There are many reasons why a dog might lick a blanket. The occasional lick probably isn’t a concern, but excessive licking can be caused by issues such as anxiety, illness, boredom, and nausea.
This article will go through common reasons for licking a blanket. We’ll also discuss tips for preventing this behaviour.
Licking Isn’t Always a Sign of a Problem
Licking is instinctive for dogs. Even puppies lick their mothers as part of the weaning process, which shows that dogs are born with this instinct.
As they grow up, dogs learn to use licking to communicate and learn about their environment. Dogs use licking for:
- Exploring their surroundings
- Investigating an interesting scent
- Showing affection to humans or other dogs
- Cleaning their fur or a wound
- Tasting food or the scents of other dogs
- Soothing anxiety
Considering how important licking is to dogs, we shouldn’t be surprised when they occasionally lick strange things – including blankets. There may be some spilt food on the blanket or a peculiar smell your dog wants to examine.
It’s only when licking becomes excessive that it can indicate a health or behavioural issue. If your dog is obsessively licking their body, the air, or an object, then you should speak with your vet.
Why Do Dogs Lick Blankets?
1. They Are Feeling Anxious
An anxious dog might lick a blanket (or another object) to try and calm down.
Scientists have found that licking releases “feel-good” hormones in a dog’s brain. So, if your dog is feeling stressed or anxious, licking a blanket may help him to feel better.
Blanket licking in response to occasional stress probably isn’t something to worry about. In fact, this type of self-soothing behaviour is expected from time to time.
However, ongoing anxious licking shouldn’t be ignored, as it can become obsessive. Chronic anxiety is also a sign that your dog is unhappy, making it essential to find the underlying trigger.
Every dog is different, so you’ll need to perform detective work to determine what’s causing anxiety. Here are some questions that can help you narrow down the trigger:
- Does your dog tend to lick the blanket in response to a specific noise?
- Has there been a new addition to the household, such as a baby or pet?
- Does blanket licking tend to happen when you have guests?
- Has your dog’s environment changed?
- Has your dog’s routine changed?
- Has your dog’s diet changed?
- Is there an object in the house that may be scaring your dog?
Once you’ve identified what’s triggering your dog’s anxiety, the next step is to reduce its intensity.
Sometimes this can be as simple as removing the offending object or providing a quiet space for your dog. In other cases, such as anxiety caused by outdoor noises, you may need a dog behaviourist to help you with a desensitisation program.
2. The Blanket Has an Attractive Taste or Smell
Perhaps the most obvious reason for a dog licking a blanket is that it tastes good.
Old food, spilt drinks, human sweat, and the scent of other pets can all be attractive to a dog’s sensitive nose – even if it might seem disgusting to us humans!
Dogs have much fewer taste buds than humans, as they rely on their sense of smell to explore the world. Despite this, licking can help them examine a scent more closely, even if they don’t taste foods as strongly.
Some dogs also lick an object that previously had an interesting smell.
So, if you spill food on a blanket and your dog manages to get a taste, don’t be surprised if he licks it in the future.
3. Health Issues
Excessive licking of blankets (or other objects) may indicate a health problem.
As we’ve mentioned, dogs use their tongue to explore their surroundings. But if your dog is constantly licking herself or random objects, you should get a vet checkup to rule out potential illnesses.
Some examples of health problems that may cause your dog to lick a blanket include:
- Pain. Licking is a self-soothing behaviour, so chronic pain could cause excessive licking. Pain can be caused by a variety of health issues, including arthritis or a muscle injury.
- Dehydration. A dry mouth may cause a dog to lick objects in an attempt to get more moisture. Dogs should always have fresh water available.
- Hunger. Similarly to dehydration, a dog may lick objects more often due to hunger.
- Acid reflux. As with humans, acid reflux is caused by fluids coming up from the stomach into the esophagus. It can cause vomiting, painful swallowing, decreased appetite, and various other symptoms. Dogs may lick an object to try and gain relief from the discomfort.
