View Full Version : Licking the furniture/bedding

2nd November 2007, 02:25 PM
My new little ruby 'rehome' Brea has taken to licking the couch, my bed comforter, etc. I've tried to redirect her into another activity, but she just goes back to the licking. Do I assume this is a nervous habit she has?? When she first came to our house last month, she was experiencing separation anxiety when i left for work in the A.M. I've tried to give her toys and chews but she goes back to licking when I'm not looking.



2nd November 2007, 02:34 PM
Could be an obsessive compulsive behaviour. I'd try to redirect her (as you are) and block her from accessing the things she is licking. If it doesn't go away you may want to talk to a neurologist -- this type of behaviour can indicate other issues. There are some medications that can be used to control obsessive behaviours but if it isn't more than a minor probem I'd probably just live with it. Maybe as she adjusts more to her new home they will decline.

You might want to buy this article: http://www-wholedogjournal.iproduction.com/issues/4_11/features/5404-1.html

Though what is kind of worrying is that fly catching in a CKCS is one of the known possible symtpoms of SM so one wonders about the CKCS example here. But it also talks about obsessive licking.

2nd November 2007, 02:39 PM
I found this in the CKCS L-list archive.



This column is intended to be of practical information to Cavalier owners. It is not
intended to be a comprehensive overview of the field of Animal Behavior, nor to simply
represent a small portion of the complete research that has been done in Behavioral
Medicine. The focus of this column is for information and educational purposes only
and to share this information with other owners of this beloved breed.

Ritualistic and stereotypic behaviors have long been recognized in veterinary medicine
and in small animals, including the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) and "Fly Catcher’s Syndrome" will be the topic of
this article by request of many CKCS owners, who are involved with cavaliers with one
or more of these puzzling behaviors.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) may include tail chasing, flank sucking
(particularly in Dobermans), wool chewing and fly "biting" or "catching". Most of
these behaviors are annoying but relatively benign in terms of damage to owners and
their dogs. In the past, treatment was usually geared towards physical restraint and
control, such as applying an Elizabethan collar to the dog. Such a device can prevent
the dog from accomplishing the actual behavior, but does nothing to diminish the
desire to commit the behavior as is confirmed when the device is removed. Behavioral
Veterinarians now believe that this is because the disorder is a behavioral one,
rooted in a neurophysiological abnormality.

OCD is characterized by repetitive, ritualistic behaviors, in "excess" of any required
for normal function, the execution of which interferes with normal daily activities
and functioning. It is a behavior that is exaggerated in form as well as in duration.
The behavior can be perceived by a "human patient" as abnormal, and may be controlled
to the extent that the behavior is performed only minimally, or not at all, in the
presence of others. This could possibly be true for domestic animals, such as the
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Dogs that flank-suck or tail-chase may, after frequent
reprimands and corrections, remove themselves from view of the owners and then commit
the behavior elsewhere. When the owner approaches, the behavior ceases, to be begun
again when no one is watching or when the dog removes himself from view. Not all dogs
fit this pattern, instead exhibiting more or less continuous stereotypic and
ritualistic behavior regardless of companionship. It is not necessary for the behavior
to be continuously witnessed for the dog to have OCD, but it is requisite that the
offending behaviors SUBSTANTIALLY INTERFERE with normal functioning in the absence of
physical restraint.

We as cavalier owners, breeders and exhibitors must view the above statement and make
the determination ourselves. We must ask ourselves this question…"Is the desire to
exhibit the behavior present, despite restraint, punishment, training, or physical
incarceration?" If the answer is yes, and your dog persists in the behavior even
though he has been called to dinner, needs a drink or to go out to the potty area or
company arrives…then it is possible you are dealing with an OCD. In this case, true
clinical OCD can indeed be a serious problem. Potentially relevant human conditions
would be: Autism, Self-injurious behavior (SIB), Tourette’s syndrome, OCD,
Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and Chronic motor tics.

