Many border collie owners know that when they walk through their front door, their dog will be waiting to greet them with a kiss – well, the dog version of a kiss, at least. Most dogs lick at least a little, but border collie owners report that their dogs are especially exuberant. So, why do border collies lick so much?
Border collies, like most other dogs, lick because it is an instinctive behavior. Licking can perform a variety of functions, from showing affection to seeking attention from their owners. Licking is usually not harmful, but it can become a behavioral problem if it is constant or seems compulsive.
Read on for more about the many reasons why border collies lick, what you can do to get them to stop (that is, if you want them to stop in the first place!), and when it’s time to check in with your vet.
Reasons Border Collies Lick
Licking is an innate behavior among all types of canines. Wild wolves lick their fellow pack members, and both wolf and dog mothers lick their puppies. Your dog licks you because it’s an instinctive part of how dogs interact. That said, there are still several specific reasons your dog could be licking you.
Your Border Collie is Seeking Sensory Input
Since they don’t have hands, dogs’ mouths are one of the primary ways they interact with the world around them. A lick could serve the same function for your dog as reaching out to place a hand on something. It’s a way of gaining new information about a person or object through touch.
Additionally, though dogs have surprisingly few taste buds on their tongues compared to humans (only about 1,700 to our 9000!), that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own likes and dislikes. Dogs can taste salt, so they often lick people because they like the taste of our skin – especially if we’ve been sweating.
Your Border Collie is Showing Affection or Submission
Because mother dogs lick their pups, your dog probably associates licking with security and affection. Licking you is your border collie’s way of conveying that same sentiment. It’s a sign that they love you and feel contentment in your presence.
You may have also noticed that your dog greets other dogs with a lick to the muzzle. Here, again, it’s an instinctive behavior. Wolves have also been observed licking the faces of returning pack members. Licking, for many canines, is the social equivalent of a handshake or kiss on the cheek. It’s a gesture of welcome and inclusion in the group.
In some circumstances, licking may also be a sign of submission to a pack leader. Such submissive gestures have been observed in wolf packs, and domestic dogs still retain many of those instincts.
Border collies bond intensely with their humans, and they want to keep their social structures strong. If your dog licks you while keeping its body lowered, it’s a sign that they are acknowledging you as dominant.
Your Border Collie is Requesting Attention
While licking is an innate behavior, the way your dog uses it is subject to change based on experience. Your dog may have learned that barking or whining doesn’t attract the sort of attention they like, but licking has better effects.
Whether they’re looking for dinner, extra petting, or a play session, if licking you gets your dog closer to their goal, you can be certain they will try the same thing again the next time they want your attention. Border collies, especially, are smart enough to learn to do what works.
When Is Your Dog’s Licking a Problem?
When a dog’s licking becomes an issue is something of a subjective question. If you don’t like to be licked, then the licking is worth addressing. However, even if you don’t mind it, there are scenarios in which your dog’s licking can be a symptom of a more significant problem.
Your dog’s licking is a problem if it is excessive or inappropriate. If your dog licks you, itself, or inanimate objects like floors or furniture obsessively, it’s time to intervene. Excessive licking can be a result of boredom, anxiety, or even allergies. Call your vet to discuss potential issues.
Licking the floor probably won’t hurt anything, but if your dog is licking itself too much, it could cause the formation of bald patches and even lead to the development of sores on the skin. If your vet has determined that your dog’s licking is not the result of an allergy or other problem, there are several ways to try and get them to stop.
How To Stop Your Border Collie From Licking
While many owners love kisses from their pup, others may find it less appealing – or at least understand that not everyone enjoys being greeted with a slurping tongue.
If you want to train your dog not to lick, the first thing you have to do is identify the cause. Is the licking part of a general habit, or is it tied to a specific activity or time of day?
If it’s the former, you can train your border collie not to lick by not rewarding the behavior. When your dog licks, simply do not respond, escalating to a mild correction if they persist.
If it’s the latter, you need to break the association between licking and that particular activity. Try a new kind of play, or offer a favorite toy. The simple Kong toy as been known to keep dogs busy and can help reduce this behavior (check it out on Amazon). If they lick you, pull your hand away and tell them no.
It may take some time, and you’ll have to be consistent, but border collies are smart and want to please. Eventually, if you keep working with your dog, your efforts should succeed. If you need some guidance with training your dog, Brain Training for Dogs is an amazing online training program and will help you with this issue and so much more.
Your border collie loves you, and licking is one of the ways he uses to show his love. If you’re not a fan, there are ways to curb the habit, but since it’s instinctive, you may never eliminate it completely. There are lots of ways to show your dog what you want them to do instead, however. After all, since making you happy makes them happy, your border collie will probably be thrilled to learn your preferences!