Dogs do many things that we owners find strange. They chase their tails. They hide treats in the couch. Some dogs lick lotion off their owners, which leaves them wondering why. If you’ve ever got a bit of lotion in your mouth, you know the taste isn’t pleasant. So why does your dog enjoy it?
Why does my dog lick me when I put lotion on?
You just got out of the shower and applied your favorite lotion. Now your dog is licking you like removing it is its purpose in life. What is going on?
Enjoys the Taste
Some dogs enjoy the taste of lotion. Many lotions are sweet, which is a taste dogs love. This is why antifreeze used to be such a danger to dogs. Its sweetness enticed dogs, who had no awareness that it was dangerous.
Some lotions are made with real ingredients like almond, coconut, or avocado oil. Flavoring the lotion is not the intention, but it’s bound to impact the way it tastes, particularly for a dog’s sensitive palate. These flavors may be appealing to some dogs as well.
Enjoys the Smell
Just as your dog might enjoy the taste, they may enjoy the smell. Some lotions smell suspiciously like food. Have you ever smelled lotion and said, “I want to eat it?”. Humans know that even though it can smell like a food item, it is not food. Dogs can’t distinguish this on their own.
Dogs have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, which could further entice them to try what smells like a treat.
Dogs explore the world with their mouth. They are similar to toddlers, putting everything in their mouth in an effort to understand it. Dogs will bite, mouth, and lick objects to learn about them. It’s not surprising that they would want to give lotion, with its strange scents, an exploratory lick.
Trying to Remove the Foreign Substance
Dogs are protective of their owners. Smell is a big part of our identity to our pets. When a dog has separation anxiety, you may find that placing an item of clothing you’ve worn in their bed will settle them down. This is because your dog associates you with your scent.
Scented lotion changes the way you smell. Your dog may try to lick it off to remove the foreign scent. They may even suspect there’s something wrong with you because you don’t smell “right”.
Perhaps dogs are smart enough and have sensitive enough noses to recognize there’s a new scent on top of your scent. They may still want to remove the lotion. They love your familiar scent, and another scent can be disquieting.
If your dog is a “licker”, lotion may not be the culprit. Some dogs lick more than others, so if your dog licks you frequently, it may simply be licking you to lick you. Not due to the lotion.
Dogs lick to show affection. This begins when they are born. The mother licks the pups to groom them. The pups lick their mother when they want milk. It also releases feel-good chemicals in a dog’s brain, similar to human kisses and hugs.
Is it OK for my dog to lick lotion?
This depends to a large extent on what your dog is licking. A few licks of lotion isn’t recommended, but it shouldn’t be harmful. Keep in mind that lotion can contain many ingredients, and it isn’t designed for ingestion.
Ingesting a large amount of lotion can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. They typically contain emollients which can cause stomach upset. It’s unlikely for your pet to ingest enough from licking you to be harmful. However, some other topical substances can harm your dog if they lick them.
Lotion, Topical Ointments, and Creams
Some types of topical ointments and creams can make your dog very sick.
Diaper rash cream is a common culprit. The zinc oxide in this seemingly harmless product can cause severe vomiting and even vomiting blood. Other over-the-counter products that can cause vomiting and diarrhea include antibiotic cream, muscle rub, and sunscreen.
Why You Shouldn’t Allow Your Dog to Lick Lotion
Lotion usually isn’t harmful to pets. However, it’s better to train your dog not to lick lotion for a few reasons.
The first is if they lick lotion, they may also lick other over the counter or prescription creams that could be harmful to them.
The second reason is that if your dog is injured or has a skin problem, you may need to apply ointment to them. If you can train your dog not to lick, you may be able to avoid the e-collar. These collars prevent the dog from licking themselves, but dogs do not like them.
Lastly, if your dog gets a taste for lotion, they may sink their teeth into your favorite bottle. Of course, you should always keep these products out of reach of pets, but accidents happen.
What to do if my dog licks lotion?
Again, this depends on the specific substance they were licking.
Monitor Your Dog
If your dog licked regular moisturizing lotion, they should be fine. Just monitor them for the next few hours to be on the safe side, and discourage the behavior.
If they licked another topical substance, including creams and ointments, call your vet. They will let you know the risks to your dog and what you should do.
Take Them to the Vet if You Notice Signs of Sickness or Distress
If your dog starts vomiting or having diarrhea after licking lotion or any other substance, take them to the vet right away. It’s best to avoid home remedies, which can make the situation worse, depending on the problem substance. Prompt treatment may make a big difference in your pet’s prognosis.
How to get my dog to stop licking lotion?
Let’s face it, it’s cute when your dog licks lotion. It can seem amusing, but we now know that it’s not a good thing for them to do. As the pet owner, it’s up to you to stop the behavior, no matter how adorable you find it.
Verbal commands are very effective for dog training. If you can teach your dog to sit, stay, or leave it, you can teach them not to lick. It requires patience and consistency, but it’s well worth the effort.
Choose a phrase to use as the command. “No lick” is a common one, but any phrase will work. You don’t want to just use the word no as a command, because it’s often heard in daily language.
Each time your dog starts to lick lotion, use the command. You’ll want to reinforce it with your body language. Either move away or gently nudge your dog away from your body.
Positive reinforcement is used to encourage a certain behavior, or lack of a certain behavior. In this case, your dog would get a treat when they don’t lick the lotion.
It works best when it’s combined with the command. For example, your dog moves to lick lotion. You give the command and move away. When your dog stops attempting to lick, they get a treat.
Over time, the standard increases. Your dog gets a treat when they respond immediately to the command, and then when the command isn’t needed. Eventually, you wean them off receiving treats and only offer verbal praise.
Distraction can also be effective. When you have lotion on your skin, give your dog a toy or spend some time playing with them. If you keep them focused on other things, they won’t want to lick the lotion.
You can use distraction along with the training methods. You may distract the dog and then give them a treat for not licking. This may sound a bit like “cheating”, but really it is setting your dog up for success. The more success they have, the harder they are willing to work for more.
Follow Application Guidelines
We’ve focused on lotion and other over-the-counter products, but prescription creams often have specific application guidelines. These can include washing your hands and waiting 10-15 minutes to let the cream soak into your skin before you have contact with others.
In fact, these are good guidelines for any product, especially those that could be harmful to your dog. Many creams will be mostly absorbed into the skin within 15 minutes, so this can reduce the risk to your dog if they do sneak in a lick or two.
Repel Your Dog (taste or scent)
Bitter sprays are commonly used to prevent dogs from licking or chewing. However, the idea of spraying yourself with bitter spray probably isn’t appealing.
The good news is that most dogs hate the smell of citrus. Consider getting citrus-scented lotion, or using a few drops of lemon juice after you apply. This is a great option if you need to apply something that can harm your dog. Don’t apply it directly to the cream area if it’s a prescription cream, because it could effect the way the medication works.