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There’s nothing better than coming back home to a happy dog that’s excited to see you. Usually, dogs will express this excitement by jumping up towards you ready to give you all their kisses!
Having your pup lick your face and hands are usually seen as a sign of affection, and most dog parents won’t question this behavior. But what if your dog’s licking doesn’t stop there?
If you’re here, then you probably want to know more about a certain licking preference, like why does your dog lick the bed?
Your smell or possible crumbs of food on the bed could attract your dog. However, if your dog is experiencing stress, boredom, or separation anxiety they might express it by licking the bed. Excessive licking could also be an obsessive behavior, pica, or a digestive issue.
As you can see there are plenty of reasons your doggy might be licking your bed. Some are more innocent than others, and all of them are worth exploring.
So, let’s go over them one by one and see how you can deal with them!
Why Does My Dog Lick My Bed?
Perhaps the first time you found your dog licking your bed, you laughed it off thinking that it wasn’t going to happen again, or that it’s a puppy behavior your dog will eventually outgrow.
For some pet parents, that’s probably true, but if your dog is all grown up and you’re still not sure why they keep licking your bed and all the things that make up a bed like pillows, covers, and sheets, then it’s time we unpacked this mystery together!
Reason 1: Licking Is Natural
While our sense of taste is much more refined than that of our canine friends, dogs definitely use licking and smelling as tools to figure out the world around them. In fact, it’s their sense of smell that helps them taste better.
As Krista Williams, DVM, explains, “chewing, licking, and mouthing is normal behaviors for dogs as a way of exploring and learning, and carrying objects from one place to the next.”
So, take a moment to observe your dog’s licking. You might notice that this oral fixation might not be limited to your bed. A puddle on your bed or a wet duvet cover is difficult to go unnoticed, but perhaps your dog also enjoys licking other furniture around the house, even the floors and the walls.
It’s important to note that, licking is usually more intense when puppies are teething. Krista Williams, states that this behavior will subside as they grow older, around 18 months of age, and for some dogs, it will never go away completely.
If licking your bed, or other parts of your house is an evolutionary hardwired behavior then you most likely don’t need to worry. But you might want to try and redirect your dog’s licking onto a different item.
Reason 2: The Bed Has Your Scent
If you’ve just walked in on your dog smelling and licking your bed, then you might be witnessing another display of affection. Dog breeds like the Rottweiler and Pitbull famously use licking as another expression of their love.
You might think this is weird, but I think you’re probably forgetting that time you ended up smelling your partner’s t-shirt or pillow after your breakup. So, your dog is doing the same thing with your bed because it’s completely covered in your smell.
Dogs are also most likely to lick your bed or any of your stuff when you’re away because they miss you. Grooming their human is one of the many ways our loyal friends can express their love, and it’s a form of social bonding.
If you’re thinking that changing the bed covers will be enough to keep your doggy from licking it, you’re going to be disappointed. Even if you can’t smell yourself, your dog still can. Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, will tell you that, “it’s been estimated that dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people.”
So, no matter how much you may try to hide your scent your canine companion will manage to sniff it out!
Reason 3: Your Bed Is Tasty
Ok, it’s not your bed that’s tasty but it’s the things that might be on your bed.
Once again, this need your dog has to lick the bed might be connected to your smell. As we toss and turn around our bed, the bed is absorbing our sweat and dead skin.
Because dogs have such strong noses, they’ll pick out such scents, and according to studies, they can identify sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes. They also have unique taste buds specifically for water that react when a food is too salty or sugary, which helps them stay hydrated. That’s why their tongues might find the saltiness of our sweat fascinating and even tasty.
Perhaps that’s why your pooch enjoys licking your extra sweaty and salty skin more during summer or after you’ve both had a long run.
I know most of us try to keep our beds clean, but if you’re like me then you might enjoy the occasional snack as you’re watching your favorite show in bed. These food crumbles can be enough to send your dog on a sniffing and licking expedition all over your bed.
