Obsessive Licking Is Driving Me Crazy!!

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by laramie, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. laramie Experienced Member

    My Border Collie Fairley licks people obsessively. It's driving everyone crazy and I don't know what to do. She'll walk by and lick someone's foot as she goes and she'll lick your hand if it's by your side. It's particularly annoying when she does it after I get out of the shower or when someone is cooking. I know it's not the smells or the food that causes her to do this because she'll lick as she walks by. She does it to everyone: strangers and people she knows. She is shy around new people and she'll lick when she first meets a person, and this is in a submissive way. But, I have no idea why she does this to people like my boyfriend and I, who she sees every day. It's not a submissive thing because I can recognize when she does it submissively, like with new people.

    She'll do it as she walks by and she'll just stand there and lick someone until they fuss at her to stop. I've tried everything from fussing and telling her no to telling her to "leave it" as well as redirecting her to a toy or leaving the room/ not paying attention to her. Nothing works.

  2. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Can you capture and click a nonlicking greeting? Reward and re-inforce that? Maybe even give a nonlicking greeting, or a cessation of licking, give this behavior a "name", so you can ask for it by name? You can even make up a word, just some sound, or some word like "quiet face" or "calm calm" or whatever words you pick out that mean "dont' be licking our hands".

    That is sort of how i treated my dog's barking. I gave a cue, and click/treated a moment of silence. Yeap, at first, it was only about 30 seconds of silence,:rolleyes:
    but, my dog quickly enough came to notice, "when i am not barking, i get prizes..hmm"
    It was not easy for him to not bark, but, with much time, and much encouragement, he did learn to stop barking on cue.
    I'm thinking the licking thing might be similar....?

    Overtime, (MUCH time) he could hold his bark (at whatever), for a several minutes!!!!:D then he could stop barking for quite a long long time,
    and overtime, Buddy was able to stop barking entirely when i gave him cue "shhh!"
    Pretty good advancing along, right? from his original 30 seconds of silence til he resumed barking...:ROFLMAO:

    and overtime Buddy reduced his overall barkiness quite a bit,
    by having even a few moments of NONbarking rewarded. You would have probably shook your head to see the teensy bit of time he was silent, that Buddy got rewards for.

    DOGS TENDS TO BE VERY VERY KEEN at noticing egggggggzactly what they are doing when they get the CLICK/TREAT. Lolz, many of us here have commented, how one wrong click and a dog then always adds in whatever he was doing at the time. dogs DO pay close close attention to eggggggzactly what they are doing to earn a click.

    I bet, you could get Fairly to notice, that she is being rewarded for NOT licking. or for stopping licking. I bet you could.

    Curing this licking issue, might be the same as how many of us treat barking....who knows?
    Just rewarding even a few seconds of stopping licking, and then, overtime, Fairly will be able to stop lickiing for a whole minute, then 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, and so on,
    with final result being that Fairly can stop licking on cue,
    and also become overall less prone to licking in general.

    but, i bet, this is not the "quick fix" you were probably hoping for.....? But it is not hard to do. Just takes a lil time and patience, but not what i'd call "difficult".
    still----------Many ppl prefer some instant method to curb behaviors in dogs,
    and maybe there is some way to do that, maybe someone knows some super-fast quickie instant method to stop an unwanted behavior????????

    OR, Maybe this quickie, 5 minute long kikopup video might have some idea you can use?

  3. laramie Experienced Member

    Your method seems like it would work, but I think her licking is rewarding enough for her (should I leave the room or something similar when she starts licking?) She will just stand there and lick all day, so how do I get her to stop long enough to treat her? I'm also not sure if she'll understand that she's getting rewarded for not licking because the non-licks are so few and far between.
  4. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Yes, i hear you on that one, Laramie, it is the same for barking, VERRRRRRy self rewarding.
    I gave cue "shhhhh!" which startled my dog into a few second lapse in barking. I rewarded that heavily, rubbing his back, calmly praising him.

    sure, he resumed barking. I repeated my cue, again, a momentary super-brief lapse in his barking. Nothing you'd be impressed about, it really was only a few seconds when i first started.

