Why Do Dogs Lick Bed Sheets?

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Do you ever wonder why your dog licks your bed sheets?

This common behavior has several different reasons behind it. These reasons vary from liking the taste of it to one of several medical issues.

They may also be trying to mark their territory or show their affection for you.

Whatever the reason, it’s definitely an interesting quirk about dogs!

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Why does my dog lick my bed?

There are several possible reasons why dogs lick the bed.

It smells like you

The main reason dogs lick bed sheets is because it smells like you. It’s obvious that your bed smells like you when you spend all night sleeping in your bed.

While you sleep you are also sweating and shedding dead skin cells. These stay on your sheets when you get up and your dog is can smell that.

They then lick the sheets because they enjoy the smell of you and the salty taste of your sweat.

Sign of affection

Another common reason why dogs lick bed sheets is that they’re trying to show their affection for you.

Dogs are very intuitive creatures and they know that licking is a way to show love.

So, if your dog licks your bedsheets, it could be because they want to show you how much they care about you!

Crumbs on the bed

If you are a person that has the occasional snack in bed, you may have inadvertently left crumbs of food on the sheets.

With the keen sense of smell dogs have, they can easily smell any crumbs that may be there. They will then lick the bed trying to get those crumbs.

Even if you think you’ve cleaned up all the crumbs, there’s a good chance that your dog can still smell them.

Your dog is exploring their world

Just like young children, dogs explore their world by using their senses, including their sense of taste.

It’s possible that your dog is just trying to get familiar with your room and licked the bed as part of that.

This is especially the case if it just happens once or twice, or when something changes in your room.

The behavior was rewarded by accident

If you have ever scolded your dog for licking the bed, there’s a chance that they may have thought they were being praised.

This is because you likely gave them attention when they did it. Dogs love attention, even if it’s negative attention.

So, if you scold them and then give them any type of attention, they may see that as a reward for the behavior.

Marking their territory

Dogs have a strong sense of smell and they use this ability to mark their territory.

When they lick your bedsheets, they’re leaving their scent behind and claiming the space as their own.

Canine compulsive disorder

In some rare cases, licking bed sheets may be a sign of canine-compulsive disorder (CCD).

This is a condition where dogs perform repetitive behaviors, like obsessive licking, because they’re anxious or stressed. If you think your dog may have CCD, it’s important to talk to your vet.

Here is a list of compulsive behaviors from VCA Animal Hospitals:

  • acral lick dermatitis (a lesion from constant licking on their limbs)
  • flank sucking
  • pacing or circling
  • incessant or rhythmic barking
  • freezing and staring
  • excessive drinking
  • sucking, licking, or chewing on objects
  • other self-mutilation

This is not an all-inclusive list. If you think your dog may have CCD, it’s important to talk to your vet as soon as possible.

Separation anxiety

Another possible cause of licking bed sheets is separation anxiety. This is when a dog becomes anxious when they’re away from their owner.

It’s common in dogs that have been abandoned or removed from their mother too soon, but any dog can develop it.

If your dog has separation anxiety, they may lick the bedsheets as a way to cope with their anxiety.

Stress

Licking bed sheets may also be a sign of stress. Dogs can get stressed from changes in their environment, such as a move to a new home.

They may also get stressed from changes in their routine, such as a new baby or new pet in the house.

If you think your dog is stressed, it’s important to talk to your vet. They can help you identify the cause of the stress and come up with a plan to address it.

Boredom

Another possible reason for licking bed sheets is boredom. If your dog doesn’t have enough to do, they may start licking as a way to entertain themselves.

This is more likely to happen if you’ve been gone all day and they’re left alone.

Hunger

It’s also possible that your dog is licking the bed because they’re hungry. This is especially the case if a meal was missed.

If you are sure no meals have been missed, make sure you are feeding your dog enough. Your vet should be able to tell you how much your dog should be fed based on their weight and activity level.

Lack of nutrients

Another possible reason for licking bed sheets is a lack of nutrients.

This is likely the case if you feed low-quality food, your dog has a health condition causing malabsorption of nutrients, or you make your own food and don’t have a proper balance of nutrients.

Here are some other symptoms of poor nutrition according to Wag!

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive shedding
  • Flatulence 
  • Inconsistent or unusual bowel movements    
  • Obesity
  • Skin disorders
  • Weight loss or an inability to gain weight
  • Stunted growth

Mouth pain

Excessive licking could be a sign of dental problems like gingivitis, dental disease, or other mouth conditions. These conditions can cause pain in the mouth which can lead to your dog licking to try to ease the pain.

This type of licking may lead to licking the sheets but they are probably licking other items as well.

Nausea and upset stomach

Another possible reason for licking bed sheets is they have an upset stomach or nausea. Just like in people, nausea can cause an excessive amount of saliva to be produced.

Dogs will lick their lips or other items to try to deal with this excessive saliva.

If you think your dogs is licking your sheets due to nausea, watch to see if they also are licking their lips.

Also, keep track of when it happens in relation to when your dog eats and what they have been eating that day.

Allergies

Allergies are another possible reason for licking bed sheets. Dogs can be allergic to a variety of things, including food, pollen, and cleaning products.

If your dog is allergic to something, they may lick their lips or other items to try to relieve the itchiness.

