All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Licking Dog

Hi Marie,

I have a dog named Molly. She is doing well but we have a new baby in the family—my 2nd granddaughter—and my son (and especially my daughter-in-law) does not want to bring the baby to my house because of Molly. Molly is a licker. She licks everything. The floor, clothes, blankets, pillows, and especially people. I have done everything to discourage this behavior but nothing seems to help. She also jumps on people from being so excited to have company, but that seems easier to stop with a sharp “NO.” Well, sometimes it helps. My questions are: How do I break her of jumping up on people, licking them, obeying my commands to stop. I need to let you know that she grew up with another dog and every time she sees a dog, she absolutely flips out and wants to get to it to play. This excitement carries over to when people come to visit. She is uncontrollable when she is excited. I can’t afford dog training classes otherwise I would be there with her. If you can give me some suggestions it would be so much appreciated.

Dear Jo,
A dog’s licking is completely, socially accepted in the dog-world. When one dog licks another,
it is a demonstration of affection and symbolic of being a close family member. You just need to
be able to communicate to Molly that you understand she loves you and you love her too without
getting drenched with slobber.

First, go ahead and let her lick you for a few seconds. Then pet her a bit yourself (this is the equivalent of you licking her) and position yourself in a manner that makes it impossible, or at least very difficult for her to continue licking you. If she tries to lick you more after that, tell her, “enough licking” and walk away, engaging yourself in other activities.

This is also a good time to get HER engaged in other activities. I would suggest giving her a toy that can be stuffed with food goodies that she has to work on for an extended period to be able to get the treats out. While she’s having fun with her treat toy, you can sit on a chair next to her and read, or watch TV, or whatever you want to do. Mostly, just go about your business being happy together so that she experiences fun-family-time that doesn't involve licking activities. She has probably learned that when she licks you, she gets attention, even if it isn't necessarily good attention. So you want to replace this idea with a brand new model. Take her on more walks, play with her more often, teach her basic obedience (you can do this on your own without taking classes), and develop a routine that she can depend on.

By teaching her basic commands (sit, stay, come, down, heel) and then rewarding her for completing them, you will find that you can easily control her when she gets overly excited. But you must spend at least an hour a day working on basic commands and you must be consistent. It is also essential that you provide your dog with the knowledge she needs to make good decisions.

If you tell your dog “no” but then don’t offer her an alternative, acceptable behavior to perform, she won’t understand what you want from her. So here is what you need to practice. Invite several friends (preferably those who like your dog) to help you with this. Have them come to your house to visit (one at a time, and later in groups), over several days. On every occasion where Molly gets overly excited and begins jumping, tell her to sit. If she does, have your friends give her a little treat and/or tell her, “Good sit!” Then go about having a visit with your friends. At any point if Molly gets too rambunctious, she should be reminded to sit, or given a new behavior to carry out. This is also another great time to give her a treat-filled toy that she can work on.

Eventually, have your son come over and practice these strategies with him. If his wife is a willing participant, she can work with Molly as well. Licking and jumping behaviors don’t go away over night, so please be patient and consistent, and praise Molly when she does well. Dogs really just want to please their people, but they need to know how—and with your love and leadership, Molly will become a perfectly well-behaved dog that can be trusted not to slobber on, or jump up on your new grandchild.

Best wishes to you.

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