We all know that dogs sometimes act strange, and they have a tendency to lick all kinds of things. However, it still comes as a surprise when a dog is extra fond of licking its blanket or the owner’s blanket.
So, why do dogs lick blankets? There are many reasons why dogs lick blankets, and they are classified into two categories – behavioral and medical. Common behavioral reasons include anxiety, boredom, canine OCD, and habit. Common medical reasons include GI tract issues, nausea, dietary deficiencies, and canine dementia.
In this article, we will talk about the reasons dogs lick blankets. We will go in-depth on the underlying issues and then provide helpful tips on how to manage the situation and stop this nasty habit.
Why Do Dogs Lick Blankets? – Top Reasons
To you and me, licking blankets seems weird. However, from a dog’s point of view, it is quite reasonable. In fact, there are many reasons dogs tend to do this activity. For easy understanding, they are classified into two groups – behavioral and medical.
Let’s start by discussing the behavioral reasons dogs lick blankets.
1: Stress and anxiety
Modern dogs are prone to various types of stress and anxiety. The most common causes include separation anxiety and noise phobias. Dogs that are feeling stressed or anxious find comfort in repetitive behaviors – licking, chewing, scratching, or digging (basically anything that is constantly available and repetitive in nature). In these terms, many dogs revert to licking their blankets.
2: Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorders or shortly OCD in dogs are becoming increasingly common. The exact causes are not very well-known, but their manifestation is often adverse and can have a negative impact on the dog’s physical and mental wellbeing. Different dogs with OCD have different focuses, and for some dogs licking blankets can be the behavior of choice.
3: Early maternal separation
Puppies that are separated from their mother prematurely are more likely to develop behavioral issues when adults. The extent of the behavioral issues is vast and can range from separation anxiety to generalized obsessive-compulsive behavior. In all cases, licking blankets can be one of the symptoms.
4: Missing the owner
It is no secret that dogs love their owners and miss them even when they are absent for a couple of minutes. In such cases, dogs can focus on licking their owners’ blankets simply because the blankets smell like the owners. The principle is quite simple, but dogs find it efficient and soothing.
5: Positively reinforced habit
If your dog has an attention-seeking personality, chances are it is licking the blanket to catch your attention. Namely, if you scold the dog when licking blankets, you are giving it attention, and unintentionally teaching your dog licking blankets is a good way of initiating interaction.
6: Boredom and lack of stimulation
Dogs were originally bred to perform complex tasks. More often than not, modern dogs are bred to be companions. The lack of daily “to-do” lists is messing with their working heritage. In simple words, modern dogs are prone to boredom. A bored dog will do anything to keep itself entertained – including lick blankets.
7: Liking the blanket too much
Dogs are social animals and often express their love for the pack members through licking. At the same time, licking is an important canine behavior and is almost always directed to things, other dogs, and people the dog likes. Therefore, licking the blanket can be a form of appreciation (dogs generally like their belongings).
8: Disliking the blanket
You are well-familiar with the dogs’ habit of making a few circles before lying down. This behavior is a remnant of the wild days when dogs slept on the ground and had to make the surface comfortable. Licking is a similar mechanism. Maybe there is something wrong with the blanket, and the dog thinks it will be better after giving it a thorough licking.
With the behavioral reasons behind licking blankets covered, let’s take a look at the medical reasons. Here are the common medical reasons dogs lick blankets.
9: Low food criteria
The blanket harbors sweat and dead skin cells (from you or the dog itself, depending on whose is the blanket), which as disgusting as it sounds, some dogs find enticing. Plus, more often not, the blanket can contain small food crumbs. In both cases, the dog is licking because it is hungry or, simply put, the blanket tastes amazing.
Dogs with nausea are likely to lick their blankets or any other item and surface; the explanation is quite simple and based on two reasons – first, licking decreases the excess saliva produced when the dog feels nauseated second, licking keep the dog focused and occupied, thus reverting its thoughts from the sickness.
11: Dietary deficiencies
Dogs lacking certain nutrients are prone to licking and eating a variety of inedible items (and blankets are no exception). The most commonly deficient nutrients are vitamins and minerals. Despite what dog food manufacturers say, many commercial formulas lack adequate vitamin and mineral levels.
12: Gastrointestinal issues
Dogs with gastrointestinal issues often lick blankets as a form of self-soothing. In modern dogs, the most common causes of gastrointestinal issues are sudden dietary changes, dietary indiscretions, and food sensitivities and allergies. Frequent diarrhea bouts, abdominal cramping, and appetite changes are also indicative of such issues.
13: Canine cognitive dysfunction
Canine cognitive dysfunction or, simply put, dementia is a common issue in senior dogs. Old dogs with cognitive dysfunction are likely to exhibit an array of abnormal behaviors and often act confused. Licking blankets can easily be a part of the overall confusion. In the case of dementia, affected dogs exhibit additional worrisome signs and symptoms.