    During this training time, i also monitored Buddy like a hawk, to intervene on all bark-a-thons, cuz,
    just like you say, it is SELF REWARDING......:ROFLMAO:

    so i guesss, it might be the same for you, as well, maybe you'd also have to work towards preventing all "lick-a-thons".:ROFLMAO: ....I'd think, removing your hands or covering up feet,
    *might* work,
    while at the same time, maybe offering your dog some yawns, slow blinks and deep sloooow sighs, (calming signals)while your hands are safely under your arms or whatever.

    As soon as your dog turns away, or stops licking but now is just hanging around, CLICK/TREAT,
    Using volunteers who hide their hands when the dog licks them, so you can focus on the training aspect, might be an option, too.

    I'm not 100% sure on how to intervene on the licking other than hide your hands...(?) With Buddy's barking, i just gave his verbal cue and hand signal for cease barking....got a brief brief lapse, and rewarded that lapse.....

    I hope someone else comes by, who might know more about your best option to interrupt the licking. Does raising your hand away help? Or putting your hands into your underarms?
    Or maybe that kikopup video is how to interupt a licking dog. I am not sure about best way to interrupt that licking............
  5. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Laramie, the more i picture, you using volunteers,
    the more i like that idea.
    It'd be hard to click/treat when YOU are the one hiding your hands!!!:ROFLMAO:

    Have volunteer hang her hands down by Fairly, so Fairly will be tempted to lick on the volunteer's hands, have volunteer then say your verbal cue, "quietface" or whatever,
    and she hides her hands under her arms,
    and YOU step in to CLICK/TREAT that moment of no licking,
    might be a good way to start.

    Keep praising Fairly, "good quietface, good quietface", speed feeding yummy treats, (or whatever is high value reward to Fairly)
    and then have volunteer lower her hands down again.

    soon as Fairly licks at hands,
    the volunteer says "quietface" (or whatever sound you pick) and hides her hands again. You do the clicker and treats.

    the moment, when someday, the volunteer lowers her hands down, and Fairly does NOT lick the hands, JACKPOT! PARTY IN THE MOUTH, big prizes. This is not easy for Fairly, so make it worth it to Fairly, really give a jackpot.

    seems like it might work, seems like Fairly could catch on. If Fairly's licking, is anything as irresistible as Buddy's barking was, it will take Fairly a lot of times, maybe even weeks,
    to be able to develop the self control to stop licking.

    Fairly may even need lil 'refresher courses" off and on, to keep this overwhelming urge for her to lick, turned to "off".

    but, i bet you can do it, Laramie, i bet you can do this. Might take some time, but i bet you can do this.
  6. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Ditto everything that's been said.
    If there are very few times that she's not licking obsessively, or these moments are incredibly short and you have trouble capturing them, I think leaving the room entirely might be a good idea. Every time she licks, you(or anyone else) immediately gets up and goes to a different room and closes the door. Same as you would with some other behaviors, like jumping, etc. When you lick, you get to be all by yourself. This might make her non-licking time a little more frequent so it'd be a little easier for you to capture and reward.
  7. laramie Experienced Member

    Tigerlily, I never thought about being the one rewarding when she doesn't lick another person. Your plan might just work. :X3: But, there's a problem. We've taken our hands away, but she'll just lick our pants, feet, etc. She doesn't seem to care what she licks. Also, I've tried leaving the room or ignoring her and she, very quickly, finds something else to do and doesn't seem to understand why I've left the room.
  8. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    i wonder, i wonder, if your dog might be respond to the cue, "shhhhh".
    My dog did, the noise surprised him, caused him to stop barking for maybe 3 seconds. I jumped in there, and CLICK/TREAT that itty bitty teeny tiny lapse....speed fed him treats, massaged his back, explained to him in calm voice how marvelous he is when he stops barking.....

    sure, sure, he resumed barking away, sure he did.........."shhhhhhh" dog: "wha? what was that noise?" and itty bitty teeny tiny lapse in the barking......partially just out of confusion at my odd noise.
    again, CLICK/TREAT, treat, treat, treat, treat, "It is so marvelous when you stop barking, i mean when you stop all that licking everyone, gooood boy, yessssss! good boy!".....treat,treat,treat,treat,.....just calmly slowly calmly telling the dog how great he is.......

    Maybe throwing treats slightly AWAY from your "Fairly Lab" area.;) where you and volunteer are sitting.

    Yes, yes, my dog started right back up barking, :rolleyes:
    bark! bark!bark!bark!
    "shhhhhhh".........dog: "wha? what is that funny noise?" CLICK/TREAT, speed feeding treats.
    "good boy, you are doing so good, good boy!" and so on and so on.