Aside from food particles, there are many other things we can transfer into our beds through our clothes that can trigger our dog’s licking instincts.
Reason 4: You Rewarded This Behavior
Living with a dog is a wonderful experience, it teaches you to be carefree, but it also shows you the importance of proper communication. As new dog parents, it’s easy to make certain errors in judgment or reinforce “unwanted” behaviors by accident.
If your dog seems obsessed with licking your bed, then it’s possible that sometime in the past you unintentionally rewarded this behavior.
There are various ways we can end up rewarding a dog’s behavior. It could have been the friendly tone of your voice right after the incident or that you filled up their food bowl.
Once your pooch saw that you approved of their bed licking, they made it their life goal to keep repeating it for your sake, or for that badly timed treat.
Reason 5: Your Dog Is Stressed
While licking can be a natural dog behavior, their love language, or the result of miscommunication, it could also stem from anxiety.
Licking between two dogs is an appeasement behavior, the purpose of which is to diffuse possible tension between them. Studies have also shown that licking increases endorphins in the brain, and your dog might use licking as a means to calm themselves.
While stressful situations can happen from time to time, noticing that your dog is constantly using a coping mechanism, like licking your bed, might mean that stress has become a chronic issue.
When dogs become stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. The level of cortisol in the blood can build up over time, especially if dogs are encountering lots of situations in which they become scared or frustrated.
Anxiety, as well as boredom, can lead a dog to express their emotional state through different strange canine behaviors. Some can end up digging up your whole backyard while others end up licking your bed.
There are various reasons why a dog might be feeling this way, and it could be the result of more than one particular situation. Perhaps the trigger is your new roommate, or the loud noises coming from outside, a medication that they have to take, or the recent trip to the vet itself.
Aside from licking your bed, according to Malcolm Weir, DVM, your dog might also show other signs of stress like:
- Whining or barking for attention or to self soothe
- Prolonged yawning, and excessive drooling and licking
- Pacing or shaking
- Change in body posture
- Refusal of food and loss of bowel function
- Hiding or avoiding interactions
It’s important to identify what makes your doggy anxious as soon as possible, otherwise licking your bed can become a long-term habit, even if you’ve managed to tackle the cause of it in the first place.
Reason 6: Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Not all dogs can deal with the fact that you’re not with them all the time. Their reaction can range from mild distress like whining and pacing to severe anxiety.
This is called separation anxiety, and this is the type of stress that affects around 14% percent of all dogs. As we’ve already discussed, licking is a self-soothing behavior, and your dog might be licking the bed to ease this feeling.
In order to figure out whether your little friend is having a hard time coping with you going away, you need to pay attention when this behavior occurs.
Perhaps your dog begins to lick your bed while you are getting dressed up and ready to leave for work. Dogs can recognize the early signs that indicate that you’re leaving and they might begin to prepare themselves.
Aside from bed licking you might notice your dog exhibiting destructive behaviors when you’re not around. Urinating or defecating in the house can also be a sign of separation anxiety as well as excessive barking and howling.
Reason 7: It’s An Obsessive Behavior
While OCD is something we mostly associate with the human experience, dogs experience a similar condition known as canine compulsive disorder (CCD).
According to Lisa Radosta, DVM, “these behaviors are exaggerations of normal dog behaviors. They are exhibited for longer than expected periods of time, are repeated out of context, and in situations in which they would be considered abnormal.”
Typically, compulsive behaviors in dogs are the result of frustration, stress, or boredom. Since the act of licking is rewarding, in this case, licking your bed can become a habit even after the original cause has been resolved.
According to Debra Horwitz, DVM, some dog breeds have a particular gene associated with a high level of susceptibility to the canine compulsive disorder like:
- Doberman pinschers – flank sucking
- Bull Terriers – Spinning
- Miniature Schnauzers – fly chasing
- Great Danes, German Shepherds, Retrievers, and Irish Setters – acral lick dermatitis
It’s important to note that dogs can have more than one compulsive behavior and some of them can worsen with time. That’s why it’s important to deal with this condition before this behavior becomes an obstacle for your dog to practice normal behaviors such as eating, drinking, or sleeping.