Why Does My Dog Lick the Blanket at Night?
Dogs usually do stupid things at night or when alone. The reason is pretty simple – during the day when you are together, they are occupied and do not want to spend time on anything else rather than being with you. However, at night, when everyone is asleep, things get boring, and licking blankets is an activity as good as any (from a canine perspective).
Paying attention to the timing of the blanket licking behavior is helpful – it can give insight into why your dog is doing it. For example:
- if your dog starts licking blankets as soon as you leave the house, separation anxiety is the most likely culprit
- if your dog licks blankets immediately after meals, gastrointestinal upsets and nausea are more probable
- if your dog licks blankets only at night when everyone else is asleep, chances are it is doing this out of pure boredom.
Is It Bad for Dogs to Lick Blankets?
Yes, licking on any surface of an item is bad. When licking blankets, the dog is involuntarily ingesting small threads, and in the case of woolen blankets – wool.
The threads and wool are not straightforward toxic. However, if ingested in higher amounts, they can be troublesome and wreak havoc on the dog’s digestive system.
Plus, licking blankets can quickly evolve into a more serious issue – chewing and eating blankets. The ingested blanket piece poses a serious health risk as it may cause life-threatening intestinal obstruction.
Finally, even without these complications, licking blankets is bad as it indicates the presence of a more serious underlying problem (either behavioral or medical) that needs to be resolved as it harms the dog’s quality of life and welfare.
How to Stop My Dog from Licking Blankets?
Luckily, there are various things you can do to manage the situation and stop your dog from licking blankets. The exact management approach depends on the underlying issue. However, to keep things simple, we will focus on all management options – from visiting the vet to getting proactive to consulting with a behaviorist.
Tip number 1: Schedule a veterinary appointment
First things first – you need to make sure your dog is not suffering from a medical condition that is making it lick blankets. Luckily, the medical reasons are not life-threatening and can be easily solved with the vet’s help. Work with your veterinarian and follow the instructions so your dog can get back to normal.
Tip number 2: Make a new exercise plan
Keeping your dog physically active is an excellent idea. The more active your dog is, the less energy it will have for licking blankets or doing other mischievous things. Plus, exercising stimulates the brain, too, meaning it serves as mental stimulation and prevents boredom. If you are not sure how much physical activity your dog needs (based on breed and health profile), consult with your trusted veterinarian.
Tip number 3: Add changes to the diet
As mentioned, licking blankets or other unusual items and surfaces can stem from nutritional deficiencies and digestive upsets. Investing in high-quality food will help with such issues and give your dog a healthy kick in life. Depending on the formula you choose, you can even supplement your dog with vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, and probiotics.
Tip number 4: Provide new toys
The goal is to keep your dog busy with acceptable behaviors. Providing a bunch of new toys is a great way to do this. Keep in mind that dogs get bored quickly so, you will have to buy new toys frequently or rotate the current ones.
Tip number 5: Do not feed the behavior
Do not make a fuss if you catch your dog licking the blanket, as this might be encouraging the behavior and feeding its attention-seeking personality. If your dog licks the blankets, just take the blanket away and ignore your dog for some time. Then you can return the blanket but still act distant.
Tip number 6: Daycare enrolment
When it comes to licking blankets, enrolling your dog in a doggy daycare works on various levels. First, it will help with socialization (lack of socialization often results in behavioral issues). Second, it will keep your dog occupied and stimulated during the day. Third, your dog will be monitored and unlikely to do weird things.
Tip number 7: Start training your dog
Training your dog can help with many situations, not just with licking blankets. In fact, it is advisable to start training your dog while still a young pup. We are not talking about advanced training and complicated stuff. Basic obedience is enough to improve the communication between you and your dog.
Tip number 8: Channel the licking habit
If your dog is a keen licker, try giving it a stuffing toy filled with peanut butter or some other dog-friendly filling or treats. Licking is a normal part of canine behavior but still needs to be adequately channeled.
Tip number 9: Take the blanket away
If everything else fails, you can take the blanket away – not for good, but temporarily; namely, you should let your dog spend time with the blanket only when you are around and monitoring the situation. Just remember, as we already explained, act low-key when taking the blanket away and giving it back.
Tip number 10: Seek professional help
Finally, sometimes you have to admit the situation is out of your control and seek professional help from a licensed canine trainer or behaviorist. These professionals are trained and will help you manage the issue in the simplest and fastest possible way.
Summing Up: Dogs Licking Blankets
At first, a dog licking blankets seems weird and benign. However, the blanket licking behavior should not be overlooked because of two reasons. First, it is indicative of a more serious underlying problem. Second, it can have complications in the long run.
Therefore, if your dog suddenly starts licking the blanket (its own or yours), evaluate the situation, try gathering as much information as possible, and then call the vet. If there are no medical triggers, you can try some of the helpful tips explained above or bottom line; if everything fails, consult with a canine behaviorist or certified trainer.