7 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Sheets

two dogs starting to lick sheets

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Dog owners get used to the fact that licking is just something dogs do, but depending on where your dog is licking, the impact can range from hardly noticeable to a major inconvenience.

For instance, have you ever gotten ready to crawl in bed only to find there’s a large puddle of thick, slimy dog saliva all over your sheets from where your dog was licking?

No one wants to experience this, but if you have, you’re certainly not alone.

Even so, after such an experience you must be asking yourself: why do dogs lick sheets?

Dogs lick sheets for several reasons, some of which are harmless. Your sheets smell like you, which attracts your dog. There could also be enticing tastes on your sheets like salt from your sweat or crumbs of food. However, there’s a possibility it’s caused by issues like anxiety, OCD, or even a condition called pica.

There are plenty of benign reasons for your dog to lick your sheets, and they’re usually the most likely explanations, but this behavior could also be a sign of a deeper problem.

As a dog owner, you’ll need to know which you’re dealing with, so we’re going to explore each of the most likely reasons for your dog’s sheet licking behavior and we’ll even cover some ways that you can help put a stop to it.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Bed Sheets?

Before we start discussing each of the possible reasons behind your dog’s licking, I must clarify that this behavior doesn’t have to be limited to sheets. If your dog is licking your bed at all, whether it’s your sheets, blankets, or pillows, the following causes are all potential culprits.

Reason 1: Your Sheets Smell Like You

Our dogs love us just as much as we love them. When we’re gone, our dogs miss us!

Since you spend a lot of time in your bed, it smells strongly of you, and your dog is probably very attracted to that, especially when you’re gone.

It’s very normal for dogs to lick or groom their humans, and they do this as a greeting, a way to show affection, and as a form of social bonding.

But when you’re not there, your dog still wants to feel close to you. So, they seek out the next best thing, which is something that’s strongly scented of you.

Your bed is one of the items in your home that most strongly holds your scent, which is why your dog is gravitating towards it.

Licking your bed makes your dog feel closer to you since they can taste and smell you while they do it.

Remember, dogs have much more powerful noses than we do. Estimates place dogs’ sense of smell between 10,000 and 100,000 times stronger than our own.

Even though you don’t smell yourself on your bed when you walk in your bedroom, your dog does, and that scent can be very comforting for them when you’re not around.

Reason 2: Something On Your Bed Tastes Good

We like to think of our beds as rather clean places. After all, we spend a lot of time on them and don’t want to feel like we’re crawling into a dirty bed with stuff all over the sheets.

But the way things appear to us is quite different than how they appear to our dogs.

Because their noses are so much stronger, dogs are able to pick out scents that we won’t notice.

Remember those chips you were eating in bed the other night while watching your favorite show on your tablet?

So long as you don’t feel them, you don’t think about the crumbs from those chips being all over your bed, but your dog is relying on scent to seek out those crumbs. Once they do, they’ll keep licking and licking to get each and every last bit of flavor that the sheets soaked up.

But there are plenty of flavors that could be on your bed unbeknownst to you.

One of the big ones is the salt from your sweat. That salt is mighty tasty to a pooch, even if it seems a bit gross to most people.

In truth, the taste of your salty skin is another major reason why dogs lick people in the first place, so it’s not surprising that they’d be trying to lick that flavor out of your bedsheets.

You might have also brought various tastes in without realizing it. There could have been plant matter, food particles, or anything else attached to your clothes that transferred to your sheets when you sat down.

Even if you couldn’t see or smell it, your dog’s more powerful olfactory senses might be able to.

Reason 3: Your Dog Is Licking Lots of Things

Maybe your dog’s licking isn’t limited to your sheets.

You might be more likely to notice it when your dog licks your sheets because there’s a giant puddle when you crawl into bed. If you miss it, you might be covered in nasty dog slobber right before trying to go to sleep!

But your dog could be licking all sorts of things that you’re not noticing because it doesn’t have the same impact on you. It’s very common, for example, to see your dog licking the floor.

