Does anybody have any advice?

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Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Thu May 28, 2015 12:20 pm

I think it's been mentioned before, but Dempsey is an obsessive licker. Does anybody here have any experience dealing with this/know anybody who's had to deal with something similar?

Sometimes there's a pattern to it and sometimes there isn't. The worst of it happens in the evening, after he's had his dinner. He'll lick the air continuously and completely switches off - no matter how many times you try to get his attention by calling him, he doesn't hear. Food gets him to stop temporarily, but we can't really use that, as food also triggers licking. He'll also lick his feet, furniture and our legs - what ever happens to be close to his face when he starts air-licking. Even when we attempt to move his head away from what ever he's licking, his neck goes rigid, making it very difficult to move his head.

Distraction with toys works sometimes, but we have to be very careful with toys, as he can't be left unattended with them. We also don't like to play energetic games with him soon after his meals, as he's had bloat before and this, as well, triggers licking once the game is finished.

I thought it could be some sort of stereotypic behaviour, and that maybe he wasn't getting enough mental stimulation during the day. So I started his flirt pole games and training again and he was given a stag bar, which he loved. No matter how much mental stimulation he was given, though, the licking still continued, which makes me wonder if it's now developed into a habit. If it is stereotypical, I really don't want to scold him for the behaviour, as that would be likely to just distress him.

I've also tried incompatible behaviours, getting him to do something that he can't do while licking. This isn't easy, though, as there don't seem to be many behaviours which are incompatible with licking. Training sequences have helped in the past to distract him, but he's very reluctant to do that without food rewards - the annoying thing about having an incredibly orally fixated dog. sad

I'll try to put a video up later, as he'll probably start again this evening. Any ideas really would be appreciated! It's getting quite stressful now, as I feel like I'm letting Dempsey down and I'm honestly at my wits end about this now.
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Shisa on Thu May 28, 2015 4:39 pm

Weird. It could be a neurological problem, that's the first thing that popped into my head.
He's not an anxious dog, like my Pugsley, that licks to comfort himself.

Interestingly... I googled and got an article that says acid reflux.

http://dogtrainingblogger.com/dog-lick-air.html
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Thu May 28, 2015 4:46 pm

My first thought was neurological, as well, as he's always had a tendency to develop compulsions. For a while, it was tail chasing and spinning, but that was very easy to stop.

We did wonder a while ago if it could be some sort of stomach upset. We tried to give him ginger after meals in an effort to help, but that may not have helped if it was acid reflux. Especially considering his digestion hasn't been great since his stomach operation.

Thanks for the article! The Pepsid idea is interesting - perhaps we could look into something like that. happy
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by LyndaW on Thu May 28, 2015 8:20 pm

I wish I could offer something constructive, but I have never come across obsessional licking before my current nutcase Kuchar. He licks at his paws (the undersides - chobble chobble chobble) even in winter. He does have a grass allergy so at this time of year I can understand, but he even does it in the middle of the night in mid-winter.

Personally, at least in Kuchar's case, I think it is a comfort thing. My last Dobie, Rio, used to gather up a little mound of duvet cover between her paws and suck on it (often chewing, so I had very raggy duvet covers!) I have a photo of her doing this as I found it endearing, if expensive! I put it down to a comfort habit.

What do you mean by "air licking" Eleanor?
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Thu May 28, 2015 9:09 pm

Poor Kuchar! sad I understand how distressing it is. There are so many thoughts going through my head about it - maybe it's a sick-feeling, so the licking eases it, or a comforting habit/stereotypical behaviour. I honestly don't know.

His air licking is when he literally just licks at the air. His tongue doesn't make contact with anything physical. He'll just sit/stand/lie there and go through the motions of licking something. I tried to take a video earlier, but he stopped as soon as I got the phone out. tongue
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Lorraine on Thu May 28, 2015 9:12 pm

I've tagged you on a FB post that may be of interest.
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by LyndaW on Thu May 28, 2015 9:20 pm

Typical! rolling eyes

So his tongue flicks out like snake's - not curving around his jowls or anything?
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Thu May 28, 2015 10:16 pm

Lorraine wrote:I've tagged you on a FB post that may be of interest.

It hasn't shown up on my Facebook, sorry. sad

LyndaW wrote:Typical!  rolling eyes

So his tongue flicks out like snake's - not curving around his jowls or anything?  

Sort of, although it's almost as if there's actually something in front of him that he's licking. But yeah, his tongue only goes straight out, and not around the sides of his mouth.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to get a video as an example. He was licking a bit earlier, but stopped very quickly for once, so I didn't get a chance to record it. It's quite heart breaking, really. sad It certainly isn't what I'd consider 'normal' behaviour for a dog, so I feel like Dempsey is being let down because we can't figure out what's causing it. Even if it's a part of his typical Bull Terrier compulsion, I have no idea how to stop it. The last thing I want to do is risk making it worse by physically stopping him from doing it.
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by LyndaW on Thu May 28, 2015 11:34 pm

Well, dogs are strange little people sometimes and I can only guess wildly. If he is very food orientated and he does this air licking after eating his food, maybe he is trying to grasp the last flavours of the food from the surrounding air? Yes it's a daft idea, but you never know.....
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Lorraine on Fri May 29, 2015 6:44 am

Lorraine wrote:I've tagged you on a FB post that may be of interest.

