Licking a lot isn’t just limited to Yorkies but it is fairly common among toy dog breeds. Sometimes Yorkies lick themselves or their owners, other times they may just give the sofa a lick or even the wall (yes, I have witnessed this first hand and no, my house is not just in need of a good wipe down).
Although it may be somewhat frustrating, most of the time your dog’s propensity for licking is perfectly natural. However, excessive licking can be a warning signal that your dog is unhappy, unsettled or even unwell. Whether your dog has a health issue or purely a behavioral one this article should help you gain a better understanding of what’s happening and what to do next.
10 Reasons Your Yorkie Licks Everything:
1. Your Yorkie Is Bored, Nervous, Anxious or Stressed
Some people have nervous habits that kick-in when they’re bored or during stressful times. These are often things such as biting fingernails or twirling hair. For many dogs, the equivalent is that they lick themselves, or anything nearby including the air itself.
There are many things that could trigger this behavior. A few of which could be:
- Did you just pick up your keys or put on your shoes, and your dog knows you’re leaving?
- Is your suitcase out when it is normally put in a storage area?
- Did you just bring the vacuum cleaner out of the closet?
- Does your dog get nervous going to the vet or groomer and suspects that’s why he’s in the car?
Take some time to offer your furry friend some comfort – make sure they know that everything is fine. Offer them something special to redirect their focus. In time, they will associate these things with something pleasant rather than something nerve-wracking.
2. Your Yorkie Is Feeling Nauseous or Sick
If your pup is feeling nauseated, they will likely begin licking their nose and around their mouth excessively. This is because their salivary glands are working overtime, and they’re trying to stop themselves from being sick.
Make sure your dog has access to plenty of water. Provide them some comfort and put them in an area that won’t be too badly affected if they move from nausea to actual vomiting.
You may need to think about changing their food or speaking to your vet if this becomes frequent.
3. Your Yorkie Is Licking Due to Allergies
If your furry friend is incessantly licking its paws, haunches, belly, or back, it could be that they have an allergy.
Veterinarians will tell you that dogs can develop nearly any malady a human can – allergies included. Your Yorkie may have food or environmental allergies. Excessive paw licking is typically a good indicator of a food allergy, but your dog may also be allergic to grasses or certain fertilizers that its paws have come into contact with.
Take note of when this behavior is normally observed. If it happens regularly after walks this may point towards it being a grass, weed or fertilizer issue. You can wash your dog’s paws after walks to reduce the irritation.
You should discuss this problem with your vet. Be ready to let them know what food and treats your dog is regularly eating, as well as, the types of vegetation to which it normally comes into contact with.
4. Your Yorkie Is Licking Due to Dental Issues
Your dog can develop dental issues, much as you can. In fact, Yorkies are fairly prone to dental issues due to the small size of their jaws.
Excessive tartar buildup can lead to continual licking. This is their way of trying to soothe their gums and clean residue from their teeth.
Teeth cleaning should really be done regularly as soon as your pup is on solid foods. It helps them to become accustomed from an early age as it can be hard going to train an older dog. Cleaning should be done at least once per month.
If you have an older dog who is reluctant to have their teeth cleaned I would highly recommend trying Hill’s Science Diet Adult Oral Care Dog Food (Amazon). This food was recommended to us by our vet and it works wonders.
Our Yorkie is of the older persuasion now as she is fast approaching 16 years old! Needless to say, her teeth have seen better days. She absolutely hates having her teeth cleaned but this stuff helped improve her dental hygiene tremendously, including her bad breath! It is a little pricey but absolutely worth it in my eyes.
There are also “brushing chews” that you can purchase for your dog that they will consider as a treat. However, I personally haven’t found these to be as effective.
Some veterinarians suggest that your dog should have their teeth professionally cleaned once a year after they’ve reached the age of two. However, this is something we have never done with our dogs and can usually be avoided if you are diligent in keeping your dog’s teeth cleaned.
5. Your Yorkie Is Licking For Affection
If your dog is licking you and other members of your household a lot, they may be doing so for affection. Unfortunately, we do not speak the same language as our dogs and so they often use other methods of communication. Licking is just one of these methods.
If you hadn’t already noticed, dogs are actually very affectionate creatures. Recent studies have shown that oxytocin (otherwise known as the cuddle or love hormone) levels in dogs are affected by interaction with their owners.
