How To Stop Labrador From Excessive Licking? (Complete Guide)

By Benjamin Tash

Eager to find practical training techniques and effective strategies to manage your Labrador’s excessive licking behavior?

You’re in the right place; we’re here to guide you through.

Here’s a Brief Overview Of How To Stop Your Labrador From Constantly Licking:

Excessive licking in Labradors can stem from behavioral or health-related concerns. For behavioral issues, implementing consistent training plans is crucial.

Utilizing voice tone variations, tether training and introducing “quiet time” are some of the ways that can help regulate your Lab’s licking tendencies. Establishing routines and ensuring regular exercise also provides both mental and physical stimulation which reduces their urge to lick.

On the health front, it’s crucial to distinguish between harmless licking and signs of potential health problems. Regular vet check-ups can identify underlying issues. Keeping their skin moisturized, ensuring they have fresh water and regular grooming can help prevent skin irritations that may lead to excessive licking.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll further delve into the 12-step action plan meticulously designed to address your Labrador’s excessive behavioral licking tendencies.

But that’s not all – we’re also offering 8 expert-recommended tips to guarantee long-term success in curbing those persistent behavioral licking habits.

And to keep one step ahead, we’ve included 10 preventive measures for health-related licking tendencies, so you can proactively manage and potentially avert the licking behavior right from its onset.

How to stop Labrador from licking
CC0 Dale Carlson

12 Step-By-Step Training Action Plan To Effectively Curb Your Labrador’s Excessive Licking Tendencies (For Behavioral-Related Excessive Licking)

1) Identify Licking Triggers

The reasons for this habitual licking can be multifaceted; it might stem from a reaction to specific scents they’re encountering or perhaps it’s a texture they find intriguing, like a woolen blanket.

Maybe it’s a routine, happening at a specific time, like right after dinner. To get to the root of the behavior, document when and where the licking happens over a week and look for patterns.

For instance, if it consistently occurs after meals, it might be an instinctual cleaning behavior.

Alternatively, if you find they start their licking spree every time you wear a certain lotion, you can preemptively engage them with a toy.

By controlling their environment and gradually reintroducing the potential triggers, you can better gauge and adjust their response.

It’s all about observing, understanding, and then tactically reacting.

2) Start with Basic Obedience

Labradors that are known for their intelligence can sometimes get the better of their owners if not given proper guidance.

Having a grasp on general commands ensures that when you want to introduce specific ones, like “No Lick”, it becomes much smoother.

If your Labrador is about to start its licking ritual, a firm “Sit” can serve as a momentary distraction that can break the cycle. Consistency in training is another linchpin for success.

Using the same tone, words and even gestures can help cement the association between specific cues and actions. For example, pairing a hand gesture with a vocal command can emphasize the desired behavior.

It’s worth noting that while Labradors are sharp, their attention spans can be limited.

So, short, frequent training sessions, say three 10-minute slots in a day can be more beneficial than a long, drawn-out one.

For other Lab behavioral issues, check out these other how-to guides as well: How To Stop Labradors From Chasing Sheep (12-Step Training Guide + Tips)

3) Introduce “No Lick” Command

To effectively stop your Labrador’s excessive licking, introducing the “No Lick” command is pivotal. This technique is more than just verbal communication; it’s about establishing a connection between the word and the action.

Observe keenly: when your Labrador starts to lick, firmly state “No Lick”. If they stop, immediately reward their obedience with their favorite treat. Consistency is essential.

For example, if they begin to lick after coming indoors or while lounging, use the command. By being regular, your Labrador will soon relate the phrase “No Lick” with refraining from the act of licking.

The positive reinforcement of treats ensures they find the ‘no licking’ behavior more rewarding than continuing to lick, thus enhancing the effectiveness of this technique.

Remember, the key is immediate reinforcement and persistence.

You might also be interested in Do Labradors Like Kisses? (6 Ways To Know + Tips)

4) Redirection with Toys

Labradors are known for their playful nature. Harnessing this trait can be strategic in stopping the licking behavior.

When your Labrador starts its habitual licking, be quick to present a favorite toy. This diversionary tactic aims to replace licking with an engaging activity.

Consider these scenarios: if your Labrador begins licking the floor, introduce a chew toy. If they lick while you’re busy, draw their attention with a toy that makes a sound.

These playful interventions, if consistently implemented, teach the dog that there’s a more enjoyable alternative to licking.

