Why Do Dogs Like Lotion? (Trainer Explains)

Why Do Dogs Like Lotion

As much as we love our dogs, we may not always think about the things within our environments that might hurt them. This is especially true for things that seem very innocuous to us, but which may actually be harmful to our beloved pets.

There is a plethora of skincare products on the market, and most households have at least a few of them stocked on their shelves and bathroom counters. Lotion and other moisturizers are some of the more common things that we put on our bodies daily, but they might actually pose a health hazard to our dogs.

But if these ingredients are so toxic to our dogs, why do dogs seem to like lotion so much?

Dogs enjoy licking lotion off their owners because it smells and tastes good to them. The ingredients in many lotion products smell like food products, though these ingredients are often toxic to dogs. It’s best not to let your pup lick your lotion off just in case it contains dangerous ingredients.

Below we’ll take a closer look at the ingredients in lotions and why they might cause a dog to want to lick the lotion off. We’ll discuss some of the toxic ingredients that are commonly found within lotions, and why it’s a good idea to prevent your dog from licking your lotion off.

I’ve also included some tips and suggestions to keep your pup from licking off your lotion!

Why Do Dogs Like To Lick Lotion?

Like humans, dogs explore the world with their five senses. Unlike most humans, though, dogs rely heavily on their noses and mouth to investigate the world around them. If they encounter something in their environment that smells interesting to them, they may then lick that object to see how it tastes.

But why lotion?

Reason 1: They Like The Taste

Skincare products such as lotions often contain ingredients that smell enticing to dogs, and many products contain ingredients that mimic the smell of food products. Cocoa butter, mango butter, and coconut butter are all common lotion ingredients that smell good not only to us but to dogs as well.

Most dogs don’t understand that the lotion is not a food item, so they may attempt to lick it because if it smells like food and has a good taste, then it might just be actual food! While their sense of taste is not quite as strong, it’s still strong enough that if the lotion tastes good enough, they may continue to try and lick it off of you.

Reason 2: They Like The Scent

A dog’s sense of smell is 40x stronger than that of a human’s, so it’s no surprise that they may pick up on the scent of a specific ingredient within your lotion that perhaps even you are not aware of, like lanolin which comes from sheep’s wool or citric acid which is often used as a preservative.

Fragrance is also commonly added to many lotion products, and while it can be overpowering to some dogs who may avoid the product, some scents (such as the scent of fruits or some flowers) may encourage dogs to taste it.

Reason 3: They’re Just Grooming You

While the ingredients are the most common reason your dog may be licking off your lotion, some dogs may also enjoy grooming their owners and if they smell something odd, they may try to lick it off to help “clean” their owner. Certain dogs may also use licking as a sign of affection for their owners, and it’s not the lotion itself that is the cause.

Similarly, some dogs may just be licking your lotion off because they enjoy the act of licking. If you’ve allowed them to previously lick you after you’ve put on lotion, then they may have associated the smell of the lotion with the action of licking you. Thus, they will assume that the presence of the lotion means it’s time for a thorough licking session!

Is It Bad If My Dog Licks My Lotion Off?

While the occasional lick is probably nothing to worry about, it is usually not a good idea to let your dog lick your lotion off your skin if you can help it. Most skincare products contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, even in small doses.

Many fragrances that are included in lotions are artificial and contain synthetic ingredients which are often toxic to our canine companions. Natural fragrances such as tea tree oil, macadamia nut oil, or other similar oils can also be toxic to pets.

Lotions that contain dyes such as Red 33 or Yellow 5 are also dangerous for dogs, as are ingredients such as phthalates, polysorbates, and dimethicone. Parabens are also often found in many lotions as preservative agents and cause disruptions to a dog’s reproductive system over time.

PEGs and propylene glycol are also commonly found in moisturizers as they help the product penetrate the skin, however, all of these are known toxic ingredients and could cause illness or death in dogs if consumed in large amounts.

The size of your dog and the amount of toxic ingredients present in the product could affect how your dog reacts to the lotion after consumption. Smaller dogs need only consume a tiny amount of product before they might start having a reaction, whereas larger dogs may have to consume more of the product.

Possible Risks

Signs of poisoning in dogs include lethargy, excessive drooling, pacing, whining, quick pulse, excessive panting, seizure, changes in temperament such as sudden aggression, and vomiting.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog and you suspect that they’ve gotten into your lotion or other skincare products, take them to your nearest emergency vet and make sure to bring the bottle or container of the product so the vet can review the ingredient list.

Many lotions are also very greasy in texture, which can cause indigestion, acid reflux, vomiting, and excessive diarrhea that can lead to dehydration. If you use a medication cream or lotion, there are additional risks if your dog accidentally ingests it if they lick the medication off of you.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Licking My Lotion Off?

The best thing to stop your dog from licking your lotion off is to routinely check your lotion’s ingredient list to ensure that there are no toxic ingredients and that no product changes have occurred.

Preventing access to the lotion itself is also extremely important. Keeping your skincare products up and away from your dog is necessary, especially if you have a curious pup who enjoys getting into things.

Once you put on your lotion, make sure it has fully absorbed into your skin before you interact with your dog, and don’t allow them to lick at your body until you are certain the lotion is absorbed. If you use lotion as soon as you get out of the shower, it may take longer than normal for the lotion to absorb so keep that in mind before interacting with your dog.

In extreme cases, such as a dog who has a compromised immune system or severe allergies, you may have to wash off your lotion before interacting with them or find an alternative to your typical lotion, such as an in-shower lotion, water-based misting lotion, or body oil that is non-toxic to dogs.

Train Your Dog

If your dog goes to lick at your body, you can work on teaching them the “Leave It” cue.

To teach “Leave It”, you’ll want to start working on it when you aren’t wearing any lotion and you’ll be using food first to establish what the verbal cue means. Start by placing a piece of food on the floor and then stand right next to it. As your dog attempts to pick up the piece of food, you can cover it with your foot and say, “Leave It”.

After your dog backs away, remove your foot and if they attempt to get the food again, repeat the “Leave It” cue and step over the treat again. As soon as your dog does not attempt to immediately go towards the piece of food on the ground, praise and reward them with a treat from your hand before picking up the piece of food on the ground.

Alternatively, you can also hold a piece of food in the palm of your hand and hold it out to your dog. If your dog attempts to take it from your hand, quickly close your hand and say, “Leave It”. Once your dog stops immediately going towards your hand when you open it, praise and reward them with the treat.

Repeat this frequently, gradually amping up the difficulty of what you are asking your dog to leave alone, and eventually, you’ll be able to utilize it when they attempt to lick your lotion off.

Say “Leave It” when your dog begins sniffing at your body and then reward them with something else, such as a treat or playtime, when they stop the sniffing and don’t try to lick at you.

Closing Thoughts

Dogs like to lick our lotions off because the products usually smell good, and many contain ingredients that mimic the scent of other food products or things that a dog usually finds enticing. In general, it is best to not allow our dogs to lick our lotions off due to toxic ingredients and the risk of digestive upset.

Purchasing lotions and skincare products that do not contain any harmful ingredients is a good idea. Making sure your lotion is fully absorbed before interacting with your dog is also a good way to prevent any accidental ingestion. Teaching “Leave It” is useful if you have a curious pup who likes to explore with their mouth and will help ensure that they are kept safe from ingesting any of your lotion.

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