Why Do Poodles Lick So Much? Are Their Licks Really Kisses?


Licking is a common behavior of poodles. As a poodle owner, you may find yourself wondering why they lick so much and the reason behind it. 

Poodles may lick their owners as a sign of affection and respect, as an attempt to gain attention and praise, out of playfulness, or to acquire the taste of salt from the skin. A poodle licking himself, however, may indicate irritation due to the poodle’s sensitive skin or an even more serious medical condition.

There are several factors that contribute to a poodle’s licking behavior. Understanding the different purposes of your pup’s licks can help you figure out exactly what your poodle needs. 

Are Poodle Licks Really Kisses? Why do They Lick so Much?

Licking people or other dogs is an instinctual pack trait that your poodle learns at birth. While they may not be kisses in the human sense of the word, licks from your Poodle do have affectionate roots. The reason why your poodle licks you so much can be attributed to a few reasons:

  • Licking is learned affectionate behavior. Puppies learn immediately to show affection to their pack through licking. Mothers lick their pups to ensure their breathing and blood flow after birth. This licking behavior is repeated by the puppies, creating the pack bond. 
  • They like our scent and the taste of our skin. Human skin produces a salty flavor, which is pleasurable to dogs. Our glands also emit a unique scent, and since dogs have such a strong sense of smell, they are drawn to our skin for our familiar scent. 
  • They are looking for rewards and attention. Owners often interpret being licked as affection and return that love to their pup. This teaches the dog that licking is rewarded. Therefore, they may lick you as a means of gaining your attention and praise. 
  • They want to play. Like the desire to be rewarded, your Poodle may be licking you to alert you that it wants to play. This is another way for your Poodle to use licking to garner your attention. 

Managing Your Poodle’s “Kisses”

Despite it being largely being a sign of affection, not everyone enjoys being licked. Luckily, Poodles are regarded as being easy to train, meaning you can curb this habit if you so choose. Licking is no different than any other behavior in terms of trainability, and with the proper steps, you can train your licker to keep that tongue to themselves. 

A great behavioral training course can really help when training your dog. not to lick. I found a fantastic training system called Brain Training for Dogs. I really liked the private member’s area where I was able to connect with other dog owners to get solutions to issues I had with his training. If you need any behavioral training at all for your dog, I would highly recommend this course! Check it out here

Here two easy to follow videos with tips to train your pup to stop licking:

Why Poodles Lick Their Skin and Paws

There are many reasons why your dog could be licking their paws or skin. Excessive licking can cause hair loss and sores if left unaddressed. Identifying the cause is crucial to determining how best to help stop your Poodle from licking themselves. 

Sensitive Skin

Poodles are known for having more sensitive skin than other breeds. This means there are many opportunities for a Poodle’s skin to become irritated. Some of the reasons for irritation are as follows:

  • Bug bites. Your poodle may encounter insects who will bite them and cause red bumps to appear. You can make a paste from baking soda and water to treat these bumps or consult your vet about over-the-counter ointments. 
  • Chemicals and surface irritants. Your poodle may develop irritations from chemicals used on grass or fabrics. Pay close attention when you visit a new place with your poodle or introduce new beds or toys. Doggie shoes are a helpful option to combat this.
  • Allergies. Like humans, Poodles can be allergic to a vast array of stimulants. Some of these include pollen, certain food ingredients, or cleaning supplies.  

Unlike your poodle’s habit of licking people, licking themselves can often indicate some sort of problem with your poodle. Therefore, training them not to lick themselves may not be the way to manage it. Instead, when your poodle licks themselves, treat it as a form of communication about an issue they may have.

Before deciding on a treatment for any of the above issues, owners should consult with a veterinarian who specializes in treating Poodles. A Poodle specialist will help you to better determine the cause of the licking and the best treatment. 

Sebaceous Adenitis

Another reason to find a vet that specializes in treating Poodles is that they are prone to a medical condition known as Sebaceous Adenitis, which can be misdiagnosed as allergies. 