Reason 8: It Could Be A Medical Condition
Finally, the root of your dog’s habit of licking your bed might have to do with something more serious and health-related.
If your dog is excessively licking your bed, as well as additional things around your house this could be a sign of something more serious.
Researchers have found that dogs who lick random surfaces are more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal problems. These problems could be caused, among other things, by internal parasites such as worms, irritable bowel syndrome, or your doggy could have ingested an inedible object.
And while all dogs may have an upset tummy at some point in their lives, excessive licking can be an additional sign and by treating their gastrointestinal discomfort you can also help reduce their obsessive bed licking.
Another reason why your dog might be licking your bed, is a condition called Pica, the consumption of non-food substances.
According to Dr. Kelly Black, “dogs with pica may eat anything from golf balls to drywall, but items that carry their owner’s scent tend to be a particular favorite.”
Perhaps you’ve also noticed your dog licking and consuming other personal belongings and found a few of your socks all chewed up or even missing.
Pica is usually connected to an underlying medical condition, that’s why it’s important to understand what exactly is causing it. This could be the result of nutritional or hormonal imbalances. In some cases, diseases such as diabetes, or thyroid problems can be blamed.
Parasites and separation anxiety could also be the cause of pica, and in certain breeds like the Labrador Retrievers, this condition is more common.
Instead of trying to guess whether pica is what causes your dog to lick your bed, or what causes their pica in the first place, you need to take them to the vet. A professional will be able to treat your dog and advice you on how to deal with pica if it’s the result of a behavioral issue.
Why Does My Dog Lick The Bedsheets?
When talking about your dog licking the bed, “bed” is a broad term. Your dog might be obsessed with the wooden or metallic frame of your bed, your pillows, the fluffy blankets, and covers, or the bedsheets.
All of these parts could give your dog’s licking a different meaning, and while most of these things carry your scent the smell of your bed sheets is usually the most potent. As we’ve discussed above dogs use their strong sense of smell to explore the world around them and studies have shown that by sniffing their owner’s private parts, they’re simply seeking information.
So, it comes as no surprise that they’ll do the same thing to our bedsheets.
Aside from curiosity if you think your dog is obsessed with your bed sheets then perhaps their need to be closer to your scent is connected to some form of anxiety, a cry for attention, or it’s the result of a medical condition.
That’s why you need to look deeper into what might be causing this behavior, and if you’re not sure where to start, the vet’s office is always a great starting point!
Why Does My Dog Lick His Bed?
Finding your dog licking your bed might seem strange but it also shows a possible connection between you and your dog’s behavior. But what does it mean when they’re licking their own bed?
This could be a soothing technique your dog uses to feel safer in their environment, either because they’re stressed or simply because they’re trying to get comfortable.
Like this chunky boy who seems to find the act of licking extra relaxing!
For some dogs, this is a way of marking their territory. Similarly, to urine marking, by licking their bed they’re able to leave their scent all over it, signaling to any other possible pets around the house that this is their territory.
If your dog feels that their territory is threatened, or they’re feeling stressed then your dog might even pee around their bed area.
Strange behaviors in dogs could also be related to old age. Senior dogs can experience a similar condition to Alzheimer’s, called canine cognitive dysfunction. Aside from licking his or your bed for that matter, you might notice your dog being disoriented.
Some dogs change their sleeping habits, there might be increased bathroom accidents and you might notice that their interaction with you is not the same. If you notice any of these changes in your dog’s behaviors as they get older it’s a good idea to have them get checked by your veterinarian.
As we’ve mentioned above, dogs that lick and chew on random objects might be suffering from pica. Dr. Black states that “towels and washcloths are also very common, as well as parts of dog beds if they have one.”
Take a moment to examine your dog’s bed, perhaps there are pieces missing, or the stuffing inside is not as full as it once was. If this is the case then this could be pica or obsessive behavior.
Why Does My Dog Lick The Bed At Night?
