Why do dogs lick themselves?

Updated 16 April 2024
Read time: 4 mins

Why do Dogs Lick Themselves?


  • Reasons why dogs lick themselves include grooming, boredom, injury, chronic pain or skin issues.
  • While some licking is a harmless habit, excessive licking can be indicative of a skin or coat issue that needs addressing.
  • To help maintain a healthy skin and coat, it is a good idea to offer your dog a supplement such as Pooch & Mutt's Bionic Biotic or a high quality dry food such as Pooch & Mutt's Health & Digestion.

We’ve all been there. It’s late at night and you’re trying to sleep when suddenly you hear an incessant ‘Lick, lick, slurp!’. Your dog is merrily licking its paws or belly and the noise is akin to torture. You tell them to stop and they settle for a few minutes, only to pick right back up where they left off. Why do they do this?!

Well, there are actually more reasons than you might realise why a dog may lick themselves. These include:

  • Grooming. A quick lick of the fur every now and then is perfectly normal and is how dogs keep themselves clean. However, dogs shouldn’t do this excessively and we should pay attention if they are always licking the same spot as this likely indicates an issue.
  • Boredom. For some, grooming themselves and licking can help to fill a void and they may lick their skin and fur to keep themselves occupied. This is more common in those with behavioural disorders such as separation anxiety. For some, it can become a bad habit and they may even cause fur loss and irritated skin. To reduce this behaviour, ensure they are getting lots of mental and physical stimulation and try to keep their lives as stress free as you can. Simple games like hiding some treats around the living room can usually keep a dog busy for a solid 15 minutes.
  • Due to an injury. When dogs get grazes and cuts, their natural instinct is to lick the area. While this can be helpful in removing debris and dirt, it is actually counter-productive. The licking prevents healing and introduces bad bacteria from the mouth. Stop this type of licking by using a buster collar and/or pet t-shirt as appropriate.
  • Chronic Pain. Licking can be soothing for dogs and many will lick at areas that are bothering them. This is often the case in arthritic dogs, who can lick their sore joints repeatedly. Joint disease requires veterinary attention and is best treated with a ‘multi-modal’ approach. This will likely mean a combination of anti-inflammatories, pain relief and nutritional interventions such as a supplement and diet change. Our Mobile Bones supplement and Joint Care diet are ideal for those with ongoing joint issues.


On top of this, dogs may lick when there is an issue with the skin itself:

  • Pruritus. Pruritus is the technical term for being itchy. While dogs will rub and scratch when they feel an itch, they will also lick. This is especially true when it comes to inflamed and irritated paws. Itchy skin has a wide range of causes including Atopic Dermatitis, Endocrine Disorders, Parasitic Infestations and Infections. It is best to have an itchy dog examined by their vet so the most appropriate treatment can be prescribed.
  • Dry and flaky skin. Dry skin equals itchy skin, and as we know, dogs will lick to try and calm the itch. Dry skin can occur when dogs are bathed too often, when an improper diet is fed or when there is an underlying medical issue.


To help maintain a healthy skin and coat, it is a good idea to offer your dog a supplement such as Bionic Biotic. Packed with plenty of skin supportive ingredients like Omega 3 fatty acids, Selenium and Vitamin E, this nutritious powder can help to naturally reduce inflammation and keep skin calm and settled. 

Diet wise, consider Health & Digestion kibble, which contains fish oils, zinc and biotin to aid in healing and promote hydrated skin. The salmon in this premium dog food is rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which are key in promoting a healthy skin barrier. They contribute to the natural lipid layer, locking moisture inside and defending against irritants and pollutants. This is especially critical for those with skin allergies who can be extra sensitive to things in their environment. Another crucial ingredient is the mix of prebiotics which can support a robust digestive system; benefiting overall health and the immune system, potentially reducing the risk of infection.


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