Sebaceous Adenitis, also known as SA, is a hereditary skin disease that causes inflammation of the sebaceous glands. This leads to dry and itchy skin, as well as progressive hair loss. 

According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals:

The disease can develop in a wide age range, with (the) age of onset documented as early as 1 year and as late as 12 years. Males and females appear to be affected equally.”

Symptoms (besides licking) of Sebaceous Adenitis include:

  • Patches of hair loss
  • Brittle texture of fur
  • Scaling skin, often white in color
  • Tufts of matted fur
  • Lesions or skin infections
  • Itching

While the disease has no cure, it can be treated by frequent bathing and application of oils or ointments to help remove scaling or dead hair. A specialist will be able to best prescribe a topical treatment regimen.

Boredom

If you have taken all the preventative measures to ensure your poodle’s sensitive skin is protected, excessive licking could be attributed to boredom. In this sense, the behavior is similar to when a Poodle licks you to tell you they want to play. Here are some tips and tricks to alleviate this:

  • Re-evaluate your poodle’s daily schedule. They may need extra playtime or walks throughout the day.
  • Consider getting your poodle some puzzle games. Puzzle games are fun toys that provide mental stimulation and rewards for your pup. Check out this article I wrote on the best toys for poodles. In it, you’ll find some of the best toys on the market to cure boredom in your pup.
  • Incorporate training routines into your dog’s schedule. Aside from daily playtime and walks, including daily training time, will mentally stimulate your pup, as well as reinforce good habits.

Why Poodles Lick the Air

As with licking people or licking themselves, if your poodle is licking the air, it could be for a variety of reasons. This behavior stands out as strange and can be concerning for an owner who does not know the potential causes. 

One reason for air licking is that something may be stuck in your poodle’s mouth, either lodged to the roof or stuck in their teeth. Check their mouth for any stuck food or objects to prevent possible choking hazards.

However, air licking can be indicative of more serious issues:

Gastrointestinal Disorders

According to PetMD, excessive licking of the air or surfaces has been linked to gastrointestinal disorders. This is because nausea and acid reflux can cause dogs to gag, lick their lips, or lick the air. Other symptoms include:

  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Weight loss or poor appetite 
  • Abdomen pain

If you believe your poodle may be suffering from gastrointestinal problems, seek out veterinary consultation immediately. You may need to change your poodle’s diet or have them begin a prescription medication. 

Anxiety and Compulsion

Stress and anxiety are just as much a reality for dogs as they are for humans. When a Poodle is stressed, they may exhibit behaviors such as excessive licking of their paws, skin, or the air. This behavior can become obsessive and turn into a compulsion when they are stressed. It can even become aggressive behavior if left untreated. 

Poodles often manifest this behavior due to activity-related problems. Poodles are active dogs and need lots of mental stimulation, so anxiety is most likely caused by inactivity and restlessness. Remedy for this can be provided through a more rigorous daily routine.

I recently wrote this article on how to stop separation anxiety in poodles. In it, you’ll learn how to identify this anxious behavior and fifteen ways to help fix it.

Training is one of the best options to manage anxiety in your poodle. Below are two videos addressing the topic of anxiety from professional trainers:

Neurological Disease

Excessive licking of the air can be indicative of neurological problems, specifically, seizures. If you believe your poodle’s air licking may be due to seizures, keep an eye out for these additional symptoms:

  • Collapsing of stiffening of the body
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Uncontrolled jerking or twitching

 If your poodle is displaying symptoms of seizures alongside excessive air licking, seek out veterinary help immediately. Visit this webpage from WebMD to learn more about proper protocol if you believe your dog is suffering from a seizure.

Final Thoughts

As we have learned, Poodles lick for many reasons. Be it affection, communication, irritation, or a symptom of a larger medical issue, owners should always pay attention to their pup’s licking habits.

 In many cases, it’s just plain old affection and nothing to worry about. If you believe your poodle’s licking is excessive, but cannot identify the issue, the best plan of action is to seek out a specialized veterinarian. 

Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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