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Dogs can be fascinating animals who sometimes surprise us with some strange behavior. One such behavior is when they turn their tongue to lick on the genital area.
But why do dogs lick their privates?
This behavior may seem to be embarrassing and uncomfortable for humans but it is perfectly fine in the world of canines.
Several reasons may make your dog lick their privates. Read on to discover more about this fascinating behavior and what it means to our pups.
Normal Grooming Behavior in Dogs
Dogs would always groom themselves although not as fastidious as cats do. Canines would groom themselves by licking through their bodies to pick up dirt, and debris, and to align the fur in one direction.
This also includes licking the paws and the private area. It helps them to stay clean, healthy, and comfortable without much human intervention.
Natural grooming in dogs also helps them to distribute the natural oils over their skin and to regulate body temperature during the hot summer days.
Lack of frequent grooming can lead to skin irritation and the build-up of dirt in the coats which forms a good ground for matting and tangling.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Privates?
The science behind the habit of canines licking their genital areas is innate to them and it should not surprise you when done mildly.
Some of the reasons why they do so include:
1. Keeping the area clean
One of the major reasons for dogs licking their private parts (especially after urinating) is to keep the area clean.
The dog’s private parts can attract dirt and bacteria due to the urine drops/fecal matter that remain after a bathroom break.
A build-up of dirt can become uncomfortable to the dog hence making them clean using their tongue.
When dogs lick their private parts for hygiene, they normally do so with a simple wipe and not persistently.
2. Relieving itches and irritation
Skin irritation on the genital area may cause the dog to lick in an effort to relieve the itchiness. This could be due to allergies or infestation by fleas, ticks, and mites.
Licking due to skin irritation is normally persistent more than the ordinary grooming lick and the dog might even bite the area when the itching is too much.
This form of licking can relieve the itching pain temporarily due to the soothing effect of the wet tongue and saliva.
But you need to be watchful because excessive licking could make the problem worse since the rubbing effect might cause inflammation which will increase skin irritation.
3. Marking territory
The anal glands in dogs produce a specialized liquid with a strong smell which can act as a scent marker for dogs.
Your furry friend may lick around the anal area to pick up the scent and rub it against an area with the tongue to mark their territory.
This would signal other dogs that the marked area belongs to another canine.
Too much persistent licking of the genital area might indicate that the dog is suffering from an underlying medical problem.
Some of the health conditions that might make your dog lick excessively include:
1. Urinary tract infections
Urinary Tracts Infections (UTIs) are a common condition in dogs that mostly affects the female canines. Bacterial UTIs are characterized by causing discomfort and pain in the affected dog hence causing them to excessively lick on their urogenital area.
These infections also lead to frequent urination and they may also cause blood in urine, general body weakness, and loss of appetite.
Your vet might prescribe an antibiotic treatment to deal with the bacterial infections.
Your dog might be exposed to both food and environmental conditions that cause allergic reactions. This might lead to skin rashes, irritations, and hot spots that may affect the urogenital area.
The affected dog would normally lick around the itching areas for as long as it takes to soothe the pain but they could end up inflaming the skin.
You should avoid exposing your dog to environmental conditions that may cause allergies to them such as pollen grains and dusty air.
It’s also important to check the type of foods you give them and stay away from anything that makes your canine react negatively.
Your vet may prescribe using antihistamine medicines for your dog. These drugs would treat the affected dog by relieving the allergies.
3. Pain or discomfort
Some medical conditions like bladder stones and cancers may cause immense pain and discomfort around the crotch area making the dog lick it excessively.
A physical injury on the dog’s genitalia may also cause them pain hence inducing them to soothe the area using the tongue.
A dog with physical injuries around the genital area may show reluctance in movements and you may also see them taking steps in pain.
We strongly recommend taking your canine friend for regular checkups with the vet for early detection of chronic illnesses.
Remember that early treatment of medical conditions affecting your lovely dog will increase their chances of treatment and recovery.
