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Boxer Dog Licking

Q: My Boxer licks constantly, I try to stop her by hiding my hands and saying 'No lick' When she stops I reward her by petting or cuddling. She only stops for a short while and starts up again. It's frustrating. ~ Rhonda


It should first be noted that licking all types of objects (you, other people, their own paws, the carpet....everything!) can point to a medical problem.

This includes:
  • Nausea (from ingested food or as a symptom of an illness) 
  • Tooth or gum pain (from teething or from infected gums/teeth 
  • Central nervous system issues (possibly a partial seizure) 
  • Canine cognitive dysfunction (seen in older, senior dogs, usually age 10+). 
  • Allergies - With chewing at the body and trying to scratch itchy skin being common signs of allergies, a dog may also lick to relieve itchiness, burning and discomfort caused by an allergic reaction; most often a contact trigger.
  • With teething or tooth pain, in particular, licking may occur almost non-stop as a Boxer puppy or dog attempts to relieve his discomfort.
However, in this case, with your Boxer only licking your hand, it sounds like this is a behavioral issue.
Many owners wonder, "Why do Boxers lick?"... Without any of the above listed possible health issues, the answer is behavioral at the core.

Skin holds tiny specks of sweat...That sweat has a salty taste. A pup or even adult may lick your hand once and realize that they receive the benefit of an interesting taste... Then, this can become a habit. They do not do it because they are hungry...they simply find that it pleases them and if they are not trained to stop, they have no reason to discontinue the action.

How To Stop This

The best way to stop this type of Boxer dog licking is to use the same training that is used when you are training your dog to stop nipping at you...or tugging on your pants.
When a puppy is a young newborn, they nip a lot at their littermates...usually done in play. This is an important phase of development, when they are first learning what is acceptable and what is not.
When they nip too hard, the other pup will let out a loud "Yelp!". This lets the puppy know that they nipped too hard. This lesson that the pup learns so young carries over to when they are older.

When your dog licks you compulsively, you will want to mimic the lessons that the dog learned at that young age. Each time your Boxer licks you, you must show that it is not acceptable.

Let out a rather loud "Ouch!". You will not want to yell, but do say it firmly and loudly to get the point across. Then pull your hand back. This will remind your dog of what they learned when they were young.

Now, you must continue on and ignore her for several minutes. This means no talking, no throwing toys to her...nothing. You are doing correct training by offering lots of attention when your dog does not lick. The aspect of: Good behavior = attention and Bad behavior = no attention works very well in training. Continue with the positive reinforcement training as well.

This will not work in 1 day. However, you always do this training when your dog licks and offering praise when your dog does not... soon your Boxer will learn that licking = unacceptable actions and that not licking you = a lot of attention and praise which raises self confidence. Wanting to please you, they will work hard to stop the behavior.
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