    I suppose, in part, i was in fact, interrupting the barking wiht my funny noise. Well, my dog found it funny/odd.

    sure, sure, absolutely, it will take more than one lesson, and maybe more than one week,
    til you can even get a solid minute, well, it took me several lessons to get Buddy to stop barking for an entire minute.

    Like i said, those first few clicks, Laramie, you would have busted out laffin at the itty bitty tiny teeny moment of NOT barking, that my dog got a party for.:ROFLMAO:
    It worked, for my dog anyway.

    This took more than one day, in truth, you'll have to work on this every day. For a week or two, maybe even longer. BUT-----------you WILL begin to spot, that Fairly IS catching on. On this cue, it's not like sit, or rollover,
    where you just wait til dog understands what you want.
    This cue is wayyyyyyyy more challenging, cuz even after Buddy "got it", even after Buddy did understand the concept,
    i had to help guide Buddy til he developed enough self control,
    enough motivation,
    to stop barking....took a while.
    but, it worked.

    It's worth a try. If after two weeks, you do NOT see any glimmer that Fairly IS "getting it", well, then, and if you do NOT see that Fairly is beginning to pause a lil longer til she resumes licking,
    well then, i don't know. Hopefully, someone else will be by with a better, faster idea.

    If no better idea comes by, I still think, two weeks of daily lessons with the clicker is worth a try. What have you got to lose...

    When you say, "she'll just lick again, or somewhere else" i completely believe you.
    When you tired of the lessons, then either leave the room/take a break/put her outside for some air, give her a "puzzle" to work on, hide things for her track down, take a shower to relax, read a book, whatever. Take her on walks and walks, wear her out. Throw balls, whatever tires out your dog.

    AGain, you are only looking for a second or two in those first "CLICK/TREAT" moments. Not an entire cessation of this behavior, just a crack in the wall.........

    it's worth a shot.
    If it is not better, not an iota of improvement after two weeks, then, we'll have to find someone who can give you a better idea, try something else.

    But, until you at least TRY it, to see if you can even spot a teeny tiny glimmer, that you are helping Fairly learn a better way, well, i guess you won't know til then. No harm in giving it a shot, interrupting and rewarding all nonlicking behaviors.
    Really won't even matter what she is doing, at first, if she is not licking anything, that's all you care about, for even a second or two.
    next week, maybe you can clock 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 5 minutes, 10 minutes....slowly you WIN.:D

    If this doesn't work,
    if no better faster ideas come along,
    then Maybe even ask your vet about this.....some compulsive behaviors, like tail chasing and the like, have neurobiological origins. Still, the clicker might be your best first line of treatment.

    I feel bad for you, but, i think you can try it. Might take a while to get hang of it, you will have to muster up all your inner maturity and calm to not feel like quitting. Pretend you are making a video of how be calm, pleasant, patient and consistent with dogs as you work on this. Better yet, have someone video this, so you see if Fairly IS beginning to pause a bit longer before she resumes licking.
    Tell yourself whatever, mentally, so you don't get frustrated, or don't quit at first stumble. Whatever it takes, to get yourself ready for the challenge. Lol, the dog will be fine!!:ROFLMAO:

    But, it's worth a try. If it doesn't' work, it doesn't' work. Maybe get your mind stoked up and muster up your inner determination and calm, to just try some daily lessons for two weeks, watching for improvement.....Then you know if this method will work, or not.
    You will have only wasted two weeks.
    not that Fairly will be 100% cured in 2 weeks, but if this is going to work, seems like you should see some lil improvement,
    some lil pause
    til Fairl resumes the compulsive licking....if in two weeks you ARE getting some pauses, well, that will be VERY encouraging,
    and the improvement might even begin to skyrocket after that point.

    and yeah, i guess you will owe your volunteer, some big favor!!!!:ROFLMAO:

    but don't quit BEFORE you try.
  9. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Laramie,if you can teach Fairly this,
    you might be able to teach any dog anything! this will be HUGE if you can get one minute pause i Fairly's licking.........then two minute pause.........then 5 minute pause........you'll see.

    we'll throw you a "big party" on DTA if you an get a 10 minute pause in Fairly's compulsive licking there. well, okay, "big party" online....i guess it means some posts in all caps in the shoutbox!!:ROFLMAO:
  10. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    in this video, the trainer is sort of solidifying the behavior, by placing her hands where the pup can be tempted to bite or lick her hands, and then she quickly CLICK/TREAT the pup doing nothing, no bite and no licking.

    laramie, i kind of think, for Fairly, maybe don't be doing too much testing of your particular dog too too soon, maybe save that for a lil while later on.....