Here is the article that I linked to: http://www.simplybehaviour.com/neuroscience-lip-licking-mean/
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Fri May 29, 2015 9:38 am

LyndaW wrote:Well, dogs are strange little people sometimes and I can only guess wildly.  If he is very food orientated  and he does this air licking after eating his food, maybe he is trying to grasp the last flavours of the food from the surrounding air? Yes it's a daft idea, but you never know.....

I don't think it's such a daft idea! hug We often do wipe his mouth with a paper towel after he's had his dinner, to see if it helps. Unfortunately, he just goes into a trance once the licking has started.

Lorraine wrote:
Lorraine wrote:I've tagged you on a FB post that may be of interest.

Here is the article that I linked to: http://www.simplybehaviour.com/neuroscience-lip-licking-mean/

Thanks! That looks like an interesting article - I'll read it now! hug
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Fri May 29, 2015 10:01 am

That was really useful - thanks!

The clinical manifestation of nausea in dogs and other animals is characterised by excess salivation, lack of appetite, licking of lips, increase frequency of swallowing and depression. Often, a reliable indicator of stress in dogs (particularly those that are real foodies) is them not wanting to take treats.

I do wonder if the behaviour itself was initially due to nausea, but then developed into a habit which persisted after the nausea had gone. He doesn't usually show signs of appetite loss, salivation or depression. Although I think he does get distressed if he's scolded for licking, as I'm not sure that he actually knows what he's doing wrong.

Lick granuloma, which often results in a very nasty sore on the dogs anatomy, appears to be psychological in its origin. It is related to stress, anxiety, separation anxiety, boredom or compulsive behaviour patterns. They are prevalent in dogs that are often left alone for long periods of time. The act of licking releases endorphins (your body’s own little morphine system), this reduces pain and makes the dog feel euphoric. This means that the licking in itself, provides positive feedback and then an addiction to the act of this behaviour. Sometimes animals in captivity will develop what is often termed vacuum or sterotypical behaviours. These can involve licking walls, bars etc.

Excessive licking could be due to pain, inflammation infection etc and stress will contribute to this. Then it starts to fall within the realms of a neurologic disorder, long after the medical condition has cleared. This then becomes a learned behaviour and leads to an increase in neurotransmitters, receptors and the response that the owners give through inadvertently reinforcing through stress (punishment) or reward (getting attention) in some way. Gary Landsberg (North Toronto Vet behaviour specialist- Canada) states that sucking, pica, smacking lips, gulping & licking could also be a medical neurological, gastrointestinal or behavioural origin.

It is likely that your dog is anxious or fearful if you notice combinations of the anxiety and/or fear behavioural signs, such as licking lips, with ears back, and a tense facial expression.

Wow! These sound exactly like Dempsey.

I noticed in the article that it discouraged punishment for the activity, but also praise. I'm not really sure how to go about distracting him from licking. Although I don't outright praise him for doing it, I often tickle his belly to distract him or rub his throat. Do you think this could be reinforcing it?
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Shisa on Fri May 29, 2015 1:20 pm

That's praise. Axel will jump through hoops of exploding lava for a belly rub.
Best thing to do is to try and break the pattern leading up to the behaviour instead of the behaviour itself.
Might be that a bit of Peptid cures it though.
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Fri May 29, 2015 1:32 pm

That's the trouble, though. As hard as we've tried, we've never been able to see any sort of preceding behaviour. Very often, he'll be in his bed when he starts to lick, so it's only actually noticed when we hear the sound of him swallowing air. At other times, he'll wake up from sleep and immediately start to lick at the closest object to his face.

There is one trigger we're well aware of, which is bare legs - Demps can't resist licking bare legs. Unfortunately, dad always wears shorts in the evenings and no amount of begging will get him to stop that! laughing Demps is drawn to them like a magnet, so we try to keep an eye on that.

Mum and I were discussing distractions just now. We can usually distract him temporarily, but he'll resume the licking once the distraction has finished. I'm thinking that maybe we can team up the initial distraction with one of his training routines (usually a combination of easy commands, like sit, stay, down, etc.), followed by an ear rub to release endorphins.
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Fri May 29, 2015 2:02 pm

We're considering adding fresh, crushed garlic to his meals. We might also look into a couple of herb tinctures, especially slippery elm or marshmallow. I think we also have turmeric in the house.

Also... Does anybody have any ideas for distracting him without inadvertently rewarding him? He started one of his mini licking sessions just now. I managed to get his attention with the squeaker from one of his old squeaky toys, followed by a 'sit' and then plenty of praise and an ear rub. Sooner or later, though, I have a feeling that the novelty of an old squeaker will wear off.
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Re: Does anybody have any advice?

Post by Eleanor on Fri May 29, 2015 5:09 pm

Mkay, so this evening didn't go too badly. It was hard to distract him at first, as he just wouldn't take notice of anything else. Eventually he was distracted by one of my old belts, which turned into a new 'catch the snake' game.

He had some crushed garlic with his dinner. Don't know if it's helped at all, but he hasn't licked much after his dinner. Could also have been due to the distractions, but still! Took him out of the living room and played another game of snake with him, then got him to lie down while I rubbed his ears. laughing

After about twenty minutes of him dozing on my lap, he heaved himself up and went back into the living room, which is where he usually starts licking. He paused by dad's legs for a bit, but was happy enough to be shooed along. Then got up onto the sofa and has been sleeping since then. tongue Hopefully he'll stay this nice for the rest of the night!
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