4. Anal glands disease
Dogs have two small sacs on either side of their anal area whose main purpose is to produce a smelly liquid that is unique to every dog.
The liquid can be used as a scent marker for dogs and it is also used to lubricate the anal muscles for a smooth bowel movement.
One or both of these anal glands in dogs may become impacted, infected, or abscessed which predisposes them to pain.
The affected dog may lick the anal area to relieve the pain and they could also scoot the rear end along the lawn or bare ground.
Treating anal gland problems in dogs will vary depending on the underlying cause but the most common are manual expression of the anal sacs and antibiotics prescriptions.
Inflammation in the vaginal area is another medical condition that may lead to excessive licking of the urogenital area.
Other symptoms of these conditions include increased urination and vaginal discharge from the dog’s genitalia.
Affected female canines would also have a swollen vulva which may also appear red due to the inflammation and excessive licking.
Your vet would do blood and urine work on the affected dog to diagnose if they are having this condition.
Antibiotic prescription is the most effective treatment for this condition but your vet will work out a precise treatment plan for your dog after diagnosis.
Some dogs would form a habit of licking their urogenital areas for behavioral reasons. They might do this to relieve stress and anxiety.
Affected canines might form an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that makes them to repeatedly lick on their genital areas in excess.
When To Be Concerned About Excessive Licking
A one-off lick on the genital area after a bathroom break should not raise an alarm. But when the dog does that for hours on end, you should find a reason to be worried.
Signs of excessive licking
The following are some of the signs that your dog is licking their genital areas excessively:
- Persistently licking the same areas for a long time.
- Foul odor from the private area.
- Scooting on the ground
- Penile or Vaginal discharge
- Redness and swelling in the urogenital area
- Skin irritation on the crotch
- Straining to pass urine or fecal matter
Disadvantages of excessive licking
Licking the private area might soothe an itchy part of your dog’s skin, but when done excessively, it could do more harm than good.
The several dangers associated with too much licking include:
- Excessive licking on the privates would cause the skin to get inflamed and itchy. This constant rubbing can also lead to open sores and infections from pathogens.
- Dogs who lick their skin excessively can ingest lots of fur and other debris materials in their systems. Once in the Gastrointestinal tract (GIT), these foreign bodies can lead to intestinal blockage, indigestion, and vomiting.
- Too much licking will also put your canine friend at risk of contracting and transmitting possible infections. The intimate contact between the mouth and the genital area might spread bacterial and yeast infections which might lead to serious infections.
When To Seek Veterinary Care
If your dog is licking their privates for far too long, you should take action immediately and consult with your vet.
Dogs can be very good at hiding pain, so you don’t need to wait until they growl while straining to walk for you to intervene.
Diagnostic Tests and Treatments for Medical Conditions
Your dog will be subjected to physical and neurological examinations by the vet to look out for physical injuries in the affected areas.
The veterinarian would then run the diagnostic tests for the common diseases to rule out any underlying medical condition and to pinpoint the exact cause of excessive licking.
The analytical tests will include both blood work and urine tests to look for any antibodies that may indicate an illness.
If your furry friend is found to be suffering from a condition, then the vet would work out a treatment plan and prescribe some drugs to cure them.
Antibiotic medication is commonly used to deal with bacterial infections that may be affecting the pup.
Your vet would also recommend dietary changes for your pup if food allergies are inferred. They will provide you with the foods to include in your pup’s diet and those to avoid completely.
Hotspots, itchiness, soreness, and skin irritation can be dealt with using topical treatment and antihistamines to cure allergies.
If your dog is found to be licking their genitals as a behavioral issue, then the vet may recommend a canine behaviorist to work with your dog for behavior modification.
Preventing Excessive Licking Behavior
If your dog is not found to have any medical conditions, you can do something to tone down their excessive licking habits.
1. Regular grooming and hygiene practices
One of the main reasons why your furry friend is licking their private area is to clean themselves. They do this to stop the buildup of dirt and to remove debris in the urogenital area which can be uncomfortable to deal with.