  11. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    at the same time,
    maybe you ought to also begin training "go to your mat"
    to have another behavior for Fairly to do, when you need a break...give Fairly stuff she likes onher mat, puzzles, toys, chewbones, whatever, so that Fairly sees mat AS GOOD THING.

    You want to avoid ever conveying to Fairly, that she is going to her mat as a punishment...cuz then Fairly will hate that mat. Get Fairly to think her being on the mat is just the greatest thing ever, and that you are so proud and stoked about Fairly going to and staying on her mat.

  12. sara Moderator

    I just wanted to commiserate with you. Mouse is OCD about licking... and very obstinant about it!!! It drives me nuts! but after 3 years of trying everything, I've learned to just block her. I keep a book handy, and just block her when she licks me. I'm lucky though, she only licks faces and hands.
  13. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Yeah, Sara, like i said above, there are a lot of experts that think compulsive behaviors are neurobiologically driven, like continuous tail chasing, etc, so that's why i said maybe she should mention this to her vet. I'm not big on drugging dogs at all, though, and i'd still at least *try* clicker training anyway. But i didn't want to give her idea it was hopeless.
    Even neurobiologically driven behaviors can often be helped with clickers!!!!!!!!:D
  14. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    i hope she tries.

    worst that would happen, is,
    she'd waste two weeks...
    but, it's been going on for months, so seems there's nothing to lose by attempting to clicker train Fairly to stop licking on cue. Nothing to lose, it seems like.
  15. laramie Experienced Member

    I've been working with her for a few days and she seems to be improving. I haven't been using the clicker because we just moved and I can't find any of my clickers at the moment, :X3: but she's doing well with what I have right now. However, she does seem to listen and respond to me more than anyone else, so working with someone else is the problem. I'm using your command Tigerlily. The command "quietface" just made me giggle:giggle:, but I don't think I'm doing it quite right. I say "quietface" slowly and when she doesn't lick I reward. Is this right or am I missing something?

    She just met two new people and she's doing really well about not being nearly as shy (y), but she can't resist licking them. I've heard of breeds, especially Border Collies of having OCD, so I will mention this to her vet when we go. I've tried "shh" or a noise to get her attention, but it's not working. I'm kind of considering a can of air (like you clean your keyboard with) to get her attention. I won't spray her in the face or anything, but the noise might work better than a word/noise that I make.

    I'm not sure about the "go to your mat" because she cannot sit still for any amount of time. She knows the command for her to go to her crate and she doesn't seem to mind being in it, but she thinks she can just come right back out instead of staying there, bringing whatever toy I've left for her. And she's never sent to her crate for punishment, so you don't have to worry about that :D. Toys also do nothing because she wants you to play with her and the toy. Even if it's a chew toy like a Nylabone, she wants you to hold it for her while she chews it. :confused: I'm not trying to shoot down any ideas, because they are all extremely helpful, but I have an odd little doggie.

    As far as when we have guests, I wonder if having her on a leash and making her wait until she's calm to greet them might help. If she does lick, I could just remove her from the room and try again. Just thought I would run this by anyone reading, just in case I might cause her to develop another problem I hadn't thought of. Don't know if I could handle that. :D

    Sara, unfortunately Fairley will lick absolutely anything. If I blocked her, no doubt she would be just as happy licking whatever I've stuck in her face. The thing is, I remember when she didn't lick obsessively and I don't know what caused it to start. If nothing else, she grew into it, so she might grow out of it. But, if I do really want to be a dog trainer (and I do), I'll need to be able to work on things like this.
  16. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I agree with removing her if she can't visit guests without licking. Even if just for 20 seconds or a minute or so(depending on what she needs).

