Pitbulls are known for their affectionate and playful nature, often showing their love by wagging their tails, giving gentle nuzzles, and, of course, licking. But have you ever wondered, "Why do Pitbulls lick so much?"
While all dogs engage in this behavior to some extent, Pitbull owners may notice that their pups seem to be particularly keen on it. In this article, we'll explore the various reasons behind this behavior, ranging from psychological aspects to health considerations.
Understanding Basic Canine Behavior
First, it's crucial to understand that licking is a natural canine behavior. Dogs lick themselves, their environment, and other animals—including humans—for various reasons. This action begins almost immediately after birth, as a mother licks her puppies to stimulate their breathing and clean them.
As they grow, puppies learn to use licking as a form of communication and exploration. Now, let's look at why Pitbulls, in particular, might lick more frequently than other breeds.
Communication and Submission
In a dog's world, licking can signify several forms of communication, including submission. A dog may lick another dog's mouth to show deference or respect. Similarly, your Pitbull might lick you to acknowledge that you are the alpha in the household. This behavior can be more pronounced in Pitbulls because they are often very loyal and eager to please their owners.
Expression of Affection
Pitbulls are generally very loving and affectionate dogs, and licking is one of the most direct ways to express this. When your Pitbull licks you, it's often their way of showing love, similar to how humans hug or kiss. They may focus on your face, hands, or any part of your body within their reach. Some owners even consider it the Pitbull's version of giving kisses.
Tasting Something Interesting
Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell and taste. If you've recently eaten something or even if your skin has a unique scent, your Pitbull might be licking you simply to explore these tastes and smells. This form of exploration is common among many breeds, but Pitbulls may exhibit it more, given their inquisitive nature.
Pitbulls are very social animals and love spending time with their humans. If they start to feel ignored or want some playtime, they might resort to licking as a way to get your attention. If you respond by petting them, talking to them, or playing, they consider their mission accomplished and may continue the behavior in the future.
Soothing or Comforting Themselves
Licking releases endorphins, which can help dogs feel calm and comforted. If your Pitbull is anxious, stressed, or agitated, they may lick more frequently as a form of self-soothing. While this is a natural coping mechanism, excessive licking due to stress or anxiety may warrant a vet visit or consultation with a dog behaviorist.
Possible Health Concerns
It's worth noting that excessive licking can also be a sign of an underlying health issue. Allergies, skin infections, or parasites can make a dog's skin itchy, leading them to lick the affected areas for relief. Dental issues can also prompt increased licking. If you notice that your Pitbull is licking excessively and can't find a behavioral reason for it, a visit to the vet is advisable.
Sometimes, frequent licking can become a learned or habitual behavior. If a dog has been reinforced positively for licking in the past—such as receiving treats, affection, or any form of attention—they may continue this behavior, sometimes to the point of excess. This is not exclusive to Pitbulls but can be observed in them due to their keen desire to interact with their human companions.
What Can I Do About Exessive Licking?
Identify the Trigger
Firstly, determine whether the excessive licking is a behavioral issue. In such cases, the licking is usually aimed at the owner, other pets, or various objects around the house. Dogs may lick to seek attention, to express submission or affection, or even out of boredom.
In some cases, excessive licking can be due to an underlying medical issue such as allergies, skin conditions, or gastrointestinal problems. If your dog is licking a specific area of its body too much, this could indicate pain or discomfort in that area.
If you suspect that a medical issue may be causing the excessive licking, it's essential to consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis. They may perform tests or imaging studies to identify the underlying problem and may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment.
One of the simplest ways to stop licking is to redirect its attention. If your dog starts to lick excessively, try to engage it in a different activity that it enjoys, such as playing fetch or going for a walk.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is an effective training strategy to curb excessive dog licking. The first step is to establish a clear command, such as "no lick" or "enough," and use it consistently every time your dog engages in excessive licking.
Timing is essential; the instant your dog obeys your command and ceases the behavior, reward them with a high-value treat or toy. This immediate reward helps solidify the connection between the desired behavior (stopping licking) and the positive outcome (receiving a treat or toy). Consistency in practice is key, so regularly reinforce this command-reward sequence in various settings until the behavior is well-established.
As your dog becomes adept at responding to the command, you can start to phase out the treat or toy, offering it less frequently until the command alone suffices.
Consider Anxiety-Reducing Tools
Some dogs lick excessively due to anxiety or stress. Anxiety wraps apply gentle, constant pressure, like swaddling an infant and can reduce anxiety in many dogs.
Sparkpaws Earmuff Protector has been designed specifically to address such concerns. It significantly reduces anxiety by shielding the dog’s ear canal from loud noises and applying gentle compression around the head. This tool is versatile and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
Whether it's at home, during grooming sessions, visits to the vet, car rides, amidst loud construction noises, or even during thunderstorms – it can come to the rescue in any situation that might cause anxiety for your dog.
Synthetic canine pheromones can sometimes help relieve stress and reduce licking. These come in various forms, such as sprays, diffusers, and collars.
If your attempts to curb the excessive licking have failed, consider consulting a dog behaviorist. These professionals can offer specialized techniques to modify the behavior.
Should I Let My Dog Lick My Face?
The question of whether or not to allow your dog to lick your face is a subject of debate among veterinarians, pet owners, and animal behaviorists. While some argue that this is a natural way for dogs to show affection and can help strengthen the bond between pet and owner, there are also potential health risks to consider.
Dogs explore their environment with their mouths and may come into contact with bacteria, parasites, or viruses that could be transferred to you. Additionally, some people have allergies or skin sensitivities that could be aggravated by a dog's saliva.
If you have a compromised immune system, allowing a dog to lick your face may not be advisable. Therefore, the decision should be made based on your personal comfort level, health considerations, and the general health and hygiene of your dog.
So, why do Pitbulls lick so much?
The reasons can be multifaceted, ranging from showing affection and seeking attention to behavioral conditioning and even possible health concerns.
Understanding the cause behind your Pitbull's licking can help you manage it better and deepen the bond between you and your furry friend.
However, if the licking becomes excessive or if you suspect a medical issue, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.