Why Do Shih Tzus Lick So Much: Emotional, Behavioral and Medical Reasons for This Behavior
Shih Tzu dogs are very popular small dogs that love people. In fact, out of nearly 200 purebred dog breeds, the Shih Tzu is in the top 20 most popular dogs in the United States!
Some canine researchers theorize that licking is one way that dogs show affection and love to their people. Other researchers believe that dogs lick because they are gathering information about their world.
There can also be medical or behavioral reasons why a Shih Tzu might lick. If you have questions about why your Shih Tzu licks or about what is causing your Shih Tzu to lick more than usual, this is an important article you will want to read.
Why Do Shih Tzus Lick So Much
Shih Tzu dogs in general are people-focused dogs. They are known to be very affectionate and expressive and are often described as lickers.
But not all Shih Tzu licking is simply loved. There can be behavioral and medical reasons for a Shih Tzu to lick as well, which this article discusses.
Learn About One Reason Why Shih Tzus Lick
In this informative YouTube video, you can learn about one common reason why your Shih Tzu dog might start licking more than normal.
It is always a good idea to check with your canine veterinarian anytime you see a change in behavior such as licking more than usual. There could be an underlying medical cause that needs proper treatment to resolve.
The Three Main Reasons Why a Shih Tzu Licks So Much
As Center-Sinai Animal Hospital points out, canine researchers have identified three major reasons why a Shih Tzu licks so much.
Emotional reasons for Shih Tzu licking so much
The first reason that a Shih Tzu dog will lick a lot is simply part of being a dog. While dogs can’t talk to their people to explain exactly why they lick, dog behaviorists have certainly developed a number of interesting theories.
Of course, every dog owner’s favorite theory is that canine licking is to show love and affection. And this is certainly a possibility! But it is not the only possible emotional reason for why your Shih Tzu might lick.
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) points out, your Shih Tzu might also be licking your skin or other surfaces to taste them and gather information.
Behavioral reasons for Shih Tzu licking so much
There can also be behavioral reasons that may cause your Shih Tzu to lick excessively.
One of the best-known examples is the natural result of the puppyhood weaning process. When wild canid puppies are very little, they will lick and nudge the mother right in the face to request regurgitated food.
This might not sound appealing to people, but it works pretty well for the young pups!
Your Shih Tzu may also lick to show submissiveness either to you or to another family pet.
Some canine researchers have noted that this type of licking in a pack setting seems to be an indication of status. More submissive canids will lick more dominant pack members. Vetstreet points out that domestic dogs can also exhibit this behavior.
Yet another behavioral reason for excessive licking that is well documented is licking due to anxiety. Dogs that feel anxious may resort to self-licking as a type of self-soothing behavior.
Unfortunately, this type of licking can often become a veterinary issue since the areas being licked can become dry or sore, and infected.
Medical reasons for Shih Tzu licking so much
In addition to self-soothing behavioral licking that becomes a medical problem when the area gets irritated or infected, there are other medical reasons why your Shih Tzu might lick too much.
One common reason for veterinary-related licking in Shih Tzus is infection. Here, the most commonly affected area is the paws. Dog paws can be havens for yeast and bacteria growth. This causes itching and infection.
Dogs that lick their paws a lot may be suffering from a yeast overgrowth or bacterial infection in the paw pads.
As Central Texas Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital explains, Shih Tzus can be prone to skin infection and parasites.
Part of the problem is that these dogs have a long showy coat that can hide the early warning signs of skin infection or parasite infestation. Licking excessively is one thing you can watch for to indicate your dog may be uncomfortable or need medical care.
Shih Tzu dogs are also so short that more of their body can come into contact with surface irritants or toxins in the soil such as pesticides or fertilizers.
When you see your dog licking their body excessively after spending time outside, they could have skin irritation due to contact with outside toxins.
Yet another common reason why your Shih Tzu may lick their body a lot is pain. You may not be tempted to lick your fingers when your arthritis flares up, but licking is a natural response to body pain for canines.
Here, if you don’t see any other signs to explain persistent licking, it can be worth asking your veterinarian to take some X-rays to look for arthritis or an injury.
Finally, yet another possible explanation for a Shih Tzu that licks excessively could be some type of dietary or nutritional deficiency, as Dr. Fox the Animal Doctor highlights.
Even if you are feeding your Shih Tzu a high-quality complete and balanced canine diet, it may simply be that your dog’s nutrient needs have changed due to age, gender, or a health condition. Sometimes altering the diet may help curb the licking.
What Is a Normal Amount of Licking for a Shih Tzu Dog
At this point, you might legitimately be wondering what is normal licking behavior for a Shih Tzu and what is excessive?
This question doesn’t have one single right or wrong answer. Rather, answering accurately involves getting to know your dog’s personality and daily habits.
Establishing a baseline for what is normal licking for your particular Shih Tzu dog is the best way to determine when the licking behavior has become excessive or unusual.
You can also watch to see if the focus of your dog’s licking behavior changes over time or becomes focused on a specific area of the body.
However, when you and your dog are still getting to know each other, it can be a lot harder to tell when licking behavior is excessive or unusual.
The best approach here is to evaluate your dog’s daily life and routine. If your Shih Tzu is a rescue, finding out about the dog’s pre-adoption life and the home situation can also shed some light on any pre-existing emotional, behavioral, or medical issues.
What can you do if you think your Shih Tzu is licking too much but you don’t know why? Your best course of action is to schedule a visit with your canine veterinarian.
Your veterinarian can do an examination, order tests, and X-rays and talk with you about dietary or other options for altering the licking behavior.
But what if your dog’s veterinarian says that your Shih Tzu is in perfect health and the licking continues?
At this point, you can consider working with a canine behaviorist who can help redirect the licking behavior towards something that is more desirable and more appropriate.
This approach is ideal if your Shih Tzu dog suffers from separation anxiety or other emotional or behavioral issues.