Whether your dog likes to lick your bed or his own is already a strange enough behavior, but what if they also have a preferred time, like at night?
If this is the case for your canine companion, then it’s possible that they lick the bed before going to sleep to relax. Licking is something that most dogs find soothing, and just like you might be using sleep meditation music to help you sleep, your pooch has found their own methods.
A puppy might be more prone to licking, especially if they’re not as familiar with you and the house. But even an older dog can end up licking your bed if they’re sleeping with you, or their own dog bed.
Since sleeping in your dog’s saliva isn’t ideal, you could work on redirecting their licking from your bed to their own, or to a toy instead.
If on the other hand, this behavior isn’t simply a relaxation technique, but a coping mechanism for their stress or physical discomfort then make sure you get your doggy checked out.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Licking The Bed?
Not all the reasons behind your dog’s bed licking behavior are harmless, but even it was I think you’d still want this licking to stop.
No matter how much you love your dog, and enjoy having them on your bed, it doesn’t mean you also want to lay on slimy sheets or rest your head on a soaked-through pillow.
Thankfully there are ways to protect your bed, and we’ve got a few that might work for you and your precious doggy.
1. Consider Changing Your Dog’s Diet
As we’ve already mentioned, one of the reasons your dog could be licking your bed is the taste. It could be the food particles, the saltiness of your sweat, or their need to consume inedible things like your bedding because of pica.
In other words, a dietary deficiency could explain why your dog is licking your bed.
While most dog foods contain enough salt to meet your dog’s daily requirements, it’s possible that perhaps the brand of food your dog enjoys doesn’t have enough essential minerals like sodium and chloride, that help prevent excessive loss or accumulation of fluid.
But perhaps it’s not just the nutritional value of your dog’s food that’s causing the licking, but the feeding instead.
Depending on your dog’s size, in some cases the breed, and their lifestyle, you’ll need to regulate how much they need to eat, how often, and their overall nutritional requirements.
According to Ryan Llera, DVM, “the standard formula used for calculating the energy requirements of the average adult dog that lives inside your home, receives light daily exercise, and is spayed or neutered is, 30 x weight in kg (or pounds divided by 2.2) + 70 = daily caloric needs” Of course, this is just a starting point she adds.
So, to make sure your dog is getting exactly what they need from their food, instead of your bed, you’ll have to talk to your veterinarian or a specialized pet nutritionist.
2. Spot The Triggers
If your dog’s food is balanced and isn’t the cause of their excessive licking, then they might feel stressed.
For many dogs, the source of anxiety comes from boredom, and the best way to deal with boredom is to invest more time and effort in your dog-human relationship.
I know this is easier said than done, but I know we all want to be the perfect dog-parent, and there are plenty of ways we can motivate ourselves to stimulate our dogs mentally.
Instead of going for a walk around your neighborhood, take your dog to a park where they can run without a leash. Perhaps you could join a dog club, that will help you hone your training skills and give your dog enough socializing that they’ll be too tired to lick your bed.
If you have a yard, create a space for your dog where they can dig holes, or hide small treats so they can put their natural searching instincts to work. Some behaviorist advice dog parents to use feeding time as an opportunity to stimulate your dog’s instincts.
There are some fantastic toys available which you can use to hide food in, and trying to retrieve the food is a great way to use your dog’s brain. If you don’t have a yard this snuffle mat from AWOOF on Amazon is a great alternative for hiding large chunks of food!
As a new dog owner, you might find it difficult to see the signs of stress your dog is trying to show you. And simply teaching your dog not to lick your bed won’t help, instead, they’ll redirect their frustration and licking onto something else.
That’s why to take some time to learn more about dog body language.
If your dog is showing signs of stress, or separation anxiety, you will need to visit your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to rule out any underlying health conditions in your dog and may be able to recommend a suitable behaviorist as well. An animal behaviorist will help you work with your dog, both on the anxiety they feel when you are not there, and the series of events that happen as you prepare to leave.