Over consistent repetitions, your Labrador will be conditioned to seek out toys or await playtime instead of resorting to the licking behavior.

The crux is in timely intervention and making sure the alternative (toys or play) is more enticing than the act of licking itself.

Check also: Why Do labradors Like Soft Toys? (5 Reasons Explained)

5) Pair “No Lick” with “Sit”

Marrying commands can be a powerful tool in training, especially for eager-to-please breeds like Labradors.

When you notice the inclination to lick, it’s not enough to just discourage the act; you should also provide an alternative behavior.

Enter the combination of “No Lick” with “Sit”. Instructing a Labrador to sit when the urge to lick arises gives them an alternate focus.

For instance, when a Labrador begins to lick their paws while you’re watching TV, combine the commands. Or, when you’ve just returned home and they rush to greet you with licks, instruct them to sit instead.

The beauty of this approach lies in its double benefit: you’re not just stopping an unwanted behavior but also reinforcing a positive one.

Over time, this strategy conditions your Labrador to default to sitting, thus suppressing the impulse to lick.

For more how-to guides, explore more on How To Stop Lab From Counter Surfing? (13 Action Plan Guide + Tips)

6) Use Taste Deterrents

The logic is straightforward: make the objects of their licking taste unpleasant. Consider applying a safe, dog-specific taste deterrent on areas they frequently lick, like their paws or a particular spot on the furniture.

Suppose a Labrador often licks a certain cushion in the living room.

By applying a taste deterrent, the next time they approach with the intention to lick, they’re met with an unpleasant taste which dissuades further attempts.

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Another example might be a Labrador that consistently licks a specific spot on their body, possibly aggravating a wound. Applying a taste deterrent can break this cycle.

This method works by relying on a simple principle: if it doesn’t taste good, they won’t lick it.

7) Positive Reinforcement

Instead of punishing a Labrador for undesirable actions, reward them when they display the behavior you desire.

In the case of excessive licking, every time the dog refrains from licking when they typically would, praise them or offer a treat.

Suppose you’re sitting on the couch, a common time when your Labrador tries to lick your face, but they resist the urge; this is the perfect opportunity to reward them.

If they’re grooming themselves and they pause or stop the licking, a treat can be a clear signal that they’re on the right path.

Over time, your Labrador will associate not licking with positive experiences and rewards, making them more likely to resist the urge on their own.

Positive reinforcement also works well in other how-to guides such as this: How To Stop Labrador Rolling In Fox Poo? (12 Step-By-Step Tips)

8) Repeat in Varied Environments

Consistency in different surroundings is the key to ingraining any behavior in dogs. Labradors can behave differently depending on the environment.

To ensure they maintain their reduced licking behavior universally, it’s crucial to repeat training in varied environments.

For instance, a Labrador may refrain from licking at home but resumes the behavior at the park.

In another scenario, they might stop licking guests at your house but might do so at someone else’s home. By practicing the ‘No Lick’ command or any other training in various settings – the backyard, the park, a friend’s house or even during walks – you’re reinforcing that the ‘no licking’ rule applies everywhere.

This method ensures a holistic training approach which ensures your Labrador understands the consistent expectation, no matter the location.

9) Use a Training Clicker

Training clickers are a revolutionary tool in the world of dog training that offers a distinct sound that dogs come to recognize as a marker for good behavior.

When curbing excessive licking tendencies in a Labrador, timing is crucial.

The instant your dog avoids a licking opportunity, a click followed by a treat reinforces the desired behavior.

Let’s take a scenario: you have a guest over, a usual trigger for your Labrador’s licking. They approach, but instead of showering them with licks, your dog holds back.

That precise moment is when you’d click, sending a clear message of approval.

Another instance is during grooming. If your Labrador stays calm without resorting to incessant self-licking, a click and treat can commend that restraint.

Over time, this association between the click and positive reinforcement becomes so robust that the licking behavior reduces significantly.

This technique also works well in this training guide: How To Stop My Lab From Running Off? (9-Step Guide + Tips)

10) Gradual Desensitization

Desensitization is the process of exposing the dog to a stimulus (in this case, the urge to lick) in small, controlled amounts until they become less reactive to it.

Let’s consider you’ve identified that your Labrador often licks when being petted.

Instead of avoiding petting, you’d start with short petting sessions, rewarding the dog when they don’t lick. As days progress, increase the petting duration.

