7 Reasons Why Pugs Lick So Much and How to Prevent It

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by Lily Ferreras

why-do-pugs-lick-so-much

You will often see Pugs with their tongues out, putting them to some good use.

While some of us don’t mind being greeted with a lick, it’s a completely different story when you become your dog’s lollipop! But, why do Pugs lick so much?

Pugs lick your hands, face, or legs to communicate. They also lick themselves and other dogs. There are several reasons behind this behaviour, including affection, submission, cleaning, food request, taste, a medical condition, or an instinctive response.

There’s a lot more to your Pug’s licking behaviour than you might know, and there are ways to prevent it when it becomes excessive.

Why Do Pugs Lick So Much?

In the canine world, licking is a way of communication and some dog breeds are more expressive than others.

There are at least 7 reasons why Pugs lick so much:

#1 – Instinctive Response

Licking is deep-rooted behaviour in dogs. In fact, the sensation of being licked is the first experience a new pup has when he’s born, even before opening his eyes!

The mother licks her puppies immediately after they are born to clean off after birth and stimulate their breathing. This licking habit will bond mothers with their pups during the next weeks.

In the following weeks, the dam (the puppies’ mom) continues licking her pups to clean them up. She also licks them to stimulate pooping and peeing.

As puppies grow older, they will start licking their mother’s muzzle. We believe that this behaviour strengthens the bond between mother and offspring.

So, licking comes naturally for Pugs; it’s an in-born response.

Puppies will continue licking into adulthood and for all their lives. You might think that your Pug puppy is transferring his interactions with his mother over to you, but that’s not the only reason your Pug licks!

pug-licking-behaviour

#2 – Affection 

Familiar with doggy kisses?

I bet you are! Like it or not, every dog owner experiences these wet kisses one way or another!

Tootsie, our foster Pug, would lick you at any opportunity she had, and if she liked someone… she made sure to show her affection.

It depends on the dog, but Pugs are very affectionate and expressive. Since your Pug is bonded to you, he licks you to show his love and affection!

But, why the face?!

Remember that pups learn about licking from birth and it’s a common interaction between dogs. You might have spotted a lot of licking (especially in the face) when dogs interact and greet each other.

Are Dog Kisses Safe?

Put a different way, is it safe for your dog to lick you?

Dog kisses or licks are usually harmless. However, it’s a myth that dogs have antiseptic tongues. So don’t let your dog lick any open wounds you have.

The very best way to ensure you and your Pug don’t swap germs is to wash your hands before and after you handle your dog, and before touching food.

When your Pug gives you kisses, wash your face (or wherever he licked you) after each smooch session.

I would avoid lip kissing, i.e., letting your pooch lick your mouth. If you think about it, you might not want your Pug licking your face at all. After all, you don’t really know where their mouth has been before he kisses you!

Dogs will lick themselves (including their rear) and eat things such as poop, which leaves unwanted bacteria in their mouths.

Good hygiene practices will keep germs at bay. That’s why is important to follow a dog grooming routine.

Brush and bathe your dog when necessary, so you can cut down on the dirt, allergens and bacteria he brings into the house on his body and especially, his feet.

Other Ways that Dogs Show Affection?

Other dogs express their love differently. My parent’s Mastiffs, however, wouldn’t lick any of us. Instead, they would nuzzle you with their wet nose in the face or the hand.

Want to find out the other ways that your pooch shows you their love?

Check out our Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language for Affection blog post to discover 10 Ways Your Dog Tells You “I Love You”.

pug-licking-kissing
Pug kisses!

#3 – Submission

Licking can also be seen as a sign of submission. Since dogs lick other dogs to show respect, it’s likely that they lick their owners for the same reason.

However, don’t confuse submission with boredom or anxiety.

Sometimes Pugs will lick themselves due to the calming or soothing effects that this action provides. Licking releases endorphins that make your Pug feel good.

#4 – Cleaning

You’ll also find that Pugs don’t just make the licking one-sided; they also lick themselves as well.

Why Pugs Lick Themselves

Your Pug might lick himself to get rid of dead tissues and clean dirt from his coat and wounds. Dog saliva has enzymes that kill off bacteria, which helps with their cleaning and grooming habit.

Why Pugs Lick Their Nose So Much

A dog’s nose is a source of important sensory information. Licking the nose enhances your Pug’s sense of smell!

Also, your dog’s nose is the first part of his body to meet and greet you and other animals. So, it’s important that your pooch keeps his nose clean and moist for it to be able to function effectively.

Plus, this vital organ is the cooling system your Pug needs in times of physical exertion and high temperatures.

This is key for Pugs and other Brachycephalic breeds since they are prone to overheating.

