It seems that dogs are always licking. They lick to show their love and affection to you and others around them. Or they lick to themselves to scratch an itch or to self-soothe. They even lick inanimate objects like blankets! But why do they do this, specifically, and is it normal? Here is all you need to know.
So, why does my dog lick blankets? Dogs will lick blankets for one of two reasons: they have a medical issue, or it’s a learned behavior. Excluding medical causes, dogs may lick blankets out of anxiety boredom, or it reminds them of you.
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Licking blankets isn’t normal behavior in dogs. It actually suggests that something is up.
But of course, depending on the root cause for their licking will decide which preventative method is ideal.
So let’s explore those reasons in more detail before turning to the appropriate course of action to take.
Reasons Why Dogs May Lick Blankets
There are many reasons why dogs lick blankets. It may be because of the development of gastrointestinal issues, adrenal (kidney) conditions, or dental problems. It may be because they suffer from anxiety, sensory reasons, or there are food particles on the blanket.
Although it’s rare for this licking behavior to be because of a medical reason, it is entirely possible.
And getting your dog checked with your vet is the best way to rule out any medical causes like the ones below.
If your dog is suffering from a digestive issue, they may lick blankets to help alleviate nauseous symptoms and to help with the discomfort that usually comes with gastrointestinal problems.
When a dog licks anything, they release endorphins which acts as a natural pain killer.
So, if you suspect your dog is licking from a digestive problem, your best option is to bring them to a vet for diagnosis.
If your dog is feeling nauseous, they’ll lick at blankets to encourage themselves to vomit. Or to distract themselves from the unpleasant feeling of nausea.
Adrenal (Kidney) Diseases
Many kidney diseases cause dogs (and humans) to be extremely thirsty.
A very thirsty dog will attempt to find moisture anywhere they can.
It might seem counterintuitive, but diseases like Cushing’s disease or Addison’s disease overwhelm your dog’s need to relieve their thirst.
Kidney problems are usually accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and extreme weight loss.
And there’s a genetic prevalence for certain breeds to have adrenal issues.
These breeds include Standard Poodles, Great Danes, and Bearded Collies.
So, if your dog is one of these breeds and displaying symptoms, bring them to their vet as soon as possible.
Dogs who are experiencing dental issues might lick at the air as well as blankets.
They might be suffering from a toothache, mouth ulcer, or wound, or have something painful lodged in their mouth.
Other symptoms to look out for if it’s a dental root cause are excessive drooling, whining, difficulty heading, or reduced appetite.
If you’re able to, you can inspect their mouth yourself to check if they have any oral issues. But to be on the safe side, a visit to the vet is a better option.
The most common cause for your dog’s odd licking habit is behaviorally based.
Once you’ve ruled out any medical issues, finding why your dog is doing this is the next step.
To identify if your dog is licking blankets because of anxiety, it’s important to observe when it happens and how often.
A dog may become anxious when they’re overstimulated, if there’s a certain person they dislike around them, or if they know you’re about to leave.
As mentioned above, licking is a way for dogs to self-soothe, so it’s a natural way for them to help calm themselves if they’re overwhelmed or are around someone they dislike/are fearful of.
If you notice they start to lick when you’re getting ready to leave the house, then your dog might be suffering from separation anxiety.
This will most likely be the case if they tend to only lick blankets while you’re out of the house.
It’s important to address this anxious licking as it can develop into obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
A sign that they have OCD is their inability to stop licking even after commanding them to stop.
Sometimes OCD develops from boredom.
An under-stimulated dog will do anything to entertain itself. It may seem like an odd option, but licking blankets helps keep their mind and body engaged.
If your dog seems to be licking only blankets that you use, it could be because they like the scent you leave behind.
This will be particularly obvious if they choose your blanket while you’re out of the house.
Your smell will remind them of the safety and calm you provide them, so it’s a common blanket choice for anxious dogs.