Another example is with guests. If your Labrador tends to lick newcomers, have short visits initially. Reward your dog for not licking, and gradually increase the visitor’s stay, ensuring you consistently reward non-licking behavior.

The principle here is simple: by gradually exposing your Labrador to their licking triggers and reinforcing non-licking, they become less reactive — effectively reducing their urge to display this behavior over time.

11) Command Mastery in Distractions

A Labrador being an intelligent and observant breed can master commands in a controlled environment. But real mastery is gauged when distractions are introduced.

Let’s picture a scenario where you’re at a park and children are playing around. Such an environment can be a magnet for a Labrador’s licking tendencies.

Here, practicing commands is not just about curbing licking, but ensuring obedience amidst distractions.

Another instance is during family gatherings. With multiple people moving about, the temptations for your Labrador to revert to their old ways might be strong.

By repeatedly commanding them in these settings, you make it clear that obedience is expected everywhere, not just at home.

Finally, consider walking on busy streets where sounds, sights and smells are overwhelming. If your Labrador can resist licking amidst this chaos, their training has indeed paid off.

Check also: How To Stop Labrador From Eating Rocks/Stones? (12 Steps)

12) Continuous Practice Sessions

Just like humans, dogs can forget if they don’t practice what they’ve learned. Continuous practice ensures that your Labrador’s training remains fresh in their memory.

Take the example of a musician. Without regular practice, even the most learned piece can be forgotten.

Similarly, if you’ve trained your Labrador to resist licking when they see food, but don’t reinforce this behavior, they might revert. It’s crucial, especially in the initial days post-training, to have short, regular practice sessions.

For instance, if your Labrador has a habit of licking when they see other dogs, regular walks ensuring they maintain their training is essential.

Another example is practicing during feeding times, a peak moment for many Labradors to get excited and revert to licking.

By making these practice sessions a routine, the training not only stays fresh but becomes a part of their behavior.

8 Additional Tips To Ensure Long Lasting Success in Stopping Your Lab From Constant Licking

1) Implement Time-outs

Think of it as providing your Labrador with a moment to reset.

Just as children sometimes need a brief separation from an overwhelming situation, Labradors can benefit from a calm environment to cool down from excessive licking.

For instance, if a guest arrives and your Labrador gets overly excited that leads to constant licking, a short time-out can help.

It’s vital to ensure the time-out space isn’t perceived as a punishment area but rather a place for relaxation.

Another scenario: during a family gathering, where children might be feeding the Labrador snacks, a time-out can reduce the anticipatory licking.

Lastly, if your Labrador starts licking when a specific household appliance is active, a brief pause in a different room can break the cycle.

Read also: Why Are Labradors So Annoying? (21 Reasons Explained)

2) Teach an Alternate Behavior

Replacing an unwanted behavior with a desired one is a hallmark of effective training. For Labradors whose inherent trait is to please their owners, this method works wonders.

If your Labrador begins to lick when you’re preparing their meal, for instance, you could teach them to sit patiently or lay down away from the kitchen area.

Another example: during playtime, when licking could be a sign of over-excitement, redirecting their energy to fetch a toy can be beneficial. It’s not about suppressing their enthusiasm but channeling it effectively.

Furthermore, if your Labrador tends to lick when they want attention, training them to nudge a toy or tap a bell as a sign can be an efficient communication tool without the persistent licking.

3) Vary the Rewards

Consistency in rewards can sometimes result in predictable behavior, potentially causing a plateau in a Labrador’s learning curve.

By introducing variety in rewards, you’re ensuring that the dog remains motivated to heed commands and abstain from unwanted behaviors like excessive licking.

For instance, instead of always rewarding with a treat, sometimes a simple pat, verbal praise or a short play session can be equally effective. This unpredictability keeps the dog engaged.

Another example is during obedience sessions: if your Labrador refrains from licking during a command, instead of the usual kibble, surprise them with a new toy or a longer outdoor playtime.

Alternatively, introducing interactive toys or puzzles after a successful training session can keep them mentally stimulated, thus diverting attention from licking.

4) Hand Targeting

This serves as a brilliant diversion tactic. When you sense the onset of an excessive licking episode, the ‘touch’ command can redirect their attention.

For example, during grooming, if your Labrador gets restless and resorts to licking, a hand target command can momentarily break this behavior – allowing you to continue.

Another scenario is when introducing your Labrador to new environments or people, where nervousness might trigger licking. Using hand targeting can focus their attention on you and away from the stressor.

