If you have noticed your dog is licking his stuffed toys, it could be caused by a number of reasons. It is possible he is hungry or thirsty. It could also be a sign of anxiety, OCD, boredom, or he is just exploring his surroundings.
Your dog licking his stuffed toy is usually not a cause for concern. However, in some situations, especially where it is repetitive and excessive, it could indicate a problem you should address. Read to find out why your dog might be licking his stuffed toys and what you can do as a concerned owner.
Why your dog licks his toys
There are multiple possible causes as to why your dog is licking his toys.
He’s hungry or thirsty
If your dog is licking his toy, this could be a sign he’s hungry or thirsty. He could be saying, “Hey mom, dad, can you feed me?” If you see him licking his toy, try feeding him or giving him some water, the licking could seize after that. He could also enjoy the taste of the toy, trying to subside his hunger.
Dogs often lick objects to overcome thirst because the licking can help activate the dog’s salivary glands. If you notice this, try feeding your dog either some kind of wet food or giving him water.
Licking the toy and not eating after could also signify he is not on the proper diet. He may be lacking nutrition or may have trouble absorbing nutrition from his current diet. You would need to check in with your veterinarian to rule out any dietary absorption problems with your pup.
Your canine could be using the toy to soothe himself. Pay attention to when he is licking his stuffed toy; is it when he seems more anxious? Perhaps he is uncomfortable in this setting. If you have been away for a while or are about to leave, he could be experiencing separation anxiety. This will typically manifest with what appears to be more aggressive/determined licking and may be accompanied by light panting or general restlessness. Try taking your dog away from his current environment, and distract him with either a walk or to play fetch in the yard. Tiring him out will lower his anxiety.
Like anxiety, your dog may be showing symptoms of OCD. Dogs can be diagnosed with these illnesses just like humans. Your dog may be exhibiting an irresistible urge to lick his toy. If he does this and licks other objects obsessively, it’s a good idea to bring him to the vet. Other signs of OCD would be compulsive behavior of any kind, such as chasing his tail excessively, walking in circles, or obsessively following the reflection of sunlight on the ground.
Your dog might be bored and looking for something to do. Maybe nobody is playing with him, and he is trying to entertain himself. If you recently got a new pet or are paying attention to something that is not your pup, he could be licking his toy to fill his time.
You can try spending a little extra time with him to cure that pesky boredom bug. While he’s licking the toy, try using it to play with him. Take it, throw it, see if that helps him get active, and quit the licking in the meantime. It’ll also help tire him out, which will reduce any anxiety or other negative emotions he might be feeling.
Boredom is especially problematic with younger dogs that have high energy levels. They might have difficulty expending in an indoor environment. If you’re away from home, try leaving a toy such as a Kong that will fill a decent amount of his time trying to ‘solve’, and can reduce unwanted behaviors such as excessive licking.
Dogs are nothing if not curious and explorative. They use their tongue to get to know their surroundings. He could be licking his stuffed toy to familiarize himself with the toy and see if it’s something he likes or dislikes. This behavior starts as a puppy and can continue into adulthood.
Here are some questions to consider when observing your dog’s behavior.
How does he act when he licks his toy?
Please pay attention to other behaviors while your dog is licking his stuffed toy. If he started licking the toy out of nowhere, he could be experiencing dehydration or hunger. If anything seems out of the ordinary, feeding or giving him water does not help; ask a vet for help.
What else does he do when he does this?
Check out if your dog is licking his stuffed toy at a particular time. Is it more when you’re leaving or coming home? Is it more when it’s time to go to bed, eat, etc.? Observe his other behaviors when he is licking his stuffed toy; this could indicate one of the reasons above!
What you can do
Try not to panic, as licking is typical in dogs; here are some things you can do to ease your concerns.
Has he eaten today?
Please make sure your furry friend gets the proper nutrients. If you slipped up and forgot to feed your dog, and he is incessantly licking his stuffed toy, give him something to eat.
Has he had enough water?
Make sure you’re giving him water as well. He could be overall dehydrated and looking anywhere to fulfill his needs. Make sure he has access to water after walks or playtime as dogs will get thirsty after physical activity due to their inability to sweat.
Check his surroundings
Is something out of the norm with your dog’s environment? It’s best to keep him feeling as comfortable as possible in his own home. Do you have other pets that are making him uncomfortable? Are you giving him the space he needs to run around?
When you get home from a day at work, spend time with him, so he feels loved and at ease. Before you leave, please do the same to feel more OK with being on his own for a few hours.
Call your vet
Suppose your dog does not appear hungry or thirsty and continually licks his stuffed toy. In that case, this might be a good sign to get him to the veterinarian. Like most things that are out of the ordinary, if it can’t be changed with some nutrients or environmental changes, you will want to call the vet.
He could need a change in diet or be prescribed medication for something anxiety-related. You might even want to give your little guy some extra TLC. Spend some time with him, give him more pets on the head, take him for a walk. He might need your attention!
- Make sure your furry friend is well fed
- Try to give him water when he starts licking
- Make his space a soothing, comfortable environment
- Spend quality time with your dog
- If you can’t figure it out on your own, speak to a veterinarian
Our lives can get crazy, and we can forget the little things like giving our dogs a little extra love. But no matter how busy you get, remember to fill his bowl, rub his belly, and take him to the vet if necessary.