Dog on the Couch

2015-08-06 06:01

Dear Susan, my Doberman frequently licks his leg, and the slurping sound is annoying us. This has become such a regular pastime for our dog that he now has a bald, raw sore in the area he licks. How can I stop him doing this? Shouting hasn’t helped. He just resists for a few minutes and then starts up again. Help please.


I sympathise with you. It’s like living with someone who has a gum-chewing habit. Chronic licking in dogs can be caused by health issues or behavioural problems. The first thing to do is to have a veterinary check-up in the hope of ruling out causal disease, which may range from allergies and minor infections to arthritis or even tumours, among other possible physical causes. If health issues are eliminated, the condition may be found to be a self-traumatic compulsive disorder. If the area is on the flank, a genetic component of Dobermans may be the cause, which makes them prone to flank-sucking. Part of the flank’s skin is sucked, resulting in a drenched, matted coat. This persistent licking is liable to result in a wound, such as you describe, if not abated. The licking produces endorphins which make the dog feel better, and by now the problem is compounded by habit, so it is important for both these psychological and physical reasons to find a solution.

It would be helpful if you were able to remember when the behaviour first manifested, and to link it to any possible changes or occurrences in the home at that time which may have stressed the dog. Any stressors need to be identified and eliminated or sorted out in some way in order to help make progress towards a solution. Shouting at the dog will only heighten stress levels, and this in turn will increase the dog’s need of the offending coping mechanism.

Offering alternative items to chew or lick when the behaviour commences can help to redirect the licking to an acceptable object. Relieving boredom and ensuring that the dog has enough mental and physical stimulation will also help to reduce stress.

Fantastic, inexpensive new dog toys are available to help keep your dog occupied.

Your vet can also advise on calming medication including nutraceuticals like Calmeze and pheromone collars. Of course, habits are notoriously difficult to break, so you will need to persevere patiently in training to solve this problem.

I hope these suggestions lead to a solution and make your home once more a slurp-free zone.

- Susan Henderson (accredited animal behaviourist)

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