As with other conditions, if you think your dog is licking due to allergies, watch for other signs of allergies, such as itching, and sneezing.

Pica

Pica is a condition where an animal, or human, eats non-food items. In dogs, this can also include licking non-food items.

Pica can be caused by a variety of things, including boredom, hunger, stress, and lack of nutrients.

If you think your dog has pica, it’s important to talk to your vet. They can help you determine the cause and come up with a plan to address it.

Medical reasons

Besides the specific health problems already listed, there are a number of other medical conditions that may cause dogs to lick excessively.

If you think your dog has a medical condition, either one listed above or something else, it’s best to talk to your vet.

Habit

It’s possible that your dog has simply developed a habit of licking bed sheets.

If they’ve been doing it for a while, it may be something they do without even thinking about it.

They just like to lick

Finally, it’s possible that your dog is licking your bed because they just like to lick. If your dog only occasionally licks the bed or other items, it could be that they just enjoy licking.

When Is Licking a Problem?

Generally, licking is only a problem if it’s excessive or if your dog is licking something that could be harmful. Occasional licking is normal behavior for dogs.

If you notice a change in your dog’s behavior around the time they started licking, then it may be a problem. Also, if your dog’s licking behavior, specifically, has changed, you need to start looking into why.

The first thing is to try to remember what happened the day your dog’s behavior changed. Were there any major changes? Second, pay attention to when your dog is licking. Is there something specific that happens around that same time?

By paying attention to when the licking started, and when it happens, you will be able to determine the cause, or at least narrow it down.

How to get your dog to stop licking the sheets

There are a few things that can be done to help get your dog to stop licking the sheets. Some of these will work better for some causes than others.

Leave it training

If your dog is licking the sheets out of habit, or because they enjoy it, you can try training them to “leave it.”

This is a basic obedience command that can be used for a variety of things.

To train your dog to “leave it,” put a treat in your hand and close your fist around it. Show your dog your fist and say “leave it.”

If they try to lick or nibble at your hand, turn away and ignore them. When they stop trying to get the treat, give them a different treat from your other hand and praise them.

Repeat this until they understand that “leave it” means not licking or nibbling your hand.

Then, put the “leave it” command to use by putting a treat on your bed and telling your dog to “leave it.”

When they leave the bed alone, give them a treat and praise them. Repeat this until they understand that they should “leave it” when you say so.

Give them something to chew on

If your dog is licking because they are bored, give them some chew toys. By giving them something you want them to chew, they may stop licking your sheets.

Give them a variety of chews to increase the likelihood that they will find one they like.

You can also get a monthly subscription, like Super Chewer, that has toys, including chew toys, sent to you every month.

Check their diet

If the licking is due to your dog’s diet, whether it’s hunger or lack of nutrients, you can try changing it.

Start with checking that you are feeding your dog the proper amount. If it’s been a while since they were weighed, get their weight checked.

Then ask the vet what the proper amount of food your dog should be given per day.

The other option is to try switching to a new diet for your dog. Try a higher-quality dog food than what you are already feeding them.

Don’t eat in bed

One way to stop your dog from licking the bed is to not eat in bed. If you don’t eat in bed, there won’t be any crumbs for your dog to lick up.

You will want to change your sheets as well, as they may hold onto the smell of any food you have already had in bed.

Once you have clean sheets on the bed and no longer eat in bed, your dog should stop licking the sheets unless it has now become a habit.

Give your dog regular exercise

If your dog is licking because they have too much energy, you can try giving them more exercise.

This may mean going for longer walks or runs, playing fetch more often, or even just letting them out in the backyard to run around for a while.

Also, playing brain games will help tire them out. Here are some indoor activities to do with your dog. There are several games here that provide mental stimulation for your dog.

Avoid negative reinforcement

If you have been scolding your dog or using any type of negative reinforcement when they lick the sheets, stop.

This will only make them more anxious and could cause them to start licking more.

Negative reinforcement will also make it harder to train your dog to “leave it.”

If you catch your dog licking the sheets, redirect their attention to something else. Then provide positive reinforcement for the redirection.

This will help teach them what you want them to do while hopefully reducing what you don’t want.

Limit your dog’s access to the bed

One of the best ways to get your dog to stop licking your bed is to limit their access to it.

This may mean crating them when you’re not home or only allowing them on the bed when you are there to supervise.

You can also try using a pet gate, or just shut the door, to block off the bedroom so they can’t get to the bed.

What if these options don’t work?

If you’ve tried all of these things and your dog’s licking habit hasn’t changed, it’s time to consult your veterinarian.

They can check for any underlying medical conditions that could be causing the licking.

They may also refer you to a veterinary behaviorist or animal behaviorist who can help you figure out why your dog is licking the bed and how to stop it.

Final Thoughts

It’s completely normal for dogs to lick your bed sheets occasionally. If it happens often, it could be a sign that something is going on. It could be as simple as they like the taste or are bored to something you need to see the vet about.

No matter the reason, there are several things you can do to stop the behavior. Preventing your dog from getting to your bed will be the fastest fix, especially if you can just shut the door. It doesn’t do anything for the cause, so your dog may turn to lick something else.

Fixing the cause will limit the behavior, or eliminate it, though it may take a few days to months. Hopefully, you will be able to figure out what is causing your dog to lick your bed and get the issue fixed so that both you and your dog will be happier.

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