13 Surprising Reasons Why Dogs Lick the Air & What to Do About It

 Dogs Licking Air Reasons

   Dogs licking the air can be driven by a variety of stimuli, ranging from natural instinctual behavior to learned behaviors and medical issues. In order to delve deeper into this fascinating and complex behavior, it is necessary to examine the 13 main reasons that dogs engage in air licking.

        1- Smelling: 

   The canine olfactory system is unparalleled, in part due to the presence of the vomeronasal organ, also known as the Jacobson organ. This specialized organ is equipped with receptors that are specifically attuned to the detection of pheromones, chemical cues, and odors. The Flehmen response, a behavior in which dogs and certain other animals curl their upper lips and open their mouths, serves to expose the receptors of the vomeronasal organ to their environment. Furthermore, this act of licking the air serves to direct a higher concentration of air-borne scent particles towards the vomeronasal organ's receptors, further enhancing their ability to detect scents.

          2- Anticipation of Food: 

    The primal drive to find and consume food is a fundamental aspect of a dog's biology, and it is this instinctual behavior that often motivates dogs to begin licking the air when they are hungry or expecting food. This behavior is a manifestation of the dog's innate hunger drive, and it is often accompanied by other signs of excitement, such as increased tail wagging, whining, or a heightened state of alertness.

   Hunger and the anticipation of a reward are powerful motivators for dogs, and this behavior is a clear indication of the dog's intense focus and drive to obtain food. It is important to understand that this behavior is not only driven by the dog's instinctual needs, but also by the dog's individual personality and past experiences. Some dogs may be more driven to find food than others, while others may have developed specific associations with food through repeated positive experiences.

   As dog owners and caretakers, it is important to understand the motivations behind our dogs' behavior and to respond appropriately. By providing our dogs with nutritious, well-balanced meals, and by engaging in regular interactive play and training sessions, we can help to support their overall physical and mental well-being. Additionally, by observing and understanding our dogs' behavior, we can identify any potential health concerns and take steps to address them in a timely and effective manner.

           3- Canine Mimic Behavior

   The behavior of dogs licking the air in response to being scratched in areas they cannot reach is a form of mimicry, where the dog is attempting to imitate a physical action it associates with pleasure or relief. This phenomenon is not limited to air licking and can also be seen in other physical movements, such as the rapid movement of a hind leg when certain parts of a dog's belly are scratched. This imitation of a scratching motion is a response to the pleasurable sensation of being scratched and is a demonstration of the dog's innate ability to learn and respond to physical stimuli.

   Mimicry in dogs is a complex behavior that can be influenced by a multitude of factors, such as the dog's individual personality, past experiences, and environment. Understanding the motivations behind this behavior requires careful observation and analysis of the context in which it occurs. By gaining a deeper understanding of the complex behavior of dogs, we can provide them with the best possible care and support.

             4- Cutaneous Discomfort

    Dogs that experience cutaneous discomfort often resort to air licking as a means of mimicking the act of scratching affected areas. This behavior is typically a sign that your dog is experiencing skin irritation. If you observe your dog engaging in air licking and also notice signs of skin irritation or excessive scratching, it is recommended that you seek veterinary care. A thorough examination by a veterinarian can uncover the underlying cause of the skin irritation and provide recommendations for effective treatment.

            5- Submissive behavior

   In certain social situations where a more dominant dog is present, the act of air licking and self-licking of the lips has been observed as a submissive display behavior in dogs. This behavior is a demonstration of the dog's meek demeanor and serves as a non-threatening signal to other dogs indicating their disinterest in competition or conflict. The act of air licking and lip licking serves as a means of expressing their pacific nature and conveying their submission to the dominant individual. This display is an important aspect of canine communication and helps to maintain social order and stability within their social group.


             6- Anxiety or stress

    The act of air licking and self-licking of the lips is often seen as a self-soothing behavior in animals that are experiencing stress or anxiety, particularly in instances when they are subjected to sudden changes in their environment. This behavior is thought to serve as a coping mechanism that helps the animal manage their discomfort and emotional state. It can be viewed as a means of providing comfort and a sense of security during stressful situations. By licking the air and their lips, animals are able to engage their olfactory system, which can have a calming effect, and distract themselves from the source of their stress. This behavior is commonly seen in a variety of species and is a natural response to stressful or unfamiliar situations.

               7- Aberrant behavior

    Stress-induced behaviors, if left unaddressed, have the potential to escalate into problematic and repetitive compulsive behaviors. Air licking is one example of such an aberrant behavior, which is characterized by excessive repetition beyond what would be considered a normal reaction to a given stimulus in the environment. This type of behavior often arises as a result of prolonged or chronic stress and anxiety, and can be difficult to remediate without the assistance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. A comprehensive assessment of the individual case and environment is necessary in order to effectively address this type of problem. Consistency and a well-structured plan of action are critical in resolving aberrant behaviors. A trained professional will be able to develop a personalized plan to help your dog overcome their compulsive behavior and promote a healthier and happier state of mind.



