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Gen B.
Gen B., Retired Veterinary Technician
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 2227
Experience:  Lhasa,Shih Tzu Breeder/ B.A.Neurophysiology & Animal Behavior/I use plain English!
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Why do my 2 chihauhaus lick the bed sheets for hours after

Customer Question

Why do my 2 chihauhaus lick the bed sheets for hours after I change them?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.
Hello and thanks for researching your question!

Dogs can develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors that are off-shoots of "normal" types of things that dogs do.

Many breeds, for instance, like to "face-mark" new bedding and furniture to set their scent down fresh.

Licking deposits salivary proteins on the sheets that smell and taste like "Us".

When these kinds of natural behaviors become unnatural obsessions, it is time to try some distractions...fixations are just as bad for our pets as they are for ourselves.

Make sure that you do NOT directly punish or shame them for doing this behavior--any kind of attention to give it has the strong potential of making it worse.

Distractions like playing a game with toys, taking a brisk walk or giving them baths can help to break the pattern and give their minds something else to work on. Set up a daily routine that includes them in a variety of activities. Orally-fixated pets often need more chew toys around the home than average dogs...try placing some toys on the bed after it has been changed to see if they will displace their licking onto some appropriate objects.

It is best to work with some distraction activities now so that this fixated behavior does not generalize to other parts of their lives...dogs with generalized behavior problems are very hard to work with, and are often placed on strong medications that can have side effects.

If you need additional support at this time, please click "Reply".

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I have plenty of toys for them to play with. I feel that your answer lacks the reasoning for their behavior in this situation. Could the problem be a lack of something in thier diet?


Ron Morse

Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.
It is good that you are concerned for their health.

If they were licking Dirty sheets, there might be a slim chance that they were craving some kind of mineral, but since New sheets are setting off these cycles, it more certainly started out as a desire to set down scent on the sheets that have been washed clean of their body odors. But just to be sure, check their teeth and gums to make sure there are not dirty spots or loose teeth that might also leave a strong bacterial taste behind.

Licking obsessions are very common in pet dogs. Some dogs lick their People, some lick a favorite Pillow or Cushion, the Rug, the Bed, etc.. Psychological anxiety (usually brought on by boredom) can worsen an oral fixation. Two dogs with the same interest in fabric can get trapped in a feedback loop with each other.

This type of behavior starts out innocently enough...a dog lies comfortably on the bed and begins to groom its feet and toes. The tongue slips off and brushes the sheet. This is a New and Interesting sensation (depending on how sensitive the tongue is and how bored the dog might be at the time). Salivary proteins bind to the fabric and keep a dog's attention and licking going for some period of time. Once it has reached the "hours" level, we can safely assume that an Obsession and/or Compulsion has been established in the brain.

This is an article about all the reasons dogs might do this:
Read Article Here.

Let me know if you have other questions about this by clicking "Reply".

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.
I will let Site Administration know about your request.

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