Sometimes life just gets busy, and your furry companion wants some special bonding time. It could also be, that you’ve had a rough day, and your dog senses your upset. They may just be trying to comfort you.
Either way, licking you is one way your dog knows to show affection or just to get your attention.
6. Your Yorkie Is Licking the Salt From Your Skin
Another reason your Yorkie may be licking the human members of your family is purely down to the way you taste!
Dogs have 5 types of taste receptors. One of which is for salt, another is for acid. Both of which are present in human sweat and the acid mantle layer that is naturally present on people’s skin.
Whether the taste is just on your skin or transferred from your skin onto your furniture or clothing, when your Yorkie gets a taste for these natural secretions, it’s almost like licking candy to them.
7. Your Yorkie Is Licking Because They Are Curious
While we’ve all heard that curiosity killed the cat, maybe it got your dog to lick stuff too? It is not uncommon for your dog to sniff people or items that it interprets as new arrivals to its environment. Sometimes dogs take it a step further and give them a lick too.
Much like babies putting everything in their mouths; your dog is trying to figure out where these newcomers fit into their world. It’s not always easy to get a feel for things when you don’t have hands!
8. Your Yorkie Has Fleas
This is usually quite an easy one to spot although it isn’t always obvious, to begin with. Nonetheless, your four-legged friend may have contracted fleas.
Dogs with fleas will often lick themselves obsessively. The licking will also usually be accompanied by scratching and chewing and a general look of discomfort.
If you suspect your dog has fleas it’s best to inspect their stomach area and under their “armpits” (or leg pits or whatever dogs have). These areas are often favored by fleas and you should be able to notice them more easily in these regions.
For some information on effective flea treatments (whether you have kids or not), please consider reading my article on Child-Friendly Flea Treatments. It covers a number of different types of flea remedies and some useful information for dealing with fleas in your home.
9. Your Yorkie Has Just Developed a Bad Habit
Sometimes we may actually be responsible for our dogs developing bad habits… I mean, sweet puppy kisses – who could possibly resist them? They seemed so cute and harmless when you first brought your puppy home and were most likely welcomed with signals that reinforced the behavior in your dog.
However, what you once considered sweet, cute, and loving has, over time, become annoying, frustrating, and gross. Two years later, the habit is starting to get on your nerves, and you’re wondering if there’s something wrong with your dog.
Breaking your dog free of this habit takes time and patience on your part. The habit didn’t develop overnight; it won’t go away overnight either. Consistency is your best friend when you are training your dog to change its behavior.
10. Your Yorkie May Have a More Serious Health Issue
If you’ve ruled out most of the other issues already covered, there are a few less common health issues that may be causing this behavior which you will most likely have to visit your vet to discuss.
Here are a few more of the potential health issues that may cause your Yorkie to lick themselves excessively:
- Pain – Usually indicated by obsessive licking of a particular area. Your dog may also appear to be somewhat distressed also.
- Hormonal imbalances – Can cause overproduction of cortisol that can lead to Cushing disease. Lack of thyroid hormones can cause red patches and balding.
- Gastrointestinal issues – Ailments such as chronic pancreatitis or even gastric foreign bodies are often accompanied by excessive licking particularly of the paws.
- Dermatitis – Your dog may have inflamed asking for various reasons such as mites, auto-immune diseases, allergies, etc.
- Oral growths or lesions – growths or lesions in the mouth or throat can lead to excessive salivation causing your Yorkie to lick the air and swallow regularly.
There are many ailments that can cause a Yorkie to begin licking itself excessively. It’s best to stay mindful and watch out for these signs in order to take the correct action when needed. As always, if in doubt get to the vets as soon as possible.
Prevent Your Dog From Licking Themselves Red Raw
Sometimes a dog licks themselves so much that they actually begin to lose hair and their skin becomes inflamed. If your dog has got to this stage then it’s probably a good idea to use a buster collar. This will prevent any unnecessary infections from occurring until you can resolve the route cause of the licking.
Buster collars are otherwise known as pet cones, e-collars, Elizabethan collars or even “the cone of shame”. They have earned this nickname as dogs typically look very sorry for themselves when wearing one.
