You come home after a tiring day at work and head over to your bed.
As soon as you lay your head on the pillow, a splash of liquid that seems to smell like dog saliva stamps your face.
Sometime later, you’re walking past your bedroom and see your dog licking the pillow like it’s a lollipop. And it all starts to make sense.
But what on earth could be causing your dog to lick your pillow? Turn out that dogs love the salty taste of pillows that we leave behind after sweating and shedding skin all night long. Though sometimes, it could be due to a change in diet or just a bad habit.
So how do you stop your dog from turning your pillow into a puddle of saliva every day?
If you want to find out, keep reading ahead!
Understanding Why Dogs Lick Things
If you’ve ever noticed, dogs use their mouth way more than humans do. They use it to pick up things, they use it to carry stuff, and they especially use their tongue to lick everything they come across. But why do canines use their mouth and tongue so much?
Unlike humans, dogs cannot feel things with their hands. So instead, they use their mouth and tongue to feel and understand new things. But how does this justify continuously licking something as bland as a pillow?
Why Is Your Dog Licking Your Pillow?
Pillow licking is one of the most confusing behaviors a dog owner will get to witness in their lifetime. If your dog has food and treats to savor, why would they go after something as tasteless as a pillow?
Turns out, your pillow actually does taste good to your dog. Otherwise, the reason could merely be psychological. Here are some common reasons due to which your dog might be licking your pillow:
1. Your dog likes the salty taste of the pillow
Dogs tend to love things that taste salty. And while you may not know, your pillow is a particularly salty object.
When we sleep, we tend to sweat, and we shed dead skin cells. Both of these accumulate directly onto our pillows and give it a salty taste. Some of us also put on lotions and face creams before sleeping, which also get smeared over our pillows.
Thus, the pillow instantly attracts the sensitive nose of your pup. When they taste it, the saline sweat and lotion immediately appeals to their taste buds, and they savor the pillow just as they would enjoy a yummy treat!
2. Your dog could have separation anxiety
Some dogs can develop a fear of separation from their owners due to improper training or past trauma. This causes them to become very anxious after their owners leave, and they start acting out due to stress.
In most cases, your dog will seek things that comfort them and reminds them of you. And the thing that probably smells the most like you is your pillow. Since you spend almost 8 hours every day sleeping, your skin cells and your scent will eventually infuse with the pillow.
And because dogs have a super-sensitive nose, that’s the first thing they’ll go after. If you come back home after work and usually find your pillow soaking in saliva, your dog probably has separation anxiety and licks your pillow every time you leave.
3. Your dog has obsessive compulsive disorder
If you notice that your dog is licking your pillow without being able to stop, they could be suffering from OCD. Dogs that develop this disorder will consistently repeat a specific behavior unstoppably, even if it’s harming them physically.
Some dogs with OCD show signs like scratching a spot till it bleeds, or chasing their tails continuously for hours. Or, they might also develop a habit of licking your pillow non-stop for abnormal amounts of time.
Trying to stop a dog with OCD from repeating certain activities forcefully might lead to aggression. So if you suspect that your dog is suffering from it, you’d be better off taking them to a veterinarian.
4. Your dog might be compensating for a change in diet
If you have recently changed your dog’s diet, they might be making up for the lack of fulfillment by licking your pillow.
Dogs tend to prefer a stable and constant routine. If you tweak it a bit by changing up their diet, they might feel unfulfilled and turn to your pillow to satisfy their cravings for salt.
It could also be the case that your dog’s new diet lacks enough salt, and they’re making up for it by licking your pillow. Dogs also show exhibit similar behavior, sometimes by eating grass to fulfill their nutritional needs.
5. You have been unintentionally encouraging your dog to lick the pillow
Another bizarre reason why your dog might be licking your pillow is that you’ve been unintentionally encouraging them to do so. This is similar to positive reinforcement when you encourage your dog when they perform a particular action.
In this case, you might be accidentally praising your dog or giving them a treat right after they lick your pillow. From your dog’s perspective, you’re appreciating them for licking the pillow. Therefore, they’ll habitually repeat this behavior, expecting some reward from you.
How To Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Pillow
Now that you know the reasons why your dog could be licking your pillow, it’s time to find out which one you are guilty of doing. To do so, you can look into two details that’ll help you come upon an answer:
When does your dog lick your pillow?
Finding out the time at which your dog particularly licks your pillow can help you find out the reason for this behavior.
Most dogs that lick their pillow while they’re owners aren’t at home are doing it because of separation anxiety. If your dog does it right after you wake up, it might be because canines are most active during dawn.
