Why Does My Dog Lick the Air

icon August 19, 2023

If you've ever caught your furry friend indulging in the peculiar behavior of licking the air, you might have found yourself wondering, "Why does my dog do that?" While dogs engage in a wide range of behaviors that can sometimes leave us scratching our heads, licking the air is certainly one of the more curious ones. Fortunately, licking the air can help dogs communicate a variety of information if only we take the time to “listen” to the lick!

Is It Normal for Dogs to Lick the Air?

Occasional air licking in dogs is not necessarily abnormal and can be considered normal behavior in certain situations. However, if your dog is excessively licking the air or doing it compulsively, it could indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. 

When Should I Worry If a Dog Is Licking the Air?

You should start to worry if your dog is licking the air in a persistent, excessive, or unusual manner, especially if the behavior is accompanied by other symptoms, such as pacing, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, disorientation, or any signs of pain, it's important to consult a veterinarian promptly.

Why Does My Dog Lick the Air?

1. Normal Causes

  • Scent or Taste: Dogs have a very keen sense of smell, and sometimes they might catch a scent or taste in the air that interests them. This can lead to them licking the air in an attempt to "taste" the scent.
  • Anticipation: Dogs might lick the air when they're excited or anticipating something. For example, if they know it's time for their meal or a treat, they might start licking the air in excitement.
  • Submission or Calming: Dogs may display submissive behaviors, including licking the air, to show deference to a more dominant individual or to calm themselves down in stressful situations.
  • Medical Issues: Sometimes, excessive licking of the air might indicate a medical issue, even if the behavior seems normal. It's a good idea to rule out any underlying medical problems, especially if the behavior is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms.

2. Abnormal Causes

  • Dental Problems: Dental health can play a role in a dog's behavior, and air licking might be an indication of dental discomfort. If your dog has dental issues like gum inflammation, loose teeth, or oral pain, they might engage in unusual behaviors like air licking as a way to alleviate the discomfort in their mouths.
  • Allergies: Dogs with allergies, especially skin allergies, might lick the air as a response to itching or discomfort.
  • Anxiety or Stress: Dogs under stress or anxiety might engage in abnormal behaviors, such as excessive air licking.
  • Foreign Object in the Mouth: Similar to how you might use your tongue to dislodge a popcorn kernel stuck between your teeth, dogs might exhibit air-licking behavior if they have a piece of food trapped in their dental crevices or against the roof of their mouth. In such cases, removing the object might necessitate sedation to alleviate the licking. If you observe your dog licking the air after chewing on a bone or stick, it's wise to inspect for any debris fragments lodged between their teeth or at the roof of their mouth. Prevent your dog from chewing on items prone to splintering or cracking, as these can lead to mouth injuries and potentially serious gastrointestinal problems that might even require surgical intervention.
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Dogs experiencing nausea or stomach discomfort might lick the air as a reaction to their upset stomach.
  • Seizures: Some dogs might exhibit strange behaviors, including licking the air, during or after a seizure. If you suspect your dog is having seizures, it's important to consult a veterinarian.
  • Compulsive Behavior: In some cases, dogs might develop compulsive behaviors similar to human obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Air licking could be one manifestation of this compulsiveness. If the behavior is excessive, repetitive, and seems to have no apparent trigger, it's advisable to consult a veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist for guidance.

How to Stop My Dog From Licking the Air?

Provide Distraction

If the behavior is due to anticipation or excitement, you can distract your dog with toys, puzzles, or engaging activities. Providing mental and physical stimulation can redirect their attention away from air licking.

Address Dental Health

If your dog's excessive air licking is due to dental plaque buildup, tartar, gum inflammation, or other dental issues, your vet may recommend a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia. This involves removing tartar, addressing gum disease, and addressing any other dental problems.

After the professional cleaning, your vet might recommend a dental care routine you can follow at home. This might include brushing your dog's teeth regularly with dog-safe toothpaste and toothbrush, providing dental chews, and using dental rinses or wipes.


If your dog's excessive air licking is caused by skin problems, it's important to address the underlying skin issue to alleviate their discomfort and reduce the behavior. This might include medications (such as antibiotics, antifungals, or topical treatments), dietary changes, or special shampoos. To prevent scratching, you can use an Elizabethan collar (cone) temporarily or consider using soft, protective garments designed for dogs that cover affected areas.

Gastrointestinal Distress

If your dog is excessively air-licking due to gastrointestinal discomfort, it's important to create a dietary schedule for your dog. Instead of feeding your dog a large meal once or twice a day, consider breaking their meals into smaller, more frequent portions. This can help prevent stomach upset. If your dog has vomiting and diarrhea in addition to excessive air licking, your vet might prescribe medication to alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort.

Why Do Dogs Lick the Air When You Pet or Scratch Them?

Providing a gentle scratch to areas your dog can't reach can trigger a reflex that mimics their own scratching and licking behavior. Additionally, this action can also indicate their pleasure. Have you ever wondered why your dog's hind leg twitches each time you give them a scratch? It's akin to their joyous reaction when you find that perfect spot to pet them.


What your dog is trying to warn about when they lick their paws?

Dogs naturally lick their paws as a way of cleaning themselves. It's similar to how cats groom themselves. Occasional paw licking for grooming purposes is generally normal behavior. But one common reason for excessive paw licking is allergies. Dogs can be allergic to various things such as certain foods, environmental allergens like pollen or grass, or even certain materials they come into contact with. Allergic reactions can lead to itchy and irritated skin, prompting the dog to lick and chew its paws in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. it's best to consult with a veterinarian. A vet can help identify the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment or management strategies.

Why is my dog licking himself before going to bed?

Licking can also be a self-soothing behavior for dogs. Just like humans might engage in certain calming behaviors before bedtime, such as reading or taking a warm bath, dogs might lick themselves as a way to relax and prepare for sleep.


In conclusion, while the sight of your dog licking the air might seem perplexing, there are various potential explanations for this behavior. From sensory exploration and curiosity to underlying medical issues and stress, a range of factors could be contributing to your dog's actions. Paying attention to the context in which your dog engages in air licking and looking for any accompanying signs can help you better understand the underlying cause. If you're ever concerned about your dog's behavior or health, don't hesitate to seek advice from a veterinary professional to ensure your furry friend's well-being.



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