Drive-by licking!
July 15, 2009 5:49 AM   Subscribe

How can I get my dog to stop licking people?

My dog (3 years old, English setter/English pointer mix, if it matters) is a frenzied, compulsive licker. She absolutely loves people, and expresses that love with a crazed tongue. She aims for the face, but will settle for any other part of the person, and even will continue licking if she only hits the air around them. She almost never licks me, even when she's really excited to see me, and will even turn her face away from me if I put my face right in front of hers- I'm assuming this is because I'm dominant over her. I've had some minor success with grabbing and holding her snout when she tries to lick other people, but so many people seem to love and encourage dogs jumping up on them and licking them (even when I tell them to please not do that and correct her in front of them) that her behavior is continuously reinforced. Any ideas?
posted by emilyd22222 to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by gadha at 6:05 AM on July 15, 2009

I think something verbal might work... I'm not a huge fan of dogs licking me, and when one starts I just say "no" or even just "hey!" and look up/away.

Since you have friends that like the licking/craziness, see if you can get them to help just get control over the dog for a minute or two. Tell them you need their help keeping the dog from doing this until you or they give an "okay" signal. I do this with my dogs - tell them to stay/settle down, and then when I say "okay!" they can spaz out and go back to being friendly crazy licking dogs.

A good way to do this might be to teach your dog to go to his bed every time someone comes over. You can train the dog to stay there until you give them the "okay!". The general rule is that it's easier to train the dog to do something instead of not to do something.

I also use the command "settle" which I started when my dogs were puppies (you just hold them and when they try to wriggle away you say "no, settle" and then when they calm down you let them go and praise them. Might work with an adult dog, but I'm no expert.

My dogs won't really lick me, and I don't think it's because I'm dominant. I think it's because I've given them enough cues (intentionally or non-intentionally) that they know I'm just not that into the kisses!
posted by belau at 6:21 AM on July 15, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the info so far. Just adding one thing- most of my friends are good about not letting her lick them. It's mostly strangers I pass on the street who want to say hi to her. It's a little trickier getting those people to cooperate.
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:25 AM on July 15, 2009

I'd suggest many many rewards for the behaviour you do want - pre-emptively asking her to sit and then stay when people arrive; and praise and reward her for sitting and staying and remaining there. You can practice this with friends, and can start her stay around the time friends are expected to arrive.

Or, she can have a place that she goes to when people come - our hound knows "Go to your chair" when people come to the door. She can be happy and excited (and as hounds are, howly) - but at least it is on her chair and not in guests' faces (or knees). When she's calmed down, she can come off it and greet people in a less obnoxious fashion. We know she's got to sniff, it's her thing - but at least the humans have had time for proper greetings and some polite interactions. My empathies - it's no fun to have every friend's visit be an occasion for a moist wrestling match.
posted by peagood at 6:27 AM on July 15, 2009

After seeing your elaboration - same thing goes in public. Our dog has to sit in order to receive pets from anyone, and has to go into a down and stay for children. If I sense she's going to lunge toward someone for attention while we're walking, we turn a quick circle and then she has to sit, and gets praised for that. When we're at the dog park and I sense she's being obnoxious, I call her and ask her to sit if she's starting to pester someone.

And many times, I need to just walk her away and tell people nicely but firmly "Sorry, we need to keep walking and can't visit." That's the problem with having a cute dog - strangers feel free to approach, and it often encourages behaviour we don't want. I had fewer problems with the rescued Rottie than I am having with the rescued Basset Hound - but I've never felt like people get to pet my dog just because they want to. That's a reward for when everyone is behaving nicely.
posted by peagood at 6:36 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Strangers on the street should not be allowed to screw with your dog's training. "She has to sit before you can pet her" is a good rule. Esp. with kids, who need to learn not to be too forward with unknown dogs.
posted by theora55 at 8:28 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

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