If you have an Australian Cattle Dog that is constantly licking you, particularly your face, it can be quite endearing. It can also get quite annoying. That darting tongue going 500 licks a minute can at times be just too much.
Another licking issue that can be common with Australian Cattle Dogs is licking themselves, particularly their paws.
Why do Blue Heelers lick so much?
The reason your Blue Heeler is constantly licking your face all the time is that it is a sign of affection. It shows that they have formed a close tight bond with you and love you dearly. It also has other meanings such as being a form of communication, socializing, and even playing.
Other reasons your Blue Heeler is licking
There may be some other reasons why your Blue Heeler is constantly licking you. These may include –
Licking can be a dog showing respect and humility. They are acknowledging that they are submissive in the relationship. This shows that you have established yourself as the leader.
Licking is part of a dog’s body language. When dogs lick each other they are communicating feelings and emotions. If a dog is licking another dog’s ear it is showing sympathy. When a male dog is licking a female dog it can be courting behavior. Licking around the mouth is showing obedience and submission.
Attention Seeking Behavior
Blue Heelers are pretty smart. See here to learn just how smart a Blue Heeler is. They soon figure out that the more they lick the more attention and affection you will give them. You will see an increase in the licking behavior if they are getting want they want – your attention and affection.
Dogs gather information about things about the environment by licking. We will lick something to taste it. Humans have a lot more taste buds than dogs. Licking is not so related to taste for them. It is about the texture and smell of something. When a dog licks it lifts the odor to the roof of the mouth. This carries the odor to the nose.
The taste and smell of your skin
Dogs will often lick you if you have been sweating or are wet. In part, they are also washing and grooming you.
The Australian Cattle Codg is an active and very intelligent dog. They require daily exercise and mental stimulation to tire their bodies and mind. Failure to provide the physical and mental exercise they require can cause them to become bored and frustrated.
For a full guide to Blue Heeler exercise and suggestions see here.
They also require the opportunity to challenge their minds. Boredom is one of the major causes of dog behavior issues (more on common Blue Heeler behavior issues here) such as nuisance barking, destructive behavior, digging, and even escaping to find adventure. Mental exercise can tire a dog just as much as physical activity.
For more on Mental stimulation and enrichment for a Blue Heeler see here.
Can become a habit
Whatever the reason your Blue Heeler is licking you, it can develop into a habit over time. If they are receiving reinforcement and rewards by licking you, such as affection and attention, it becomes a learned behavior.
Why do Blue Heelers lick their paws so much?
It is not unusual for a dog to lick their paws occasionally. They are probably just grooming. However, if they are doing it constantly it may be an indication of something more serious.
If you take a look at the bottom of their paws you may see a reddish color. This is saliva staining. They may have even been chewing their paws which can cause them to bleed and even become swollen.
The reason your Miniature Pinscher may be licking and chewing their paws, or even just one paw may include –
A contact allergies
This is when there is an allergic reaction to something they have walked on. These allergies are generally just on areas of their paws or body that touch the ground. Other common areas apart from the paw that these allergies may show up include the nose and end of the muzzle or body parts that touch the ground when they are laying down.
A common cause of contact allergies is certain varieties of grass or weeds. One such common grass is known as Wandering Jew. This grass or weed is common in a lot of places and is toxic to dogs.
Any herbicides and chemicals you may have used around the home can also cause a reaction on a dog’s paws and skin. One solution to contact allergies on the paws is to put doggie boots on your Blue Heeler or use a soothing topical cream.
If you are unsure if the allergies are a contact allergy or something else consult your vet. Other causes of allergies can be a food allergy, dust mites, or yeast infection. A vet can do blood tests to narrow down the most likely cause.
Pain or physical injury
If your Blue Heeler is only licking one paw and even limping it is probably likely there is something wrong with just that paw. Check the paw pad for cuts, insect bites, or bee stings. Also, check if anything is stuck in between the paw pads. This may be a grass seed or piece of glass or similar sharp object.