Moreover, during walks, if the Labrador attempts to lick unknown substances or plants, a timely hand targeting command ensures they stay safe and avoid potential toxins.

5) Voice Tone Variation

Modulating your voice tone helps distinguish between approval, disapproval or a neutral command.

For example, a softer, warmer tone can be used to praise the Labrador when it abstains from licking, signaling positive reinforcement.

In contrast, a firm, but not aggressive, tone can indicate disapproval if the dog starts to lick excessively. Then, in situations where you’re merely issuing a common command, maintaining a neutral tone ensures there’s no confusion.

Another scenario: imagine during a training session when your Labrador doesn’t resort to licking, using an excited tone to say “Good job!” can be more motivating than a monotonous praise.

It’s crucial, however, to never resort to yelling as it can instill fear and be counterproductive.

6) Tether Training

Tether training is about controlling the environment to teach the dog desired behaviors. Essentially, it involves using a leash to tether the dog to a heavy piece of furniture or a doorknob that allows it a limited range of movement.

For example, if you’re in a room and your Labrador starts to lick excessively, you can tether it in a spot where it can see you but can’t access the areas or items it wants to lick.

This forces the Labrador to focus on you which makes it easier to divert its attention. Another scenario is during guests’ visits.

If your Labrador has a tendency to lick visitors excessively, tethering can prevent this behavior while still allowing interaction.

Over time, with consistent practice, the Labrador will understand the expected behavior even without the tether.

Speaking of training, you might also be interested in How To Stop Labradors Chasing Hares  (12-Step Training Guide + Tips)

7) Introduce a “Quiet Time”

A structured schedule often benefits dogs, just as it does humans. Instituting a “Quiet Time” can be a pivotal addition.

This is a designated period where the Labrador is encouraged to relax, be calm and avoid indulging in excessive behaviors, like licking.

This can be achieved by placing the Labrador in a serene environment with minimal distractions. For instance, consider creating a cozy corner with a comfortable dog bed and a favorite toy.

Playing soft, calming music in the background can further the tranquility.

Another example is during post-meal times. Instead of letting the Labrador roam immediately after eating, guide it towards its “Quiet Time” spot.

This not only prevents post-meal hyperactivity but curbs the instinct to lick. Over time, such designated intervals can significantly reduce unwarranted licking spells.

8) Document Progress

Consider maintaining a journal where you note down instances of excessive licking, the triggering circumstances and the interventions applied.

For example, if you observed reduced licking on days when the Labrador had an active play session, it indicates a correlation between physical activity and licking.

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On another occasion, you might note that introducing a new toy distracted the Labrador from its usual licking spot. Over weeks, reviewing these entries can reveal patterns and the effectiveness of strategies.

By documenting, you’re not just keeping tabs but reinforcing your commitment to curbing the behavior.

Furthermore, sharing this documented progress with a professional dog trainer or vet can offer them a clearer picture that could lead to more tailored advice.

8 Preventive Methods To Avoid Excessive Licking In Your Labrador (For Health & Behavioral Related Excessive Licking)

1) Grooming Routine

Establishing a consistent grooming routine is paramount in preventing excessive licking. Why? Dirt, debris and matted hair can cause discomfort – prompting your Labrador to lick the affected areas.

Regular brushing can help detect early signs of skin irritations, hot spots or pests like ticks and fleas — addressing issues before they escalate.

For instance, imagine a scenario where your Labrador has been playing in a muddy field. Left unattended, the dried mud can cause itchiness.

Another example is tangled fur around the paw pads, which might cause your dog to constantly lick their paws.

Additionally, using a gentle, hypoallergenic dog shampoo during baths ensures skin remains irritation-free.

2) Protective Gear

Protective gear isn’t about limiting your Labrador’s movement but ensuring they’re shielded from potential irritants.

For example, during winter, icy terrains mixed with road salts can be harsh on their paws that induces them to lick. A solution? Dog boots. They not only offer protection but also reduce the ingestion of harmful chemicals.

Similarly, consider a Labrador that loves exploring bushy areas. Without protective gear, thorns or burrs might get lodged and can cause discomfort and subsequent licking.

Using protective vests or bodysuits can shield their body from such nuisances.

Moreover, if you’ve applied any medicinal lotions on a wound, using protective gear like e-collars ensures they don’t lick off the medication.

Such preventive measures are more about being proactive which ensures our canine companions remain comfortable in diverse environments.