Often a big part of dogs not liking these collars is due to the fact they reduce the dog’s field of vision. The other problem with the traditional pet cone is that your pet can struggle to get to their food or water when wearing one. The cone needs to be removed periodically to allow your dog to get a drink or at feeding times.
I recently found a great alternative recovery collar on Amazon that looks a bit like a travel cushion. It’s basically an inflatable ring that fits around your dog’s neck. It prevents them from licking themselves but doesn’t hinder their ability to eat and drink and it doesn’t restrict their field of vision as much.
The main issues with these inflatable collars are that they may pop if chewed by a more zealous dog and some users have said that they can sometimes deflate slowly over time.
It’s probably not the safest option for an unattended dog who has just undergone major surgery. However, for the purposes of a dog who is just licking themselves too much, it’s perfect.
Help Your Yorkie to Change Their Behavior
Our family Yorkie is affectionately known as “The Brain Licker”. This is because she has a unique skill set that allows her to get her little tongue so deep inside your ear it feels as though she has just licked the inside of your cranium. This all happens so quickly that you have very little idea of how or what just happened!
Luckily, now that she is older she has ceased with this behavior (on the whole). Nonetheless, if you don’t want to have to wait for your dog to grow out of a habit, you will have to take matters into your own hands.
If your Yorkie does not have a more serious underlying issue, your best plan of action will be to change their behavior through training and other techniques.
Teaching your dog any new behavior will take time and consistency. Just as it’s tough for us to give up habits that are undesirable to those around us, your Yorkie isn’t going to find this easy at first. Be patient.
Stopping Undesirable Behavior in Yorkies
If you’re working on getting your dog to stop doing something that you don’t like (such as licking) here are some pointers:
1. Use a firm command: NO or STOP
This is not yelling, but it is a strong singular word. Make eye contact with your dog when you use the command and do not break the stare – remain the pack alpha. Your dog needs to be the one to break eye contact as it is a sign of submission.
2. Get up and walk away
If your Yorkie starts licking you and ignores your firm command, follow it up by standing up and going to a different area. You will have to do this repeatedly for your dog to associate the action with the negative outcome. You want to develop a pattern. Over time your dog will understand that licking is not something that pleases you and they should adjust their behavior.
3. Spray Bitter Apple on problem areas
Bitter Apple (Amazon) is a non-toxic spray that tastes awful to dogs and humans alike. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option if your dog is licking themselves a lot. It’s mainly useful for if your dog is licking (or chewing) household items or furniture. I’ve read that you can actually use this solution on human skin and clothing too.
Just make sure you wash your hands before moving them anywhere near your face – especially your eyes. Make sure to read the warning instructions. Be warned that this stuff can be very effective and may give your dog negative associations with any areas you use it on, including yourself.
Encouraging Good Behaviors
On the flipside of eliminating annoying behaviors is the desire to encourage new ones. Positive reinforcement is always superior to punishment! Admittedly when trying to stop your dog from doing something such as licking, positive reinforcement is quite hard to deploy.
Nonetheless, if they are displaying behavior that you want to encourage, it’s important to reinforce that behavior with the following steps.
1. Use a positive, encouraging tone of voice.
Praise is one of the strongest tools you have. Your canine friend wants to please you. As soon as they figure out that they’re doing something you like, they will continue that behavior. Your friendly, loving tone and petting will convey that message in a clear way that your dog understands.
2. Use small treats as encouragement.
Your dog loves to be rewarded. Giving your dog treats is a fun and effective way to reward them, but you need to be careful not to give them too many.
Similar to human desserts, dog treats are often higher in calorie count and do not contain all of the nutrients your dog requires. Depending on the dog’s breed, size, and age, too many treats can end up causing health problems.
Tip: Break the dog training treats into small pieces, so they last longer.
3. Conduct training with consistency.
You may have noticed a theme here with any training techniques. Consistency is key.
Are you working on teaching your dog to fetch? Use the same item every time. Don’t confuse your dog’s learning experience with different balls, slippers, toys, etc. While your dog is learning a new skill, spend time training in the same room – or area and use the same object.
There may be several reasons your Yorkie is licking you, your furniture, or itself. Be sure to rule out any potential health issues first and consult a vet if you have to.
If it turns out to be purely a behavioral issue I wish you the best of luck in conquering it using some of the techniques outlined in this article. It’s not easy but try to keep at it and keep consistent and you will get there in the end.