There are many triggers that can make your dog anxious and reinforce their habit of licking your bed, and taking your doggy to a professional can stop this behavior from becoming a chronic issue.
3. Train Your Dog Not To Lick Your Bed
As a dog owner, you need to be able to have the right tools in order to navigate your dog’s behavior. Sure, licking can be natural, but this doesn’t mean you want to lay in a bed covered with your dog’s slobber.
The first thing you need to remember in your training journey is not to punish your dog for licking your bed. They are doing it for a reason they find important, definitely not out of spite, or because they’re stupid.
Instead, you need to find the reason why and redirect this behavior in a healthy way. For example, any time you see your dog licking your sheets, pillows, or any part of your bed you need to stop them in the act, and redirect them towards a toy, or a treat.
This way you’re rewarding them for not licking the bed and after some time your dog will realize that they gain more by not doing what they thought was good like licking your bed.
You could also provide your dog with an appropriate toy to lick. For example, lickimats can be a great source of entertainment for dogs. You can check the Tuff Lickimat slow feeder that’s available on Amazon by clicking here. This product can allow your dog to continue their licking behavior but on this suitable item instead. The only thing you need to remember is to not leave your doggy alone with toys like these, especially if they tend to chew them.
The RSPCA also explains clearly the steps on how to train your dog to understand the “Leave it” command. But if you’re a new dog owner I truly think that a few training lessons, whether with a group or one on one, should help you understand your dog better!
4. Make Sure You’re Not Rewarding This Behavior
During the training phase, you’ll also need to be more careful with the way you react when you see your dog licking the bed.
A recent study showed that “companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level”
So, while yelling at your dog or using aversive training is a big no, you also need to be careful not to reward this behavior unintentionally.
“Training based on positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior,” the Humane Society suggests.
So, make sure you use short sentences and most importantly that your timing is perfect when you see your dog licking the bed.
The reward needs to happen right when you ask your dog to stop, not before or a couple of moments after. Otherwise, your dog might associate the licking with the treats or think that these are two separate things.
5. Keep Your Bedroom Off Limits
While you still need to find the possible reasons behind your dog’s obsession with bed licking, there’s a very simple way to put an end to it.
To put it simply, if your dog doesn’t have access to your bedroom and specifically your bed then they can’t lick it.
But while you’re keeping the door to your room closed, you still need to figure out what could be causing this behavior. Just because they can’t get to your bed doesn’t mean they can’t redirect their licking to other areas and objects.
The main positive of this technique though is that while you’re on the journey of discovering why your bed is such a magnet for your dog, by keeping the room sealed shut you won’t have to crawl into a wet bed ever again!
6. Schedule A Vet Checkup
Finally, the most important thing you can do when you’re met with strange behaviors like your pooch licking your bed is to take them to the vet. A professional will be able to examine your dog and provide them with the treatment they might need for a potential health issue that’s causing the licking.
Aside from seeking veterinary advice, make sure you’re on top of your regular deworming treatments for your dog. If your dog enjoys chewing or licking random objects this can help prevent parasite infections.
For the same reason, remember to stay on top of their food and water bowl hygiene, and monitor what your dog might get their nose into when you’re out and about. This is also important for your own health since they can transmit certain infections through their saliva and onto your bed.
A veterinarian will help you fight the problem and prevent it from ever happening again. Furthermore, they can redirect you to a pet behaviorist if the licking is behavioral or a canine nutritionist if it’s caused by your dog’s diet instead.
A bed covered in your dog’s saliva is definitely not an invitation for sweet dreams, but there’s nothing that a bit of training can’t solve.
If you’re worried that training is not going to cut it, then perhaps this behavior is masking a more serious issue.
There are plenty of reasons why your dog is licking your bed, and everything on it, but before you close the bedroom door, take a look at your dog’s lifestyle, and make your dog’s vet check-up a priority. Perhaps it’s a sign of some illness or your dog’s way to ask for more attention.
Either way, this is definitely something worth looking into for your dog’s sake, as well as to keep your bed dry!