- Other gastrointestinal problems. Dogs lick surfaces such as blankets, floors, and sofas when they have stomach problems. Examples can include pancreatitis and IBS.
- Canine dementia. One of the symptoms of canine dementia is repetitive behaviours, such as licking blankets or floors. Other symptoms include disorientation, change in sleep cycles, soiling indoors, and irritability.
Aside from blanket licking, some health conditions can cause a dog to excessively lick specific body parts. For example, it’s common for dogs with allergies to lick their feet and paws. In addition, parasites and skin conditions can have a similar effect.
OCD in Dogs Can Cause Excessive Licking
Dogs can develop OCD, leading to obsessive behaviours such as licking furniture or blankets. If your dog has OCD, it will be hard to distract him from licking, and he’ll probably lick intensely. You should always contact your vet if your dog has developed obsessive behaviour.
Like humans, dogs seek out positive feelings and a distraction when bored. Unfortunately, this can manifest in many ways, including destructive behaviour, excessive barking, and pacing.
As licking releases endorphins, it’s a common way for a dog to relieve boredom. A bored dog may lick a blanket, couch, the floor, or their body, which can become a habit if allowed to continue.
For this reason, it’s essential to provide enough physical and mental stimulation. Here are some tips for making sure your pet is happy and stimulated:
- Discuss your dog’s exercise requirements with a vet. Regular exercise is essential for your pet’s wellbeing, but dogs need varying activity depending on their breed, age, and health.
- Try giving your dog his meals in a puzzle feeder rather than a bowl. This is one of the easiest ways to provide more mental stimulation during the day.
- Never leave a dog alone for long periods. If you know you’re going to be out during the day, arrange for a friend or family member to visit your pet, or hire a dog sitter.
- Play games with your dog and give him plenty of attention. Human interaction is one of the best ways to prevent boredom!
Blanket licking is often caused by nausea in dogs. Licking distracts from the unpleasant feeling and may temporarily make the dog feel better.
A nauseous dog is likely to show other symptoms of discomfort, with vomiting being the most obvious. Even if they’re not physically sick, nausea can cause symptoms such as drooling, panting, lethargy, and a loss of appetite.
There are a variety of reasons why a dog may be nauseous – and many are potentially serious. Examples include eating poisonous food, dietary allergies, a blockage in the digestive system, parasites, and various diseases.
For these reasons, it’s vital to get veterinary care straight away if your dog is nauseous or vomiting.
Note: A nauseous dog may also lick the air or carpet.
Why Do Dogs Fluff Up Blankets?
Many owners have seen their dog fluff up or dig their bedding. But why do dogs do this? And does it actually make the bed more comfortable?
Dogs may be domesticated, but they still retain some of the instincts their ancestors needed to survive in the wild.
One of these instincts is to create a secure and dry bed. This would have involved digging a hole in the ground for protection against wet or cold weather conditions, while creating a soft bedding of leaves.
In the wild, digging may also have the benefit of disturbing any small animal that might have hidden in the undergrowth.
What Can You Do About Your Dog Licking Blankets?
There’s not a single solution to a dog licking blankets, as the correct approach depends on why the behaviour is happening.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a general guide to stopping a dog licking blankets or other objects:
- Boredom is one of the most common causes of a dog licking his bedding (or other objects, such as bed licking). Ensure your pet gets plenty of mental and physical stimulation throughout the day.
- If licking has started recently, think about anything that might have caused anxiety. Examples include a new guest, a baby, moving to a new house, or a change in routine.
- If your dog is consistently licking the same blanket, then replacing it with different bedding may help to break the habit. It’s also a good idea to remove and wash any blanket with food spilt on it before your dog finds it!
- You should always get a vet checkup if the behaviour continues for more than a short time. If your dog is sick or displaying any other symptoms, then visit a vet immediately.
- If you’ve ruled out a health problem, then blanket licking may be a behavioural issue. You should talk to a qualified behaviourist who will be able to help you with a training plan.
We hope this article has helped you understand why a dog might lick a blanket. If you have any questions, please use the comments section below.