnose the problem and eliminate potentially serious health conditions that could be causing your pet’s behavior. If Fido does have a serious condition such as seizures, your veterinarian can prescribe medicine that can help prevent problems. If, however, your dog shows no signs of physical ailments, his lip licking may be a diagnosed as a compulsive disorder.
 
Like humans, our pets can suffer from psychological disorders that cause them to engage in repeated, obsessive behaviors. Air licking is one of these behaviors, and some dogs respond to treatment from a trained animal behaviorist. Other helpful changes include increasing Fido’s mental and physical stimulation; reducing stress-inducing stimuli; and positive replacement behavior for lip-licking, such as teaching your dog to lie down when the licking behavior starts. Before taking these routes, however, ask yourself if your dog has experienced any upset that could be causing the problem. Changes from moving house to introducing a new pet to the home, shifts in routine or the absence of a common person in his life can cause your pet stress. Rule out these stressors before seeking your veterinarian’s help.
 
Lip licking isn’t always a sign something’s wrong, but if you think it is, you can help your vet by providing him with some basic information. Give him a history of your pet’s licking behavior—including when it started, how long it’s been going on and where it most often occurs—as well as training and punishment practices used at home and how your family responds to the lip-licking behavior. This will help him get to the root of the problem causing your pet’s lip-licking behavior.

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