Start paying attention to your pooch’s licking and see if you spot them licking more than just your bedsheets.

If your dog just licks everything but they’re not doing it obsessively, then it’s probably just normal licking with no worrying underlying cause. But if your dog’s licking is obsessive, whether it’s limited to just one item or many, it could be due to a medical condition instead.

Reason 4: The Behavior Has Been Rewarded Before

Often, we end up rewarding behaviors our dogs display without even realizing we’re doing so.

If you’ve accidentally rewarded your dog’s sheet licking in the past, whether you realized it or not, your dog might believe that it’s a behavior you like.

You might have pet your dog after it vigorously licked your sheets and you didn’t even know. It could be as simple as talking to your dog in a sweet tone of voice immediately after.

More than likely, you had no idea that your dog had just licked the sheets. Otherwise, you might have behaved in a different manner!

Of course, your dog doesn’t know this. All they know is that they licked the sheets and afterward you seemed pleased.

Since your dog generally likes it when you’re happy, they’re likely to repeat behaviors that they think make you happy. It’s essentially a miscommunication!

Reason 5: Anxiety

When dogs experience anxiety, it can result in a myriad of weird canine behaviors, including obsessive, repetitive, or compulsive behaviors, like repeatedly licking the sheets.

Anxiety is surprisingly common in dogs.

There are three main types of anxiety that dogs experience: fear anxiety, aging anxiety, and separation anxiety.

Affecting approximately 14% of all dogs, separation anxiety is a very possible cause of obsessive sheet licking in dogs.

So, if your dog’s licking seems to be confined to times when you’re away from home, then it could very likely be due to separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety may also present other clues for you. Dogs having accidents inside is common with separation anxiety, as are destructive behaviors when you’re not there, particularly around doors since they’re the entrances and exits to the home.

Also, look for triggers that could be causing fear-related anxiety. This might be new people around the home, strange sounds like a construction crew nearby, or events that are stress-inducing like a trip to the vet’s office.

If your dog’s licking seems to be centered around these triggers, then fear-related anxiety is a strong possibility.

Reason 6: Obsessive-Compulsive Licking

Licking is normal behavior for dogs, and as long as your dog isn’t licking an obsessive amount, then it’s not a problem.

However, when your dog’s licking does become repetitive to the point that it’s obsessive and your dog doesn’t seem to be able to control it, then it becomes a compulsive behavior.

In humans, such behavior is dubbed OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dogs experience something very similar, but it’s referred to as CCD or canine compulsive disorder.

Licking isn’t the only compulsive behavior dogs exhibit. Any behavior that becomes frantic and repetitive to the point of obsession can be classified as compulsive.

CCD is usually linked to stress and anxiety. Dogs that are highly stressed and nervous a lot are ripe for developing canine compulsive disorder.

When CCD first starts, it might come on slowly and ramp up or your dog could start displaying loads of compulsive behaviors out of nowhere. It’s different for each dog.

Unfortunately, some breeds are more susceptible to CCD than others. Researchers have found that there’s a particular gene associated with a high level of susceptibility to canine compulsive disorder.

Breeds more likely to suffer from CCD include:

  • Border Collies
  • Dobermans
  • English Bull-Terriers
  • German Shepherds
  • Great Danes
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • Retrievers

Reason 7: Pica

Pica is a medical condition that affects dogs and causes them to crave non-food items. Dogs with pica will lick or eat these items, which does have the potential to be detrimental to your dog’s health.

When a dog is suffering from pica, they could be drawn to just about anything. Dogs with pica have been known to eat drywall, clothing, their beds, and of course, sheets and bedspreads of their humans.

These dogs are most strongly drawn to items that carry their humans’ scent, which is why the linens on your bed are at such high risk of getting licked, chewed, and eaten.

Pica has a variety of causes from nutritional deficiencies to parasitical infections. If you believe your dog has pica, you’ll need to schedule a vet visit to determine what the cause is.

Hopefully, your vet can rule out possibilities until you’re able to determine the reason for your dog’s behavior. They should also be able to help you determine a course of action to take in order to prevent the behavior from continuing.