Nose licking is another comical side of your Pug’s personality. 😉

pug-licking-reasons

#5 – Food Request

In the wild, wolves (dogs ancestors) feed their pups by bringing back meat that they killed away from their den.

When they return to feed their young, the puppies lick their parents’ faces (around the mouth area) to let them know that they are hungry.

So, requesting food by licking you is also a deep-rooted habit for dogs.

Pugs are known to be eager eaters and considered one of the top 10 dog breeds that love to eat.

Your Pug might ask you for food, especially when it’s time for his meal, and dog’s that follow a routine know what’s coming and are able to anticipate this.

However, I wouldn’t encourage this behaviour if your dog licks you when you are eating. That will be begging, and it’s not a habit you want to reinforce.

#6 – Taste

Dogs are curious creatures and licking is an effective way for them to find out how things and people taste.

For instance, human skin is salty (more so if you have been sweating) and may have substances on it (like lotion or perfume) that your pooch may want to sample.

Your Pug is likely to get carried away because he likes the salty taste on your skin.

Most dogs seem to have a fixation with human feet, and this is because body odour is stronger in this part of our body, and apparently tastier too.

I can still remember my first puppy, a Mastiff from the Pyrenees, licking my dad’s feet thoroughly while he was watching TV! At that time, I was clueless and mesmerized by my pup’s odd (and what I then thought disgusting) habit.

Some dog owners express that their Pugs lick the air too!

Like the nose, your Pug’s tongue is also a sensory tool.

According to Psychology Today, dogs have millions of sensory cells on their tongues, i.e., they have more acute taste buds than humans.

pug-licking-air
Pug licking the air (or getting a taste for the snow)! 😉

#7 – Medical Condition

Another common question is…

Why do Pugs lick their paws so much?

Another reason for Pugs to lick themselves could be due to an underlying medical condition.

Since your pooch can’t directly tell you what’s wrong, unusual body language and behaviour is how you can find out that something is wrong with your pooch.

So, if your Pug is licking himself more than usual, it’s an indication that you should pay a visit to your vet and find out if he’s in pain or discomfort.

Your pooch might be itchy, have dry skin or something else.

Dogs suffering from arthritis, for example, tend to lick their paws and legs to try to ease the pain. 

Apart from following yearly vet check-ups, consider insuring your dog as soon as you can – from day 1, before any signs of illness begin.

This will ensure that you have all the support you need to care for your Pug throughout their lifetime. Petplan pet insurance covers all hereditary and chronic conditions as standard.

pug-licking-themselves

Why Your Pug’s Licking Can Become a Problem

There’s no need for alarm when your Pug’s licking reasons are natural canine behaviours.

If your Pug licks a particular part of his body, check with your vet for an underlying medical condition.

The problem is that you could be dealing with behavioural problems or boredom, causing your Pug to lick excessively.

Licking can be a problem for three reasons:

  1. Becoming a compulsive habit.
  2. Promoting unwanted behaviours.
  3. Jeopardizing their own safety.

#1 – Becoming a Compulsive Habit

Pugs can develop an obsessive-compulsive habit of licking everything and everyone, especially when bored.

This habit is not just distressing for your dog because he’s being anxious, but also for you. 🙁

Pugs need daily exercise in the form of walks and playtime. These activities provide mental and physical stimulation, avoiding boredom.

Basically, you are fulfilling a part of your dog’s needs to be healthy and have a quality life.

Insider Tip: If your pooch cannot blow off some steam, he will focus that energy somewhere else.

Your Pug’s boredom can manifest as destructive behaviour, but also as compulsively licking themselves, others, or objects within their reach.

pugs-lick-so-much

#2 – Promoting Unwanted Behaviours

Puppies are attention seekers.

Their “hello” licks are usually accompanied by some tail wagging, or in the Pug’s case, some cute body wiggling. 🙂

However, as your Pug gets older, he will tend to lick less to seek attention and use various ways to interact with you, unless their licking receives lots of attention.

If your dog’s licking gets praised or rewarded in a way, your Pug will associate licking as a big part of his greeting behaviour and can remain that way.

The point is…

If you reward your Pug every time he licks you, he will continue to do so. Your dog’s understanding of a reward equals any attention he gets from you: from treats to a brief eye-contact.

You might not realize that your dog’s licking has become a problem until it is too late, i.e., when their dog displays an excessive licking habit that is not welcomed.

Sadly, your Pugs desire to lick can become an annoyance and can actually interfere when playing or exercising your pooch.

Plus, if you have other pets, it can cause bigger problems. For instance, even the friendliest of cats won’t take it kindly when they are being licked constantly.

That’s why it’s important to decide what is acceptable and what’s not, and behave accordingly (this includes you and everyone that interacts with your pooch).