    Dogs may exhibit air licking as a manifestation of discomfort and nausea, often preceding the act of vomiting. This behavior can be indicative of a range of conditions, from a simple digestive upset to more complex underlying health issues. Endocrine diseases, such as adrenal gland disorders such as Addison's disease and Cushing's syndrome, can disrupt electrolyte balance and lead to feelings of nausea. An accurate diagnosis requires a thorough examination by a veterinarian, including the analysis of multiple blood samples, to determine the root cause of the dog's symptoms. The veterinarian will be able to determine if further tests are necessary, such as after administering specific substances, to gain a full understanding of the dog's condition. With the right diagnosis and appropriate treatment, many health issues causing nausea and air licking in dogs can be effectively managed.

         9- A foreign object in the mouth

   Dogs resort to air licking as a manifestation of discomfort or pain resulting from a foreign object being present in the oral cavity. This could be a small piece of food lodged between the teeth or a larger foreign body that may have been ingested and cannot be removed by the dog's tongue. It is important to take note of sudden air licking behavior and to perform a thorough visual examination of the dog's mouth to determine the presence of any foreign object. If the object cannot be easily removed, a visit to the veterinarian is recommended for further evaluation and removal. The veterinarian may opt for more detailed examination procedures, including x-rays and endoscopy, to determine the exact location and size of the foreign object and plan the best course of action.

             10.Injury or trauma

   Dogs have an innate instinct to self-soothe and protect their bodies from further harm when they experience pain or discomfort. As such, it is not uncommon for dogs to engage in air licking when they have sustained small injuries to their nose, face, or mouth. This behavior may be accompanied by other signs such as rubbing the affected area, indicating that the dog is trying to alleviate the pain.

   It is crucial to visually inspect your dog to determine the source of discomfort. If the injury appears significant, infected, or persistent, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary. The veterinarian will assess the injury and determine the best course of action, which may include antibiotics, pain management, or even surgical intervention if necessary.

   It is important to keep in mind that small injuries, if left untreated, can lead to more serious problems down the line. By observing and addressing your dog's behavior, you can help ensure its health and well-being.

         11-Dental disease or tooth pain

   As proud pet owners, it's important to be aware of the various health issues that our beloved furry companions can face. One such issue is dental health, and more specifically, the symptoms of a tooth-related infection or pain.

   An often overlooked indicator of such dental issues is air licking. This behavior can signify a range of problems, from a loose tooth to more serious conditions like periodontal disease. 

Regular teeth cleaning and visits to the veterinary dentist are crucial in preventing the accumulation of bacteria and formation of plaque, which can lead to painful infections.

   If you notice that your dog is exhibiting other signs of oral or tooth infections, such as halitosis, drooling, or difficulty chewing, it's essential to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. The risk of a root abscess and the spread of oral bacteria to vital organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys can have serious health consequences. Your veterinarian can conduct an oral examination and provide guidance on treatment, which may include referral to a specialized veterinary dentist.

            12- Gastrointestinal issues

   As pet owners, it's important to be aware of the various health issues that our furry companions can experience, including gastrointestinal problems. One common symptom of such issues is excessive air licking, which can signal a range of underlying pathologies, including irritable bowel syndrome, the presence of foreign objects in the stomach, and various other gastrointestinal conditions, such as pancreatitis and giardiasis.

   Other warning signs of gastrointestinal problems in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, bloating or excessive flatulence, and a decreased appetite. To properly diagnose and treat these issues, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian, who will conduct a comprehensive examination, including the collection of blood and fecal samples, and in some cases, the use of diagnostic imaging tests such as ultrasounds and X-rays.

   It's important to be vigilant and act quickly if you suspect that your dog is experiencing gastrointestinal problems, as these issues can impact their overall health and well-being. By working closely with your veterinarian, you can ensure that your pet receives the best possible care and treatment.

           13.Neurological conditions

    Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, a debilitating affliction that affects dogs as they age, is characterized by the progressive death of brain cells, leading to brain atrophy. This condition can manifest in a variety of symptoms, one of which is the development of repetitive behaviors such as air licking, chewing, or excessive licking. 

It's important to note that these behaviors can be indicative of the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction and should not be ignored. If you observe your senior dog engaging in repetitive air licking, it is highly recommended to seek the advice of a licensed veterinarian who can evaluate your pet and provide you with a diagnosis and treatment plan. Early detection and management of canine cognitive dysfunction can greatly improve the quality of life for affected dogs and help them maintain their mental faculties for as long as possible.

What to Do If You Notice Your Dog Is Licking Air?

   If you're a pet owner, it's important to be aware of your dog's behavior and any changes that may occur. One behavior that may cause concern is air licking. Before jumping to any conclusions, it's crucial to determine if the air licking is a normal behavioral response. For example, air licking may be a sporadic occurrence in response to environmental or social stimuli, such as food anticipation or submissive behavior.

   If, however, the air licking behavior is new and occurs with abnormal frequency and duration, it's important to take a closer look. Begin by examining your dog's mouth for any foreign objects or small injuries that could be causing discomfort. If you do find an object or injury, removing it or ensuring proper healing should stop the air licking behavior.

   If there is no apparent physical cause, it's time to visit the veterinarian for a thorough examination. To help diagnose the cause, consider recording videos of the air licking behavior to show the vet or behaviorist. The vet may rule out any medical issues but if the air licking persists, a dog trainer can provide advice on the best ways to handle the situation.

In any case, it's important to stay vigilant and observe your dog's behavior. By taking prompt action and seeking the help of a veterinarian or dog trainer, you can help your furry friend live a happy, healthy life.

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