There are lots of reasons why dogs lick themselves, objects, surfaces, other dogs and even you. Understanding why your dog does certain things helps strengthen your bond and communication with him. A dog licking his bed may be normal behavior, or could indicate a psychological or medical problem that needs attention.
When a dog gives birth, she licks her pups to clean off blood and other debris, at the same time stimulating them to breathe. Newborn pups do not have the ability to eliminate on their own, and so the mother licks them to stimulate urination and defecation. She will keep them clean by licking away all traces of waste from their bodies and the surrounding areas. If your dog has just given birth and you observe her licking the bed, this means that she is merely trying to keep her pups’ area clean. In the wild, keeping the den clean and odor-free was important for survival, as it kept wolves from being detected by predators.
Sometimes, licking may simply mean that they are looking for food. If you drop treats in your dog’s bed to get him to lie there, he may simply be licking off crumbs, or hoping to find some.
Nausea can also cause dogs to lick surfaces. Some medication may cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach. If you are giving your dog vitamin supplements, bones, raw meat, table scraps or anything other than his usual diet, the scraps may be causing him to feel nauseated and result in the licking behavior.
Dogs may sometimes lick their noses as a sign of submission to a more dominant animal, or to calm strangers to indicate that they mean no harm and are not aggressive.
Licking may also be a sign that the dog is bored, under stress or feeling anxious. Those that are in a stressful environment may engage in compulsive grooming behavior and may lick themselves raw. Sometimes, they may resort to licking other surfaces, such as their bed.
Your dog’s behavior may also be an attention-seeking behavior. If licking the bed gets a response from you, then he may be doing it as a way of telling you that he needs some attention.
Consult a vet if you feel that your dog is licking excessively. It may indicate a medical problem like a liver or gastric disease, an adrenal or a neurological disorder. It may also indicate a psychological problem like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or anxiety.
If caused by a medical problem, treatment depends on the underlying cause. If no medical problem is found, then your vet could conclude that it is a psychological or behavioral issue, which can be addressed with Behavior Modification strategies and managing the environment so that you are able to eliminate or control the source of the problem. Your vet may also prescribe medication that could help control the unwanted behavior.
To keep your dog from licking his bed, avoid feeding him there and make sure that it is always clean. Give him a sufficient, complete and balanced diet. Don’t give any supplements or medication without first consulting your vet about possible side effects. Keep your dog from getting bored, anxious or frustrated by giving him lots of exercise and challenging activities.