#3 – Jeopardising Their Own Safety

Your Pug’ licking habits can become a safety hazard when they lick things that aren’t safe.

It doesn’t matter that you keep all the dangerous substances (cleaning products, medicines, toxic foods for dogs, etc.) away from them, you cannot always control your dog’s environment, especially when you aren’t at home.

Dogs are opportunists.

Just going for a walk can become a danger to their safety if your dog licks everything. Outdoors, they can come in contact with antifreeze, food leftovers, and something as common as dirt!

Even at home, you can accidentally drop human food that is poisonous for your Pug, like chocolate.

Also, your Pug licking your shoes’ soles can be dangerous since they contain harmful bacteria and chemicals.

I think you get the point why excessive licking is dangerous. Now, let’s see how to prevent it!

pug-licking

How to Prevent Your Pug Licking Everything

The million dollar question: How to stop my Pug from licking everything?

Before you stop a dog from licking, you first need to understand what’s causing the behaviour:

  • Seeking attention – your dog just won’t leave you be.
  • Boredom – being alone or doing nothing for too long, or both!
  • Loving the taste.
  • Anxiety, etc.

Then, it’s time to put the solution into practice:

#1 – Ignore Your Pug’s Licking

If your Pug licks you obsessively, here’s the most effective way (maybe not the easiest) to get him to stop licking:

Ignore your dog’s licking behaviour.

The most efficient way to teach your Pug that you are not his personal lollipop is to ignore this unwanted behaviour. Instead, only reward your dog’s positive actions immediately.

This means that when your doggy licks you, you remove whatever he’s licking and avoid eye-contact until he stops. Immediately he stops, reward his behaviour.

Yelling or making a big fuss about the licking backfires. Even negative attention can reinforce a behaviour since dogs perceive every action from you towards them as getting attention.

#2 – Redirect How to Seek Attention

If your Pug licks you to get your attention, then teach him another way to get your attention.

For example, you can teach your dog to sit and lift his paw when he’s seeking your attention. Then, when he performs the new trick, reward him immediately with healthy treats and caresses.

This will reinforce his good behaviour and he will likely repeat the trick to receive your praise.

Another way to redirect the behaviour and your dog’s need to spend time with you is to play games. The Airplane Game, for example, helps your dog to focus on you without having to use his tongue!

You can get the game for free by clicking the link. 🙂

dog-training-airplane-game
Use this game to train your dog’s focus, encouraging good behaviour.

#3 – Discorage Lollipop Lovers

If your Pug licks everything and everyone… you can try a few tricks:

  • Change your scent/taste: If your Pug loves your moisturizer or body lotion, you can change it. I use coconut oil and it’s a magnet for all the dogs I owned and cared for!
  • Discourage his licking: Instead of changing your scent, you can add to it! You may want to try putting lemon juice on your skin or a surface that won’t get damaged by it. When your dog licks your skin, he won’t like the taste and will refrain himself from doing it again.
  • Distract the behaviour: Similar to method #2, you can redirect your Pug’s focus to another task when he’s licking. Simply ask him to “sit,” use the basic commands to your advantage! When he complies, praise him immediately.

Insider Tip: Consistency is key. So, stick to it until your dog shows results and praise him immediately when he achieves your goal. Also, get everyone on board in order to support your efforts!

When it comes to licking stuff (instead of people), some dog parents have asked:

Why do pugs lick their bed? 

Your Pug could be licking his bed if he eats and chews treats in his bed. Some dogs like to take the treats to their beds.

You can wash the bed often to prevent your dog from licking it. Here is my guide to dog beds that are easy to clean (a practical feature is your pug loves to groom his bed!)

how-to-prevent-pug-licking-everything

#4 – Fight Boredom with Mental Stimulation

Never underestimate the power of mental stimulation!

I am able to exercise, eat my lunch, work, and do many more things much better (and without interruptions) when my dog is entertained or is tired after the daily walk.

Some dogs tend to lick because they are bored.

Ask yourself, is your Pug is getting enough exercise? Do you play with your pooch? Are you spending quality time together?

If your Pug is constantly licking, try and take him for a walk. Does he stop licking afterwards?

Exercising and spending time with your Pug works wonders when it comes to boredom.

Pugs love human companionship and spending too much time alone can be stressful for them.

Read also: Can Pugs Be Left Alone? 13 Tips to Make It Easier blog post.

If That’s Not Enough…

If you are still having some trouble or training your Pug is becoming a challenge…

I may be able to help with that.

Click here to visit our Dog Training Essentials, where you will get a 3-part mini audio series + the everyday resource used by a well-known dog trainer.

Best of wishes with your cute Puggy!

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