Why Is My Dog Licking The Air?
March 02, 2023 | 3 min read
Updated March 02, 2023
Published: March 2, 2023
Summary: Is your dog constantly licking air? In this blog, we learn why sometimes dogs lick the air, and when you need to be concerned about their air-licking habit...
Why Do Dogs Lick The Air?
They’re in a good mood; some dogs simply lick the air because they’re happy or excited. Perhaps your pooch licks at the air when they’re being petted or about to be fed.
They’re maximizing their sense of smell; a dog’s sense of smell is up to 10,000x stronger than that of a human. But because of their vomeronasal organ (located in the roof of a dog’s mouth), this can help enhance how much of a scent a dog can process when air is circulated toward it. If your dog is wrinkling their nose and flaring their nostrils while licking the air, this probably means they’re sending air in the organ’s direction and intensively processing a smell they’re interested in. Their teeth may also chatter when they do this!
They’re thirsty or too hot; if it’s a boiling hot day, they may be licking the air to help stimulate saliva production to help ease off a dry mouth. Because dogs don’t sweat to reduce body temperature like we do, they use the air to help evaporate moisture off the tongue to cool down; this is commonly known as panting. Air licking may be trying to speed up this process too. You should make sure your dog has easy access to clean, fresh water at all times.
They’re stressed; some dogs will lick their air because they’re experiencing stress or worry. It can be considered quite a submissive behavior to display and they may be letting you or another dog know that they know you or they are more dominant.
There’s something lodged in their mouth; some dogs may appear to be licking the air because they’re trying to dislodge an object in their mouth like a piece of stick, or they may lick the air because a dental issue is causing them discomfort. They may also drool in these cases.
It may be compulsive; some dogs, particularly those who have been abused, physically confined, or neglected, can adopt compulsive repetitive behaviors. Some dogs pace, some dogs chase their tails, and some dogs air lick.
They’re aging; like human beings, a canine’s cognitive functioning can decline as they age and air licking may be indicative that this happening to a maturing pup.
They have a skin issue; if your dog has itchy skin due to parasites like fleas or something has irritated them, they may lick the air to mentally relieve the itch either because they can’t reach it (perhaps due to uncomfortable joints or obesity), or they’ve learned scratching gets them into trouble.
Dogs Licking Air
If your dog is licking the air occasionally and you’re confident you can attribute it to excitement or happiness or the air licking is clearly accompanying a thorough sniff, then there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
However, if your dog is air licking frequently or repetitively and you think your pup could be air licking because they’re stressed, worried, or there’s a physical problem with their mouth or their body, it’s worth scheduling an appointment with their vet who should be able to advise you on how to help them.
If you know your dog has a history of abuse or neglect, a professional, ethical animal behaviorist may be the route to take, particularly if you think the air licking could be linked to previous poor care experiences.
Author Gibeault, Stephanie MSC CPDT “Why Does My Dog Lick The Air?” American Kennel Club, Oct 12. 2022 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/advice/why-does-my-dog-lick-the-air/
Author Stopp, Kirsty DVM, CVA “Why Do Dogs Lick The Air?” Pet MD, Sept. 28 2021 https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/why-do-dogs-lick-air