You can step in to groom your dog regularly and maintain high hygiene practices to prevent them from licking such areas.
Get some wet washcloth or doggy wipes to clean your dog’s genital area, especially after coming from a bathroom break.
This will also help in maintaining their cleanliness and keeping all the germs away.
2. Providing mental and physical stimulation
Dogs who are bored or under-stimulated may lick their private areas as a way of fighting boredom and keeping themselves occupied.
Make sure to set aside some time each day to interact with your dog both physically and mentally through puzzle games.
Remember to socialize with the dog and take them for daily walks around the neighborhood for their daily exercise needs.
Providing physical and mental stimulation is also good for keeping your dog fit and healthy.
3. Training and behavior modification techniques
Dogs who lick their privates as an adjustment for stress and anxiety can be trained to help manage their behavior.
If your furry friend licks their genitals as a way of dealing with stress, then you may have to desensitize them and introduce more appealing ways of creating their own fun.
If you find the training a bit overwhelming, you can reach out to a professional dog trainer for personalized tips on how to go about the practical steps.
Why Do Dogs Lick Other Dogs’ Private Parts
Dogs may lick each other’s private parts and it is a completely normal behavior in the canine world. The following are some of the reasons for this:
1. It’s normal social behavior and communication
When dogs meet, they can get acquitted to each other by sniffing, exchanging scents, and licking private areas.
This is normally a polite gesture that the canines are willing to interact with each other. It is also a good sign that the dogs have started to get along with each other.
2. They’re trying to gain information
Dogs have a very strong sense of smell. They can lick each other’s private parts in a bid to gather information about health, gender, and reproductive readiness.
The dog’s urogenital area is laced with pheromones that carry vital information about the specific’s dog identity, health, and status.
3. For sexual behavior and arousal
When in heat, a male dog might lick the female’s genital areas and vice versa for sexual arousal. Dogs would do this act to derive pleasure before mating and for their sexual behavior.
This behavior can be addressed by neutering or spaying your dogs but we recommend doing so only with the express authority from your vet.
4. It is a display of dominance or submission
Dogs are pack animals, and while in the wild, they would always be submissive to their pack leaders. Dogs may lick each other including the private area as a show of dominance or submission.
A submissive canine would wipe down the genital areas of the dominant dog as a show of being obedient and grooming them.
The pack leader could also assert their authority by licking the privates of the submissive dogs in equal measure.
RELATED: What does it mean when a dog licks you?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. My dog keeps licking his private area and it’s red, what should I do?
Consult your vet immediately and take them for physical examination and diagnostic tests. Persistent irritation of the private area could be a sign that the dog is suffering from underlying medical conditions.
2. Why does my dog’s mouth shake after licking other dogs’ privates?
This is just another impulsive reaction and it should not worry you. Your dog may chatter with their mouth as a natural response to the distinctive taste of the other dog’s privates.
Shaking the mouth after licking the private area could also be an attempt of spitting fur and other debris material that may have been collected on the skin.
3. How do I get my dog to stop licking other dogs’ private parts?
The best way to prevent this is by proper training and socialization. You should teach your dog to be responsive to your commands and let them know what is within their boundaries and what is off-limits.
Make sure to supervise your dog when they interact with other dogs and discourage them from licking the other’s private areas.
4. Can I train my dog to stop licking their privates excessively?
Yes! You can teach your dog to redirect their attention to positive outlets such as interactive toys and puzzle games.
Make sure to groom your dog well and wipe off all urine drops after a bathroom break to keep them clean and hygienic.
This will help to take away the main reason why the dog would want to clean their private parts in the first place.
Why do dogs lick their privates? This is a normal behavior in dogs that serve to clean their genital areas and relieve the skin from itching and irritation.
A few wipes are enough to satisfy your dog’s instincts to lick the privates. Excessive licking might cause inflammation around the skin and it could also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Make sure to clean your dog frequently and provide them with enough physical and mental stimulation to keep their tongue away from the urogenital area.
Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a pet expert with more than 20 years of experience working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.
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