Licking the floor to catch that food scrap that escaped your pan in the kitchen doesn't equal an obsession, even if your pup starts licking before the food hits. However, if he seems to be licking the floor all the time, not stopping to eat or come to you for a cuddle, he could have an obsession caused by illness or stress.
Your pup might be licking the floor because of a diet deficiency, nausea or something more serious, such as Cushing's disease. Thyroid problems can also cause obsessive-compulsive behaviors, including excessive licking. Take your dog to the vet to help rule out illness as the cause of the licking. The vet might prescribe a new food or medication, or he could decide your pooch is perfectly healthy—at least physically.
Is It Obsession?
Dogs can learn behaviors that appear obsessive but are actually attention-seeking. If your canine companion licks the floor and you tell him to stop or pet him to redirect his attention, he's won the game—all he wanted was your attention. Giving him that attention teaches him he should lick the floor more to shift your focus to him. Before your vet can decide whether your pup's behavior is truly an obsession, he needs to know how your dog acts when you're not home. Setting up a camera to record in the room where your dog normally licks is the best idea. If your dog licks to get your attention, he's unlikely to lick much—although he might a little out of habit—after you leave. If licking the floor is an obsession, however, he'll continue with the same behavior regardless of whether you're home.
Changing the Environment
Dogs often develop obsessions out of boredom or anxiety. Giving your pooch plenty of exercise can help combat the problem. Instead of just going for a long walk, make him run by throwing a ball for some fetch or setting up simple obstacles in your backyard for an agility course. If he stays in a crate all day when you're not home, consider giving him a larger space, such as the kitchen walled off with baby gates. Add interactive toys to keep him occupied so he doesn't have to occupy himself, such as toys that dispense treats, move or light up when played with. Your dog might also be stressed by loud noises coming from outdoors or another pet who pesters him all day. Leave the TV on or install an indoor water fountain to help drown out loud noises and keep the pets separated if necessary to make the environment more comfortable for your furry friend.
Changing Your Behavior
Even if your pup truly suffers with an obsessive disorder, there's likely a touch of learned behavior that needs to be addressed by you. It's up to you to teach him that unwelcome behavior drives you away and proper behavior leads to petting, treats and other rewards. When you see him start to lick the floor, turn your back or leave the room. Completely ignore your dog until the licking stops. As soon as he lies down calmly, praise him and give him attention. When used along with medication or behavioral therapy under a vet's supervision, changing your response to your pup's licking can help him overcome his obsession.
By Rob Harris
About the Author
While studying journalism in the Army and at the University of Missouri, Rob Harris developed a lifelong love of physical fitness and nutrition, contributing often to a dairy industry newsletter. He has also worked with and created blogs for several family businesses including a professional dog kennel and a flower shop, where he used his experience as an avid gardener to grow plants for sale.