How Do I Stop My Dog from Licking Himself in Front of Other People?

Picture of a Boxer in a car

We love our dogs. They share our homes, our couches, and sometimes even our beds. Yet as much as we adore them, we can’t deny that they can get up to some embarrassing antics. Though these behaviors might perfect sense to Fido, they certainly leave us scratching our heads. When it comes to appropriate house manners, it sometimes appears that Fido missed the memo. What can you do if your dog’s house manners could use a little freshening up?

Why Dogs Lick Their Genitals

Canine genital licking certainly is a behavior that brings a blush to any pet owner’s eye, particularly if it happens in the presence of company. Interestingly enough, this behavior is not gender specific.

Dogs will often lick areas of their bodies to keep themselves looking clean and tidy. Contrary to the belief of many, dogs are very clean animals, and if an area of their body could benefit from a little freshening, Fido is only too happy to get the job done.

Since canine genitals sometimes bear trace elements of residual urine, many dogs will lick the area to remove the offending smell and thus restore proper hygiene. In male dogs, it is also not uncommon for their penis to emit a discharge which is similar to semen. This discharge is known as smegma. Most canine males are fastidious about keeping this area of their body pristinely clean via licking. This licking is not at all sexual in nature; it is merely the body’s way of remaining clean and free from any potential disease.

However, there are times when a dog will lick his genitals for reasons that are greater cause for concern. These include:

Skin infections
Irritated skin is itchy, and since a dog cannot scratch the genital region, he will do the next best thing to find relief; lick himself. If you notice pus-filled sores or extremely red bumpy skin, it is highly likely your dog’s licking is due to a yeast or bacterial infection. Left untreated, this infection will progress dramatically, causing your dog great discomfort and even pain. A trip to the vet for antibiotics and/or a medicated shampoo will resolve the problem.

Anal gland issues
Dogs will rarely lick the anus region of their own bodies. When they do, they are most typically trying to find relief for an infected anal gland. When infection sets in to an anal gland, it can cause rupturing of the tissue, an incredibly painful condition for your dog. To treat an infected anal gland, a visit to your veterinarian is in order. Your veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics and pain meds to address the situation. In addition to this, your dog may require compresses with warm cloths to alleviate the itching and discomfort.

Allergies caused by reactions to certain foods or even airborne triggers can result in itchiness of the genital region. If the allergy can be pinpointed to a specific food, a special diet can be formulated to ensure your dog does not come in contact with the specific allergen. However, determining an allergen can be extremely difficult to do. A good probiotic will help with proper digestion. Anti-inflammatory meds and immune suppressants may also be necessary to provide long term relief from itching.

Urinary tract infections
Though bladder infections are a relatively common problem in dogs. Itchiness of the genital region is a good indication that a urinary tract infection might be brewing in your dog. Oral antibiotics are required to restore the body to its natural balance.

Sometimes dogs lick themselves simply because they don’t have anything better to do.

Over time, licking can become a habit. Your dog may be engaging in this behavior subsconsciously. In many cases, Fido has done it so long that he doesn’t even need a reason any more. He does it because he has always done it.

How to stop the licking

Provide a distraction.
Regardless of the cause for the licking, your best course of action to stop the behavior is redirection. Pick up some Kongs and some tasty fillings you can stuff them with; the stinkier, the better. If your dog is more of a bone fan, pick up a few of those as well. You need high value items that you can tempt your dog with, and that will cause him to forget what he was previously up to in favor of what you want him to do.

Consider medical causes.
It’s always a good idea to rule out any medical issues. If a health problem is to blame, it is usually evidenced by behavior that is out of character. If your dog was not a licker before but has suddenly adopted this new habit, it might be time to visit your vet for a thorough examination, bloodwork, and a urinalysis to rule out any potential physical problems.

Ensure lots of exercise.
If boredom plays a part in the problem, keeping Fido well exercised will help immeasurably. Activity leads to a satisfied dog, and a well-sated dog is far more likely to sleep than to choose to lick himself.

Be sure not to scold your dog.
Licking himself is not something your dog is doing wrong. Scolding is both ineffective and counterproductive.

Yes, your dog choosing to lick himself in front of company is embarrassing indeed. Follow the simple tips in this article to help Fido keep his canine manners on task!



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