They might lick blankets because of the taste of it. It could be a faint taste of sweat or from dead skin cells. This seems like off-putting preferences, but dogs can taste the salt in these particles.
If they lick blankets because of sensory reasons, you’ll be able to notice their lack of interest after you’ve washed the blankets.
It no longer smells or tastes good, so they’ll stop licking until you use it again.
Food Left Behind
It’s not unusual for people to wrap up in a blanket while they have food or snacks.
No matter how careful you might be, food particles will drop and lodge in the blanket fibers.
Dogs tend to prefer human food over dog food, but it also could stem from a dietary need.
If your dog has had a recent diet change or has nutritional deficiencies, they’ll stop at nothing to make up for the lack of nutrients.
Other Potential Reasons
Other reasons for this licking behavior are accidentally rewarding them, or it helps scratch an itch.
Although unintentional, you might be accidentally rewarding your dog when they lick a blanket.
You might offer toys, treats, or your attention to try to stop them from licking. But this accidentally trains your dog to keep licking so they’ll get their reward.
Depending on the material, your dog might be licking it to help scratch an itch. The added moisture will increase the traction your dog has to satisfy that itch.
How Do You Stop A Dog from Licking A Blanket?
Stopping your dog from licking a blanket isn’t a complicated process but does take some consistency and time. If it’s a medical cause or you’re unsuccessful with training attempts, it’s best to talk with a vet and a dog behaviorist.
It might seem a harmless habit, but it is a behavior that needs to be stopped because it can sometimes develop into tearing or chewing on your blankets.
Reward Good Behavior
Whenever your dog is licking at blankets, wait until they’ve finished before rewarding them.
This will prevent accidentally rewarding them for blanket licking by waiting until they’ve stopped before doing so.
Check Their Diet
If you’ve recently changed your dog’s food, check it to make sure that it’s nutritionally balanced for your dog’s age, size, and breed.
A vet will help diagnose if your dog is lacking in any nutrients or has any allergies to their new food.
If that’s the case, change their food gradually or add nutrient supplements to their food, and this should resolve their blanket licking.
It might seem like an obvious solution but can be easily overlooked.
Keep your blankets up high out of your dog’s reach, or keep them in a dog-proof box.
Understandably, that will stop your dog from blanket licking and save your blankets from being torn or chewed on.
Give Them Toys
Giving your dog-approved toys to lick will help channel their licking need.
There are plenty of toys, bones, and puzzle games you can introduce to your dog to keep their minds engaged.
Toys like puzzle feeders are an excellent choice in this case, and your dog will be challenged to get all their treats out of the feeder.
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Leave It Command
Training your dog to ‘leave it’ is an incredibly useful command that can be used to curb any undesirable behavior.
To train your dog this command, you’ll need a reward they like (treats, praise, toys) and a blanket.
Whenever your dog licks the blanket, tell them to leave it.
If they do, reward them. If they continue licking, remove the blanket. Continue these steps until they learn to stop licking.
Dogs love to be around people and other dogs. They’re curious about the world and love to play with people and dogs alike.
Without this socialization, your dog might lick a blanket from anxiety.
If you suspect this to be the reason, you can easily resolve their anxiety. But it will take some time before lasting changes happen.
Bring your dog on walks or to the dog park to encourage interaction. Or visit a friend that has a dog so you can supervise the two of them playing together.
Dogs love to lick.
It could be you, other people, open cuts and wounds, or even objects like the bed!
And most of the time, this is typical and completely normal behavior.
However, if there is a preference for blankets specifically, this usually indicates that something has gone awry. It is also something that you should proactively look to stop.
Before you can do so, it’s essential that you identify the underlying cause; is it a medical or learned behavior.
The approach will ultimately differ, but consulting a vet is your best port of call.
Just to be on the safe side.
Any medical issues can be addressed, and you’ll know for sure if it has been learned.
From there, it’s just a matter of time and consistency.
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I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.