3) Humidifier

One might wonder how a humidifier relates to a Labrador’s licking habit. The skin of dogs can get dry just like humans, especially in environments with low humidity.

Dry skin can be itchy and uncomfortable that could lead your Labrador to lick frequently as a way to soothe the irritation.

Installing a humidifier in your home can help maintain the optimal humidity level to keep your Lab’s skin moisturized.

For instance, if you’ve noticed your Labrador licking more during the winter months when indoor heating can dry out the air, a humidifier might be beneficial.

Another scenario might be if you live in arid regions; the consistent dryness could instigate frequent licking.

Keeping the home’s humidity at a comfortable level, especially in the areas where your Labrador spends the most time can significantly reduce the urge to lick.

4) Regular Vet Check-ups

Your Labrador might be licking excessively due to underlying health issues that aren’t visible to the naked eye. This behavior might be their way of signaling discomfort.

Regular vet check-ups ensure that any potential health problems are detected early.

For example, if your Labrador has started licking a specific spot more than usual, it could indicate a localized issue like an infection, growth or an internal problem.

Another example could be a change in their diet that might be causing an allergic reaction — prompting more licking. By maintaining a routine vet check-up schedule, you can stay ahead of such issues.

It’s not just about addressing current concerns but also about preventative care.

By catching potential problems early, you ensure your Labrador remains comfortable and reduces the need for them to lick excessively.

5) Provide Fresh Water

Dehydration can result in dry mouth and increased salivation, which can instigate licking behavior. Remember, Labs are active breeds and can get dehydrated easily, especially after physical activities.

Example 1: If you’ve taken your Labrador for a long walk on a sunny day, you might observe an uptick in licking upon returning home. This could be a sign of thirst.

Example 2: When there’s an absence of fresh water, your Labrador might resort to licking cooler surfaces like tiles or walls by misinterpreting them as sources of relief.

Example 3: In a multi-pet household, ensuring separate water bowls can avoid any territorial behaviors that might restrict your Lab from drinking freely, subsequently leading to excessive licking.

6) Establish Routine

Labradors thrive on routine. Their behavioral patterns, including excessive licking can sometimes be traced back to anxiety or boredom.

A set routine gives them a sense of security and purpose.

Example 1: A Labrador used to a morning walk might become restless and start licking if the walk is delayed. The routine walk provides not just physical but mental stimulation that can keep unwanted behaviors at bay.

Example 2: If feeding times are irregular, your Labrador might start licking as an unconscious coping mechanism or to signal hunger.

Example 3: Having specific playtimes, rest periods and training sessions help in channeling their energy effectively. If they know what to expect and when, it reduces the chances of anxiety-driven behaviors like excessive licking.

7) Regular Exercise

One of the primary reasons Labradors might indulge in excessive licking is pent-up energy. Labradors are inherently active breeds that require consistent physical activity to be content.

Without regular exercise, they could manifest their unspent energy in unwanted behaviors, including continuous licking.

For instance, if you’ve ever noticed that on days when the weather isn’t suitable for outdoor activities, your Labrador might seem more restless indoors and resort to licking as a form of self-soothing.

Similarly, during winters, when outdoor time might be reduced, ensuring indoor activities or playtimes becomes crucial.

Another relevant scenario could be when work or other commitments disrupt the regular playtimes; this irregularity can induce stress in your Lab, again leading to increased licking.

Thus, maintaining a consistent exercise routine, whether it’s walks, fetch sessions or agility training ensures that your Labrador remains both mentally and physically stimulated which reduces the likelihood of excessive licking.

8) Safe Spaces

Every pet, including Labradors, needs a personal space where they feel secure. This space acts as a sanctuary, especially when they feel overwhelmed or need rest.

Without such a space, Labradors might feel exposed and that could lead to anxiety and behaviors like excessive licking for self-comfort.

Consider a scenario where there are many guests at home; while Labradors are generally friendly, the overwhelming presence of unfamiliar faces can cause anxiety.

In another instance, if there are loud noises, be it from fireworks or thunderstorms, a Labrador without a safe space might resort to licking as a coping mechanism.

Additionally, in households with multiple pets, conflicts can arise and if a Labrador doesn’t have its own retreat, it might display increased stress behaviors.

Offering a designated spot that is equipped with their favorite toys or bedding ensures they always have a place to retreat which decreases potential stressors that contribute to unwanted licking.

References

Lab-retriever.net — Training Tips: Lab keeps licking!

City-data.com — Licking Labrador