Otherwise, if you notice that your dog comes to you expecting a treat after licking the pillow, it could be a case of unintentional positive reinforcement.
When did your dog start licking your pillow?
Identifying when your dog started this habit can also answer a lot of questions. At most times, dogs learn a new behavior when they go through some sort of change in their routine.
So if you recently changed their diet, your dog could be licking the pillow to satisfy their salt cravings. Or if they started doing it after you got a new job, they could be suffering from separation anxiety. The behavior could also get triggered during summers when we sweat more while sleeping.
Steps To Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Pillow
Once you’ve discovered the reason behind your dog’s pillow-licking habit, it’s time to put an end to it. To do this, you can implement multiple techniques that can help your dog overcome the reason which triggered their habit in the first place.
Here are some of the most useful methods to stop a dog from licking your pillow:
1. Prevent your dog’s access to pillows
Before you try anything else, your first move should be to restrict your dog’s access to your pillows. This is by far the most straightforward and most effective technique of all. When you’re not sleeping, store away your pillow safety in a cupboard away from your dog’s vicious saliva!
However, this is not always effective or even suitable. If your dog is licking the pillows to fulfill a need for salt or out of OCD, they might resort to licking other stuff or even become aggressive. Therefore, it’s advised that you also fix the problem from its root for more permanent outcomes.
2. Treat your dog’s separation anxiety
Separation anxiety can cause dogs to develop habits such as licking pillows. If you always find your pillows soaking in saliva after a long day at work, chances are your dog has separation anxiety too!
Most dogs that suffer from separation anxiety haven’t been trained as puppies to spend time alone. Therefore, they develop a bad habit of receiving constant attention and become extremely anxious when they’re left alone.
To prevent this from happening, train your dog to be comfortable in your absence. For milder cases, offer your dog some sort of activity that offers them a reward, such as a puzzle hiding treats or a chewing toy stuffed with food.
But if your pup’s case is more severe, you might have to be more patient and gradually increase the time your dog spends alone. Each time your dog doesn’t get anxious, offer them a treat. With time, you can increase the duration you leave them alone until they’ve adjusted to your routine.
3. Offer your dog alternatives
Some dogs find it entertaining to lick your pillows when they’re alone. If you suspect that the habit has developed purely due to boredom, offer your dog other alternative entertainment sources when you leave them alone.
A great toy to keep your dog busy during your absence is the puzzle. These puzzles are designed specifically for dogs and challenge their sniffing abilities. Upon solving the puzzle, your dog receives a treat.
These toys stimulate and challenge your pup, both mentally and physically. For dogs that are naturally more intelligent, these toys are a must to prevent them from becoming destructive.
Apart from puzzles, you could also offer your dog chewing toys filled with treats. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be filled with any kind of treat.
4. Fix your dog’s diet
Modifying your dog’s diet could also help solve the pillow-licking habit if a lack of nutritional fulfillment is the cause. If you recently changed up your dog’s diet, the chances are that this is what’s causing the problem.
The best way would be to adjust your dog’s diet would be to consult your veterinarian. They can help highlight which nutrients your dog is lacking and help you design a diet that fulfills all their dietary needs.
5. Manually train them to stop licking pillows
If all else fails or you can’t figure out why your dog is licking your pillow, you can always train them to stop through positive reinforcement.
To do this, simply bring your dog some pillows and take a few treats in your hands. When your dog starts licking the pillow, tell them to stop in a firm and clear voice. After they do, give them a treat and verbal praise. Take the pillow away from them after this.
Repeat this a few times, and your dog will eventually recognize that they’ll get praised when they don’t lick your pillow.
Should you stop your dog from licking your pillow?
Yes, a dog’s saliva can contain many bacteria, which, although would be harmless to them, can be quite harmful to humans. Always wash your pillow if you find out that your dog has been licking it.
Why is my dog licking the blankets?
Dogs lick blankets for the same reason they lick pillows. Blankets contain dead skin cells and sweat, which appeals to your dog’s appetite for salt.
Why is my dog licking itself over excessively?
A case of excessive licking until the point where your dog’s hair starts falling or skin start bleeding could mean that they have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Why do dogs lick themselves before going to sleep?
This is an instinct that dogs developed from when their mother used to lick them as puppies. It also helps them clean their coat and stimulate more growth.
Does licking wounds help them heal faster?
Yes, the saliva of dogs contains enzymes and compounds that break the cell walls of bacteria and prevents the wound from getting infected.