For dogs, licking is a habitual way of relating to the environment, with other congeners, other animals, and also with us. For this reason, in this article we will focus on explaining why a dog licks the ground , a common behavior that many guardians do not fully understand.
This behavior can occur sporadically or become repetitive or stereotyped behavior. Thus, a dog licking the floor is normal, but if this licking becomes an obsession, it may indicate a problem that we will have to consult a specialist. If your dog licks the floor, he keeps reading!
What does it mean when a dog licks the ground?
The simplest explanation for why a dog licks the ground would be to understand it as an activity included in the usual exploration of its environment . As is well known, dogs sniff constantly. They smell us, our belongings and, when we accompany them on walks, it is easy for us to stop multiple times while they sniff, with great attention, weeds, corners, tires or other dogs. Sniffing is part of the normal behavior of a healthy dog, in fact, in those picked up after situations of abuse, it is easy to verify that this behavior is inhibited by fear.
Within the olfactory exploration of the environment, when the dog is faced with a smell that is especially interesting, we can see that it licks the area , which is usually the ground. It is also possible that he remains motionless while he smells it and begins to make movements with his tongue, audible as clicks, while drops of saliva fall on him, or, on the other hand, we see that the dog desperately licks the ground, but without being a obsessive behavior.
In summary, if you wonder what it means when a dog licks the ground, the simplest answer is that it is exploring, it has detected an interesting and intense smell and the licking allows it to know more about the finding.
Dogs lick the ground when they detect something
Another circumstance that explains why your dog licks the floor is that there is some food left on it that is interesting to him. In this sense, we must prevent it from licking the street floor, as it could ingest some spoiled or even poisonous food that could cause an adverse reaction. In addition, we cannot allow puppies that have not completed their vaccination schedule to lick or smell the ground where dogs whose immune status is unknown have passed, since serious diseases can be transmitted in this way. This is why it is recommended to avoid walks until the puppy is conveniently vaccinated.
At home we must be careful with aggressive cleaning products if our dog is one of those who licks the floor. Of course, cleaners, bleach or detergents should be stored out of reach.
My dog licks the floor nonstop, what’s wrong with him?
Now that you know why a dog normally licks the floor, let’s see when this behavior is a problem. Thus, only in cases where licking the floor has become an obsession , that is, when the dog does it insistently , without stopping, will it be cause for consultation with a specialist, because behind this behavior there may be hide a health problem.
Licking the floor insistently can also be a stereotyped behavior , which is one that is repeated outside the appropriate context to perform it, so it loses its function. Thus, it is normal for the dog to lick the floor, but it is not normal for it to do so continuously, without being able to stop . Stereotypy can indicate boredom, frustration, or stress. In these cases, in addition to improving the dog’s environment and activities, we can consult a veterinarian specialized in canine behavior or an ethologist. For more information, see the article ” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Dogs “, in which we deal with both obsession and stereotypy, since they are disorders that do not have to be the same.
Other times the dog licks the floor in a timely manner but driven by some discomfort, for example, nausea, which usually indicates disorders in the digestive system . In these situations it is easy to see that the dog also licks its own lips or swallows repeatedly, and even licks the ground and vomits.
Pica syndrome, disorder that makes the dog lick the floor
If none of the above causes fit, the explanation for why a dog licks the floor may lie in the pica syndrome , which would be considered stereotyped behavior . In addition to licking, the dog would ingest substances or objectsnot corresponding to their usual diet, such as droppings or stones. The causes of this are not clear and various hypotheses are used, such as malabsorption, diabetes or intestinal parasites, or psychological problems such as stress, boredom, confinement, etc. In any case, they are not recommended behaviors because the dog can contract diseases and parasites, which also happens in those dogs used to eating grass, a habit for which there are several hypotheses about its origin such as its purgative effect or the inclusion of plant material in the diet.
What to do when your dog licks the floor?
If he is a healthy dog and does it as part of his natural behavior and exploration routine, as long as his health is not in danger, you can leave him. Now, when the dog licks the ground as a result of stress, anxiety or a health problem that needs to be treated, it is advisable to go to a canine educator, ethologist or veterinarian to establish an appropriate work plan.
Mental disorders can produce serious consequences in animals, so it is important to treat them with specialists, investigate the causes and avoid them.