Even though you love your Chi, a tongue bath is not always the nicest feeling, especially if you know your dog just licked or ate something gross! Although it is a natural behavior for all dogs to engage in, there are different motivations behind it. The most common reasons a Chihuahua licks are:
To Show Affection
Chihuahuas are a very affectionate breed of dog, and part of how a dog shows affection is by licking their humans.
Some dogs are very “kissy”. 3 out of 4 of mine are and will give me a kiss if I ask for it. I can tell they are showing me love.
As a Self-Grooming Tool
Without thumbs and hands to hold brushes or combs, Chihuahuas are left with two options; scratching with a paw or licking with their tongue, to address whatever grooming issue they deem needing maintenance.
To Taste and Smell
Dog’s sense of smell is extraordinary compared to ours, and as such, it is a tool they heavily rely upon when discovering the world around them. If something smells interesting, tasty, or comforting, you can bet your Chi will bring out their tongue to explore further.
To Show Deference Or To Bond
A Chihuahua may “groom” their human or dog pack leader to show respect or submission, or in an attempt to bond.
If you notice your Chihuahua licking constantly, or very frequently throughout the day, and frenetically, focusing on one spot, it may be a result of anxiety.
Dogs who excessively lick or groom themselves from anxiety often have bald patches where their coat was damaged from the excessive licking, or where they intentionally chewed off their coat.
it is important to address the underlying issue causing the anxiety, such as separation anxiety or fear of certain situations.
To Quench Thirst
If your Chihuahua licks your legs after you bathed or showered, he or she may simply be thirsty and drinking the water off your skin.
Be sure that your Chihuahua has access to plenty of fresh water to drink, especially if they are licking to quench their thirst (although my dogs have plenty of fresh water and one still waits for me to get out of the shower so he can lick my legs).
To Self Soothing
A Chihuahua may lick something with a familiar taste or smell that he or she finds comforting. A Chihuahua may do this to relieve anxiety, or for their overall comfort.
To Receive Attention From You
Some Chihuahuas may lick you for attention. For example, if you say the command, “touch”, your Chi may lick your hand after he or she bumps it with their nose.
Or, if you are often engrossed in your phone and not paying attention to your Chi, but start giving attention when you tell him or her to stop licking you, he or she may continue the behavior simply because it is the only way they think they can get attention from you.
Excessive licking can also be a sign of a medical issue, such as allergies or gastrointestinal problems, so it is always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian if the behavior persists or worsens.
How To Discourage Excessive Licking
When your Chi starts bathing your feet with their tongue, your first reaction might be to pull your foot out of reach and say “no”. But, depending on the why behind the licking, that may not be enough. Here is how to discourage this behavior:
If you know your Chi usually begins the excessive licking during a certain time of day or after a certain event, be ready with a distraction before the behavior begins. Or, if your Chi begins licking too much, issue a simple training command like sit, praise that, then offer a distraction.
The best distraction for a dog who licks too much is something with an interesting scent or flavor. For example, a kong stuffed with dog-safe peanut butter; a bully stick; a food puzzle.
It is important to give this distraction only after the Chihuahua has been redirected to another behavior and rewarded for that behavior. Do not offer this distraction while they are licking, as your Chi may believe it is a reward and therefore be motivated to continue the excessive licking.
Train to control.
Consider training your Chihuahua the command “kiss” to reward one lick rather than an entire bath. By teaching this behavior on command, it may help you to control it.
Redirect and reward.
When your Chihuahua begins to lick you, issue a simple training command such as sit, lay down, place or shake, or their favorite command to perform, such as roll over.
When they obey the issued command, celebrate with lots of praise. This helps train your Chi to seek attention and affection with a desirable behavior.
The most common training aid to discourage the behavior of licking is a bitter-tasting liquid spray, such as Bitter Deterrent Spray. By making their licking the object of choice taste unappealing, it helps to stop the behavior. Keep in mind that this spray is most successful when combined with the aforementioned training techniques, not if used alone.
While licking comes naturally to dogs, they do not understand that humans do not usually view this as an ideal behavior. As such, they may persist with the behavior which may be annoying and become frustrating for their people. However, with some training and consistency, it is a behavior that can be effectively discouraged.
Be patient with your Chi and try to remain calm to overcome it as effectively and efficiently as possible.