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Why Does My Dog Lick My Pillow?

Like humans, our dogs are no exception when it comes to unusual behavior, and though it may seem silly, many of our furry canine friends have a fixation with our pillows. And while we love to keep our dogs happy, nobody is excited to come home to a wet pillow. 

Common Reasons Why Your Dog Licks Your Pillow

So why is your dog so preoccupied with licking your pillow? We’ll go over some of the top reasons your canine companion is so eager to slobber on that squishy pillow, plus a few tips on how to nip this behavior in the bud. 

a black Pugador dog
Pugador! CC-by-SA Flickr

It Tastes Good

Salt from your skin can easily become appetizing and appealing to your dog when it gets soaked into your pillow. And as for that strawberry-scented overnight facial mask? You can bet that if it smells good to you, it smells pretty delicious to them as well. 

For this reason, it’s important to wash pillow covers regularly to deter your pillow from sending out signals to your dog that it’s a tasty snack. But be careful in that regard as well! Sometimes, the scented laundry products we use can be appealing to them, too.

Changes in Diet

A recent change in your dog’s diet may play a contributing role as to why they have a sudden fascination with your pillow, especially if their new diet contains a reduction in their daily sodium intake. 

But beyond a nutritional deficiency, this behavior may just be the reaction of feeling thrown off-balance by the diet change. Lack of fulfillment or enjoyment may also play a role. Still, it’s best to seek a professional opinion if the diet change and behavior change have recently occurred.

poodle sits on a outdoor lounge
A Tan Poodle sitting on an outdoor lounge. Beautiful!

Underlying Medical Issue

Believe it or not, pets can suffer from OCD just like humans can, which can be a leading cause of this behavior. 

Their repeated patterns can become destructive and harmful over time, often requiring medical intervention. But OCD isn’t the only underlying medical issue that can cause your dog to gravitate to your pillow. 

Ear infections, dental disease, and intestinal parasites are just a few out of the many underlying medical issues that may be paving the way for your dog to act this way. It’s important to note that if you do notice a sudden change in their behavior, it’s best to visit a vet right away to help sniff out the root cause. Procedures that may be required for further analysis can include blood screenings, a urinary tract analysis, or fecal analysis.

Separation Anxiety

Much like other medical issues, separation anxiety is another common issue many pets suffer from. Because your pillow is so closely tied to you and your scent, this behavior may stem from the fact that licking the pillow makes them feel closer to you when you’re not around. 

Oftentimes, it’s a self-soothing mechanism and even a cry for help. And while the origins of why licking is a self-soothing mechanism of coping for your dog, a quick trip to the vet may shed some light on helpful suggestions to ease your pet’s stress and your peace of mind. 

apricot mini labradoodle on pool deck
An Apricot Mini Labradoodle (my puppy Max!) sits on the pool deck with his tongue out

Behavioral Reinforcement

Sometimes, whether we realize it or not, our responses to our pet’s behavior can contribute to the behavior being repeated time and time again. Even the simple act of petting them to get them to stop may actually have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to accomplish. 

Unconsciously rewarding their behavior can have a lasting impact, and can do more harm than good when it comes to addressing this problem as a whole. 

But, when in doubt, always check with a veterinary professional regarding any sudden or unusual behaviors your pet exhibits. 

So What Can You Do To Stop It?

While there are plenty of ways to get your dog to stop licking your pillow, understanding the reason why they are doing it in the first place is important to figuring out the best way to change the behavior. Below are some of our best tips to steer your dog in a different direction:

golden retriever tongue out
An American Goldendoodle (not English Goldendoodle) hanging out with its tongue out

Remove The Temptation

First, you may try removing the pillows and storing them somewhere else while you’re away. And while this may fix the issue in some instances, it’s worth keeping in mind that this action may shift the licking behavior to something else, or cause them to act out aggressively. 

Schedule a Visit With Your Vet

A quick trip to seek medical counsel is one of the most sure-fire ways to make sure they’re getting the care they need to live a happy, active life. Your vet is your best resource–and your best advocate–for understanding the physical and mental needs of your pet, and will have the best information in order to forge a path forward for both you and your dog. 

Distract Your Dog With Something Else

If their pillow-loving obsession is nothing more than a sheer case of boredom, giving them something fun and exciting to play with might be a huge help. 

Oftentimes, keeping them busy with items like puzzle toys can keep them entertained for hours, diverting their attention away from your pillow. Just remember: shifting the focus away is key! 

The busier you can keep their mind and the more you can keep them stimulated and engaged, the less likely it will be that they’ll be returning to your pillow, and the happier they will be.

beagle licking lips on orange background d
A Beagle licking its face after eating. A natural alternative to a dog wipe!

Alter Their Diet

Adjusting their diet can go on a long way to solving the deficiency or lack of fulfillment problem, but remember to do so under the care of a trained specialist. Your vet may recommend changing their food, or incorporating vitamins or other supplements into their diet to help combat the issue. 

Do Some Training

Manual training can be a crucial step in overcoming this seemingly whacky behavior. By showing your dog positive reinforcement and only rewarding them once they’ve successfully stopped the behavior under your command, you’re not only taking important steps forward, but you’re protecting the longevity of those pillowcases, too!