How To Stop Your Dog Licking Your Sheets

Now you know the possible reasons fueling your dog’s sheet licking. Some of these are rather harmless, like if your dog is just enjoying the taste.

Still, you might want the behavior to stop, whether it’s harmless or not.

I mean, who really wants to crawl into soaked, slimy sheets covered in dog slobber?

If you’re ready to put an end to those wet sheets, then you might try the following.

Adjust Your Dog’s Diet

If your dog is licking because of pica, then it’s quite likely that there’s a dietary deficiency behind the behavior.

It might be best to get your vet’s opinion on how to alter your dog’s diet to avoid such dietary deficiencies.

Generally, high-quality commercial dog foods are intended to offer complete nutrition to canines, but in some cases, dogs might need to switch foods or have supplements added into their regimen for peak health.

Once you fix the deficiency in your dog’s diet, the licking should cease, provided that nutritional deficiencies were causing the licking in the first place.

Pay Attention to Timing and Triggers

For dogs that are licking due to anxiety, you’ll want to look for triggers and pay attention to the timing of your dog’s licking.

If your dog is primarily licking the sheets whenever you’re gone from home, then it could be due to separation anxiety.

On the other hand, if your dog is only licking when there are loud noises occurring, like when you’re watching a movie with the volume up or there’s a thunderstorm outside, then it could be fear-related anxiety that’s being triggered by these extraneous factors.

Do you think your dog’s licking behavior is because of anxiety? If so, you should see your vet. They should be able to help you form a treatment plan, which might consist of medication, training, and preventative strategies.

Ensure You’re Not Encouraging It

As mentioned earlier, we often unknowingly reward behaviors in our dogs that we probably don’t want to, such as licking the bedsheets.

Of course, it can be difficult to prevent something that you don’t even realize is happening!

You’ll need to pay lots of attention to your dog’s behavior and ensure you’re not accidentally offering praise shortly after your dog finishes a licking marathon.

Prevent Access to Your Bed

This might seem overly simple, but it will definitely work. Your dog can’t lick your bed if they can’t reach it.

So, start keeping the door to your room closed. Refuse access to your room and your dog won’t continue to lick your bed.

Potentially, this could cause your dog to start licking other areas instead. Keep an eye out to see if the behavior continues elsewhere. Even if it does, at least you won’t be wet when you get in bed!

Train Your Dog Not to Lick Your Sheets

You can train your pooch not to lick your sheets if you can keep a vigilant eye out for the behavior.

Anytime your dog tries to lick your sheets, stop them in the act. Firmly command them to stop and then provide a better alternative like a chew toy or a treat. Reward them for not licking the sheets.

After you manage to do this enough times, your dog should realize that it’s more beneficial not to lick the sheets.

Remember, training your dog takes a lot of repetition and consistency but any dog, regardless of intelligence can be trained. Don’t expect to do this once and put an end to sheet licking for good. You’ll need to keep this up for several days at the least to really ingrain the new behavior in your dog and erase the old sheet licking behavior.

Visit the Veterinarian for a Checkup

With so many possible causes behind your dog’s sheet licking, it can be very difficult to pinpoint which one is the problem for your pooch.

Luckily, veterinarian professionals are trained to deal with such issues and they experience them all the time.

A visit to your veterinarian should help you determine the cause of your dog’s sheet licking. Furthermore, they should be able to help you come up with a plan to prevent the behavior in the future.

If you’re still unsure of why your dog is licking your sheets or what to do about it, then I suggest you schedule a trip to the veterinarian and get some professional advice.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons that dogs lick sheets, ranging from harmless to health issues.

Your dog could be suffering from anxiety, pica, or canine compulsion disorder.

On the other hand, they might just be licking your sheets because they smell like you and your dog likes the way they taste!

Hopefully, you can pinpoint the cause of your dog’s licking behavior based on the information we’ve just covered.

If not, you should schedule a vet appointment and get a professional opinion to help put an end to crawling in bed with wet, sticky sheets covered in dog slobber!