Other medical reasons
There may be another underlying medical cause for allergies affecting your Blue Heeler. This can include GI abnormalities such as lymphocytic-plasmacytic infiltration, pancreatitis, hormonal imbalance, or a gastric foreign body.
If you have any concerns, consult your vet.
They may be licking at their paws simply because they are bored and frustrated. It s crucial to provide your Blue Heeler with sufficient exercise to prevent boredom. For more on Blue Heeler exercise see here.
They also require plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment to challenge their minds. For a guide to providing mental stimulation and enrichment for an Australian Cattle Dog see here.
Anxiety and stress
A dog that is anxious will often try to find relief by licking itself excessively. When a dog licks it releases endorphins to the brain giving them a calming feel. This is similar to when a human chew their nails.
This can be quite common in dogs that have anxiety caused by being left home alone. For a guide to leaving a Blue Heeler home alone see here.
Why do Blue Heelers lick the air
You may have seen your Australian Cattle Dog licking the air and thinking that it is strange. There are a number of reasons they may be doing this.
Sometimes they may not be actually licking the air at all. They may simply be licking their nose to moisten it or are trying to get something stuck on the roof of their mouth.
The main reason why they are licking the air is anxiety or stress. If your Blue Heeler seems to be doing this a lot there may be something causing them anxiety or stress. It is important to ascertain if there is something that has changed in their daily life.
It may be a change in routine, the absence of someone such as a person or other animal, or some other source of anxiety.
Other potential causes for air licking behavior can be
- removing something stuck in their mouth. You will see this if you give them peanut butter.
- to clean up drool coming from their mouth
- a compulsive behavior
- issues with their teeth
- digestive issues or upset stomach.
If you see your Blue Heeler lick the air occasionally it is not really a big deal. However, if it seems excessive it may indicate an issue worth investigating.
Firstly, check inside their mouths to see if there is anything stuck. Also, check the condition of their teeth and gums for any obvious issues.
Check with your vet to determine if there may be a medical or health issue. This could be a dental issue or a gastrointestinal disorder. Problems that cause excessive licking include bowel inflammation, delayed gastric emptying, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, or parasitic infection.
If your vet is unable to find a medical issue they may decide that it is a compulsive or anxiety and stress-related issue.
How to get your Blue Heeler to stop licking
If you are wanting to stop your Blue Heeler licking constantly you need first to ascertain the reason for the excessive licking. Are they licking to show affection or to get attention? This can be quite endearing but can at times begin to become annoying. You may want to at least reduce the behavior.
Alternatively, depending on the type of licking it may have a medical reason or may be related to anxiety and stress. If you are concerned there may be a medical reason, consult your vet. Once your vet has given the all-clear you can work on stopping the licking behavior yourself.
If it has become a nuisance behavior and you want it to stop some training to break the habit is required. It is quite possible you created the behavior by giving them affection and attention when they do it. You may have even turned it into a game.
When they begin to lick you say stop or leave in a firm manner. YourHeeler needs to understand that when you say no you are being serious. Don’t give them attention or affection. Be consistent and don’t give in. If necessary you can push them away or get up and walk away. It may be tough at first but in the end, it will be worth it.
If the licking problem is the result of boredom try to increase your Blue Heelers’ daily exercise. It is also important to provide more mental stimulation and enrichment to tire the mind. Provide them with chew toys to occupy them.
Chewing releases endorphins to the dog’s brain making them feel calm in the same way licking does. Learn more about how chewing and licking provide mental enrichment for dogs here.
Summary – Blue Heeler licking
Australian Cattle Dogs can be excessive lickers whether that be licking your face, themselves, or other objects. The first step is to determine why they are licking. Are they licking to show affection and get attention? Or is it out of boredom or simply has developed into a habit?
It is important to eliminate any medical causes. Consult your vet if you have any concerns. Once any health concerns have been eliminated you can start to work on training to stop the nuisance behavior.
If the cause of the excessive licking is boredom you can increase their daily exercise and provide more mental stimulation and enrichment.