We got a new puppy recently, and one of the first things we noticed is that she licks everything! Our faces, her toys, the floor. But one of the weirdest things she often licks is the furniture. With two messy kids at home, I know she licks the floor to score delicious treats, but why does she lick the furniture — there's no way it tastes good, right? POPSUGAR spoke with two veterinarians to get to the bottom of why dogs do this and how frustrated dog owners can get them to stop.
Why do Dogs Lick Furniture?
Mostly likely, your dog licks furniture for the same reason she licks anything — it simply feels or tastes good. A common cause? Spilled food."I have certainly caught my dogs with their noses between the sofa cushions or standing on the table cleaning up after my kids," Antje Joslin, DVM, veterinarian for Dogtopia, a dog daycare, boarding, and spa franchise told POPSUGAR. "We sometimes sit on furniture after a good sweaty work out and our smell and salty sweat residue may pique the interest of some dogs. This sort of behavior can be easily remedied by training and/or more frequent exercise."
However, that's not the only reason your dog may be licking at couch cushions or chair legs. "Sometimes licking furniture is behavioral, it can be a response to boredom or lack of exercise and is a way for dogs to occupy themselves," said Dr. Joslin. "Dogs are naturally inclined to like the texture of wood; therefore, it is not uncommon to catch dogs licking or chewing on table legs or couch ends if they are bored and have nothing to occupy themselves with. Again, this is a behavior that can easily be stopped by training, exercise, and environmental stimulation."
Another reason dogs may lick furniture is because they are experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort or may not have a well-balanced diet. "Dried kibble lacks a lot of the essential proteins and vitamins dogs need due to the cooking process, since they're cooked at very high temperatures. Thus, it loses the nutritional value as a result," said Aziza Glass, DVM, expert veterinarian for FreshPet.
Obsessive licking, however, could be a behavioral issue. "Some dogs will also lick furniture if they are bored or anxious," Ruth MacPete, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VetDerm Solutions Moisturizing Pet Shampoo, told POPSUGAR. This behavior can release endorphins, which helps your dog to self-soothe. "If your dog isn't licking furniture constantly and can be easily distracted from that behavior, it is a good sign that they may be bored and looking for mental and physical stimulation," Dr. Glass told POPSUGAR. "Meanwhile constant or obsessive licking is a sign of deeper forms of anxiety and stress in your dog."
How Can I Get My Dog to Stop Licking Furniture?
If you don't want your dog to lick furniture, start by cleaning up any food or spills right away, suggested Dr. MacPete. "You can also use taste deterrents to discourage licking, especially if your pet licks a particular spot on the furniture," she continued. "If licking is a sign of boredom, make sure your pet has plenty of chew toys to keep them engaged and occupied."
Make sure to also release any pent-up energy in your dog by engaging their mind, like with Kongs or puzzle toys that reward them with treats. Dr. Glass suggested creating a daily routine that incorporates enrichment and stimulation, as exercise and activity can go a long way in soothing anxiety and other behavioral concerns. "It'll help them to keep to themselves without non-destructive behavior and be independent when you're away from home," she said.
Is Licking Furniture Harmful for Dogs?
The act of licking furniture is not generally harmful for dogs, as long as they're not licking anything toxic, or ingesting pieces of furniture, chemicals, or cleaning products, said Dr. Joslin. "It is important to understand why your dog is licking furniture and to treat any underlying condition that is causing this behavior," she added.
Dr. Joslin suggests checking if your pet's furniture-licking behavior has been spurred on by factors such as changes at home, new family members, new pets, work crews, loud noises, or other environmental stimuli. "Continued stress and anxiety that go unchecked can lead to more serious problems," she said. "Just try to stick to your dog's normal routine and make sure they get lots of exercise and stimulation."
If you're worried about a more serious issue, such as obsessive-compulsive behavior, cognitive decline, or self-soothing behavior, it is worth a trip to your vet for an exam. "It's important to keep track of your dog's behaviors and keep a record of what are their stressors and triggers," she said. "That way you can enhance the consultation with a veterinarian and a professional trainer to best identify the best treatment."
Most of the time, it's probably no big deal that your dog is licking the furniture. But if it bothers you, or it happens all the time, check with your vet to make sure it's not a sign of an underlying issue!