    You could replace this behavior too, just a thought. I do think that using capturing like you're doing now will work, in time. I really do. But, just another idea that just came to mind, you could come up with another behavior that she can replace it with that isn't as annoying. For instance, if you taught her to lay her head down between her paws, and literally every time she starts to lick you give her that cue, over time she may replace the licking with laying her head down. I've heard several people that have done things like this and the dog ends up replacing the behavior with a more normal, acceptable behavior that is typically far less rewarding so it either goes away entirely or they have a more acceptable obsession.
    So you could replace it with either a head down cue, or a touch paw cue(nose touch paw), or a head cock, or turn away from you and lay down("Away" or something else), or a paw stomp, or a variety of other random behaviors. Actually you could also teach her to "go away" and give her this cue every time she licks. Mud knows this. It doesn't mean she's in trouble, just means I don't want to play right now so go play on your own. Super easy to teach, you start out by just tossing a treat away from you and gradually increase the distance.

    Anyway just trying to think of other ideas too. :) Glad she's improving!
  17. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    LOLZ, you are using "quietface"! hee hee!
    Like i said, any ol word or sound will do, i just threw that one in there to use as an example.:ROFLMAO:
    I agree with Tx, too.
    STILL, the fact that in only a few days, Laramie, you are able to detect a small improvement, is SOooooo ENCOURAGING! THERE IS HOPE!
    Yeap, it might take some tweaking along the way, but, in only a few days, to get even a lil improvement means there is hope!
    //"but I don't think I'm doing it quite right. I say "quietface" slowly and when she doesn't lick I reward. Is this right or am I missing something?"//

    That sounds right to me!
    You can also use an ink pen for a clicker, too. I really think the click-noise helps a dog identify, this IS a cue, there IS 'something' being trained here.

    "Go to your mat" has to taught, like a cue, like any other cue, and that Kikopup video has tips on how to do that. But, if your dog likes his crate, that works, too.

    Or, like Tx says, teach some other cue for Fairly to do instead, or the "away!' cue, too.

    or, Laramie, your idea to remove Fairly is okay, too.
    My dog got that idea really fast, if i removed him for growling, for 20 seconds (that is a long time to a dog).
    We call it the "Bathroom Trick". It's done calmly, and silently, removing Buddy to the bathroom, each and every time he growled, close the door, for 20 seconds,
    and then return him back into the room.
    Soon as he did the unwanted behavior again, he is led by his leash, calmly and silently,
    back into the bathroom for 20 seconds, and returned again,
    over and over and over....
    until Buddy could finally be in the room, without doing his unwanted behavior.

    The first time i did this, i barely got to visit with my friends, i spent the bulk of the day taking Buddy to bathroom, (well, buddy got to take breaks, and go outside and chill too..)
    but after that first day of using it, after that then each time i used it, Buddy "got it" easier and faster,
    but that FIRST time, wow, took all day long...for *my* dog.

    Maybe a combo of both, "quietface" and the bathroom trick, and having Fairly do other cues will help Fairly learn a new way to be.
  18. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    //". The thing is, I remember when she didn't lick obsessively and I don't know what caused it to start. "//
    I think this is probably a neurobiologically driven compulsion, which often manifest when the dog approaches maturity. These things don't show up in puppies. (for anyone else reading along, yet another reason to adopt adult dogs instead of puppies)

    The vet may offer you drugs for this,
    but, since you ARE making progress with a clicker, try to avoid using drugs. All drugs have side effects. All of them.

    This "stop licking" is far far more difficult to train than say, agility or tricks or flyball.
    Laramie, if you can train your Fairly to stop compulsive licking, you should feel so proud and happy. THIS is a big one, a really big challenge to train,
    and the fact that in only a few days, you are already making progress, WOW!!! and wow!

    do keep us posted!
  19. laramie Experienced Member

    I've been working again today and I noticed that she licks really bad when someone comes home, when I praise her excitedly, and when she wants attention. I also had the same plan for visitors as you described, Tigerlily. :)

    Cowgirl, I always tell her to go away :D, and she does, but she comes right back. Any tips for getting her to stay away for longer periods of time instead of distance? Also giving another command might work; I've never even considered that as an option.
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  20. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I was trying to think about this last night, and the only thing I've come up with so far is shaping a longer "away" time by rewarding longer away times or repeating the cue as soon as she gets back so that eventually her away time is longer. She should start to realize that I don't want you to come right back, so she might stay away a bit longer and then come back, then you would jackpot the first time and treat the next couple times. And if it's still not as long as you'd like, stop treating and repeat the command again until eventually her away time is fairly long.

    Or, you could teach her that "away" means to go away and lie down across the room.

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