Dogs have many strange behaviors. Guessing their motivation can feel like playing a challenging game of clue. It requires some observation and detective work, but it can help you gain a deeper understanding of your dog. 

Why does my dog lick his collar or harness?

Some dogs seem utterly fascinated by their collar. They will bend themselves into awkward positions just to get reach it. But what causes the interest in their collar? Why do they want to lick it? 

Your Dog is a Licker

Some dogs are more prone to licking than others. If your dog seems to lick everything or is obsessed with giving doggie kisses, they may just be a licker. If the behavior is obsessive or excessive, you’ll need to visit the vet to rule out a medical cause. Dogs can develop compulsive behaviors, including licking, that interfere with their ability to enjoy life. If your dog just seems to enjoy licking, it’s likely part of its personality. 

Trying to Remove It

If your dog doesn’t like wearing a collar, they may be licking in an attempt to try to remove it. They may bite the collar as well. There are several reasons your dog might not like its collar. The most obvious reason is that a collar is a tool and symbol of restriction. If your dogs attempts to run after a squirrel, their collar (and the attached leash), will prevent them from doing so. 

If your dog struggles against the collar frequently, the discomfort will make them like the collar less. Dogs remember associations. If your dog associates the collar with positive things, like walks, they are more likely to like it. If they associate it with restriction, confinement, or discomfort, they are more likely to attempt to remove the collar. 

They may also lick the collar if it’s too tight. The general rule is that you should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck. Of course, human fingers vary greatly in size, so use this as a general rule of thumb. 

Boredom

One of the reasons dogs lick is out of boredom. Dogs need physical and mental stimulation or they will get bored, just like a person will. If the collar or harness is within reach, they may lick it simply because it’s there. 

A Challenge

Some dogs just like a challenge. They may slip their collar or leash. They will climb or crawl into areas you never thought they could go. They seem attracted to anything that is difficult for them to get, and never back down from attempting it. For these dogs, a collar just out of reach might be a game of “can I lick it”. 

Likes the taste or texture of the material

Dogs use their mouths and noses to experience the world around them. They sometimes put things in their mouth for the same reason we touch objects with our hand. To learn more about it. Dogs also enjoy chewing, and most dogs have preferences for certain materials. 

Some dogs love chewing cloth, leather, or rawhide. Others enjoy chewing on metal or even plastic. Your dog may be licking its collar because it enjoys the taste or texture of the material the collar is made from. 

Why does my dog lick his collar when I take it off?

Most dogs seem excited when they remove their collar. Maybe it is like a person removing their shoes. Removing it allows you to get more comfortable, and it is a signal it’s time to relax. But why does your dog lick its collar when you take it off? 

Smells Like Them

Dogs have very sensitive noses. In fact, scent is a means of communication for them. This is why they mark their territory and paw the ground to leave their scent “calling card”. They are well aware of their own smell. Because the collar is worn close to their body, it smells like them.

When it’s taken off, it can seem like a part of their body has been removed. Imagine someone walking up to you and removing your arm without causing you any pain. It would be an incredibly strange experience. This is how removing the collar can seem to a dog. They may lick it as a way to explore it and understand what it is. 

Unfamiliar

If the collar is unfamiliar to them, they may also lick it as a means to learn more about it. If it’s rare that the collar is taken off, your dog might be curious when they see it, because they don’t really notice it when it’s on. Imagine wearing a necklace and not having a mirror to look into. You would have little interaction or understanding of it. 

Positive Association 

Your dog might be licking the collar because they have a positive association with it. If the collar means they get to go for walks or on a trip, they may lick the collar out of affection for it. To them, the collar signals that something fun is about to happen. What’s not to love. 

Affection 

One reason dogs lick is to show affection. It’s common for a dog to lick their owner as a way of saying “I love you”. If you are holding the collar, the dog may actually intend to lick you. The collar just happens to be there, so it gets the licks. If your dog only licks the collar when you are holding it or it’s near you, it could want to lick you instead. 

Smells like Owner

Your dog could be licking the collar because it has your smell on it. It’s a way of showing affection for you. You may also find your dog licking your clothing or purse. It loves you, so it loves your smell as well. 

Anxious

Licking can also be a comfort mechanism. When your dog licks, it releases endorphins which help your dog feel better. Some dogs get anxious when their collar is removed. This could be because it’s used to wearing the collar. If you’ve ever removed a piece of jewelry you wear every day, you probably noticed its absence. It might have felt weird to be without it. A dog can experience the same feeling when its collar is removed. 

Your dog might also be anxious about having its collar removed because of negative associations. Do they get a bath when the collar is taken off? Does it mean it’s time to settle in for the evening? Does it signal the end of walking or playtime? Any of these things can cause your dog to develop a negative association. They know when the collar is removed, something they don’t like happens. This can make them anxious when the collar is removed, which causes them to lick it. 

What should I do about my dog licking his collar?

If your dog is occasionally licking its collar, this isn’t a big concern. If they seem obsessed with licking their collar or they also bite it, it becomes a problem. Of course, you may simply find the behavior unpleasant and want to get your dog to stop. There are a few ways to get your dog to stop licking its collar, depending on the reason for the licking. 

Anxiety

If you suspect anxiety is the reason for your dog licking its collar, start by trying to pinpoint the cause. Has there been a change in routine, a move, or a new family member recently? Have you gotten a new pet? Do you notice a particular activity or time of day that seems to trigger the anxiety? 

If the anxiety is negatively affecting your furry friend, a trip to the vet is in order. They will rule out any medical cause for the anxiety. They can also write a prescription for anxiety medication if needed. 

Boredom

Is your dog licking its collar out of boredom? Some dogs require more stimulation than others, so you’ll need to learn your dog’s requirements. If you aren’t doing daily walks, that’s a good start. If you are, consider changing the route or going for longer walks. Playing with your dog can help as well. Puzzle toys are a great way to keep your dog entertained when you can’t provide attention. 

Change Material

If your dog seems to enjoy licking the collar because of the material it’s made from, try purchasing a different type of collar. Leather and cloth are both good options. You can also find collars made from rope. Changing the material might remove your dog’s desire to lick the collar. 

Check the Fit

Check the fit of your dog’s collar. If it’s too loose, it’s essentially an invitation for them to lick or chew on it simply because it’s available. Keep in mind the two-finger rule as a general guideline. You may also find a harness more effective and comfortable for your dog. 

Put the Collar Away 

When the collar comes off your dog, it should be put away immediately. Leaving it within the dog’s reach gives the opportunity for the dog to develop a fixation, which will lead it to keep licking the collar. Out of sight and out of mind, or at least out of licking range. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.