Dear Joan: My friend's Dachshund continuously licks the chair cover on the chair he sleeps in, and sometimes the rug.
Any ideas on how to deter him. He is an altered male, about 10 years old. – Linda F., Bay Area
Dear Linda: There are several reasons why dogs lick furniture, and many other things. The first step would be to take the dog to the vet for a checkup, because the answer might involve illness or a deficiency.
If there's one thing we can be certain of, dogs are going to lick. That's partly their way of experiencing their surroundings. They like to feel and taste the environment, and their tongues allow them to do that.
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If the dog is licking only the chair where he sleeps and sometimes the rug, there could be certain scents embedded in the chair's fabric that he activates by licking them. One scent could be his own smell, reassuring him that he's in the right spot, or it could be that of your friend, which the dog no doubt loves.
It could also be accidental licking. My dog licks his feet and, uh, other body parts, but he's a Chihuahua with skinny legs. His tongue overlaps his legs and so he ends up getting some lick on my chair. When my nephew was younger, he complained of sitting in the "dog licker's spot," which I admit is not a pleasant experience.
Licking can be a way of relieving boredom. If the dog is left alone for parts of the day and has no interest in his toys, he might find a new hobby – licking the furniture, which can be comforting as well as stimulating to his senses.
Excessive licking can also become a compulsion, but dogs with this condition tend to lick anything within reach.
The licking also could be a sign that something is missing in the dog's diet, thus a trip to the vet is required. Certain ailments or a nutrient deficiency can trigger the licking, so the dog should be seen by a vet to make sure he's OK.
Dogs suffering from stress or anxiety also will lick as a way to comfort themselves. Dogs also lick areas on their bodies that are hurting them.
No matter the reason, too much furniture licking is not good for the dog. It can ingest things better left outside of the body.
Your friend can pick up a spray-on deterrent at a pet food store. It will make the taste of the chair and rug unpleasant, but it could mean that the dog will just find something else to lick, so it's better to address the problem head-on.
When your friend sees her dog licking, she should try distracting him with a toy or with attention. She also should try increasing the amount of exercise through play the dog receives.