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You could think a dog licking its lips is merely chewing or drooling over something if you observe it. However, if there is no food around, a dog may be licking its lips because they perceive something in the environment to be a threat. Lip licking is a kind of dog communication, and a dog that licks its lips is communicating with you through body language.
We explain what it means when a dog licks its lips for no apparent reason and how to stop the tendency.
Lip Licking in Dogs: What Is It?
Lip licking refers to the act of a dog licking his lips. If you see a dog licking his lips when no food is around, he’s usually attempting to communicate with you.
When Dogs Lick Their Lips, What Does It Mean?
Turid Rugaas, a dog trainer and behaviourist, invented the term “calming signals” to describe lip licking and other canine activities.
Lip licking is frequently used as an appeasement gesture. When dogs are stressed or uncomfortable, they display various behaviours and behaviours. It’s generally because they view anything in their environment to be a danger. When a dog licks his lips, it is typically a sign that he or she is anxious.
To avoid violence, dogs lick their lips to placate and calm a person or animal they see as a threat. Dogs who are punished when their owners get home to find the dog has had an accident in the house are one example of this. A dog may not associate the scolding with the need to relieve himself indoors. Rather, he perceives his owner as a danger. It’s possible that the owner is shouting at him and towering over him. By licking his lips and avoiding his sight, the dog may make an appeasing gesture. This is the dog’s method of letting the person behaving aggressively know that he isn’t a threat.
When dogs are frustrated or puzzled, they may make appeasement gestures such as lip licking and yawning. When their dogs are having difficulty grasping what is being taught during training sessions, many owners notice this. If your dog is licking his lips, yawning, itching, or smelling the ground while you’re teaching him, it’s time to quit. When a dog is agitated, he or she is unable to learn new things. Ask your dog to perform something easy he already knows, like sit, to conclude on a positive note. End the session by rewarding with a goodie and praise. To bond with your dog and help him relax, try playing with him for a short while.
A health-related problem is another key probable cause of excessive lip licking in dogs. Because of sickness, dental illness, or oral pain, a dog may lick his lips. 3 Keep an eye out for any additional indications of disease and keep a watch on your dog. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian.
What to Do if Your Dog Is Licking His Lips
While lip licking is typically regarded as a submissive action intended to prevent hostility from developing, it is nevertheless an indication that a dog is agitated and uneasy in a scenario. 4 This appeasement action might be the dog’s initial attempt to remove the threat, such as by getting another dog to stop barking at him. This does not rule out the possibility of the dog becoming protective if the perceived threat persists. If appeasement attempts fail, a protective dog may turn to aggressive behaviour.
If you notice a dog licking his lips, step aside and give him some room to relax. Determine the source of the dog’s anxiety and, if feasible, remove it. This can prevent a dog from biting you if he feels the need to protect himself.
If your dog is lip-licking in the vet’s office or another stressful location, attempt to divert him in a positive way. You can request that he do a trick and then reward him for doing so. When your dog is afraid or anxious, do not soothe him. This will just encourage his dread or worry.
It’s generally better to find a strategy to swiftly terminate a training session on a good note if your dog is lip-licking (ask your dog to do something he knows and wrap up the session). Break the action or behaviour down into smaller chunks the next time to make it easier for your dog to learn. This is referred to as behaviour shaping.
If your dog frequently exhibits lip-licking behaviour when there is no obvious threat and no food around, you should look into it more. Perhaps anything in your dog’s environment is causing him to feel insecure. Keep in mind that there might be a medical issue, such as nausea or mouth pain. If you’re unsure, take your dog to the vet for a check-up.
Dog body language includes yawning. If you see your dog yawning, he’s probably attempting to communicate with you.
What Does It Mean?
Dogs yawn in the same way as people do: with a wide-open jaw and a huge, deep breath. While we normally link yawning with exhaustion in humans, it may also be a means of communication in dogs.
Yawning is a form of appeasement signal that is also known as a soothing signal. To deflect a threat, dogs yawn. When a person or another animal approaches, the dog may yawn and avoid his attention. It’s a dog’s method of expressing that he’s worried or threatened, but that he won’t attack. 1 This form of body language is used by dogs to avoid fighting.
If you keep a watch on your dog, you could notice him yawning. If two children fight near where the dog is lying down, if a youngster embraces him, if someone scolds him, or in a number of other stressful situations, it might happen. Knowing what creates anxiety in your dog might help you avoid exposing him to those circumstances in the future.