All cavaliers suspected of having severe OCD should have complete physical and
neurological examinations that include a metabolic screen, a complete blood cell count
(CBC), and serum biochemistry profile, electrocardiography (ECG) and may include tick
titer, distemper and other viral titers. Medical conditions should be ruled out first
before the diagnosis of OCD can be confirmed.

Other behaviors that may have components of stereotypic behavior but are not OCD may
include boredom, attention-seeking behavior and anxiety. Some bored cavaliers
"exercise spin" or chase their tails simply because they are bored. Should the dog
truly be bored, increased socialization time with humans, added toys, music, increase
in exercise and rooms to "view" outdoor activities such as the lawn, trees, cars, or
other activity should diminish or halt the behavior. If this does not occur, the dog
was not "bored". Sometimes a diagnosis of boredom is simplistic and wrong. As an
attention-seeking situation, some dogs quickly learn that if they are not getting the
desired attention from positive, quiet behaviors, they can invariably get it from
behaviors that their owners find much less savory…jumping, barking, howling, spinning,
tail chasing, sucking, ear chewing, and "fly catching". Because the owners find these
behaviors annoying, they yell or attempt to correct the dog. If the distraction is by
good and loving attention such as grooming or play, the dog effects the change it
wants and "conditions" the owner. Cavaliers have certainly been noted (especially at
my house) to do exactly this. Many dog owners have difficulty understanding how a
behavior could be attention-seeking, if physical or verbal punishment is involved. If
the dog gets little attention, negative attention is better than no attention. We
sometimes get in a "rut" with our multiple-dog households and forget to spend some
one-on-one time with each animal in our care. I know I experience this from time to
time, and we must then "regroup" and take a hard look at our situation and MUST take
more time to spend with our animals. If simple modification of our lifestyle improves
the behavior, then you are dealing with attention-seeking behavior rather than a more
serious OCD.

For true clinical OCD, a combination of behavioral modification (primarily
counter-conditioning and habituation as listed in the previous article on
fear-aggression) and short-term medication prescribed only by your veterinarian (I
prefer to begin with Amitriptyline/Elavil or Clomipramine/Anafranil) can work wonders.
Many times the stereotypic or ritualistic behaviors have an underlying anxiety and the
medication will enhance the counter-conditioning and break the psychological trigger
for the cycle. Regardless, all behavior modification designed to encourage relaxation
and competitive inhibition should be used.

Cathy T
2nd November 2007, 03:05 PM
Shelby gets like that with my pajama pants, the comforter, the pillow, her toys. She'll lay on the floor and just lick away at her Cavalier puppy. I let her do it for a while (it seems to calm her) and then direct away from it and into something else....like playing ball. When she's on my lap in the evening she will go at a spot on pajamas (maybe there's a tasty bit of food on my jammies :rolleyes:) and I'll say "stop Shelby, no more" and she will stop.

2nd November 2007, 03:55 PM
Thanx for the information. I truly think it's more of an anxiety issue at this point. I think redirecting is the best approach, but I don't know if she's doing it when I'm gone too. She really seems to be engrossed in it when it's bedtime and she's laying on the comforter. Maybe I'll try another blanket to see if it changes her behavior!! It's funny, she seems to lick her little dog stuffed dog toy too - maybe it's a "mom" thing left over from years of having puppies too :) I'll keep reminding her she's retired now and doesn't have to have any more little furry pups!!


2nd November 2007, 06:46 PM
holly does this too with my duvet.....she just licks and licks it until i tell her to stop!

2nd November 2007, 07:02 PM
Fiona is a major licker also...the couch, the sheets, the windows, the walls...she only does it at certain times of day though, usually right before bed and when she's waking up. She's gotten better as she's gotten older, but it's still an odd habit.

2nd November 2007, 07:18 PM
OK if Fiona & Holly are doing this too - hmmmm...... maybe it's because Brea is a picky eater and doesn't like anything that remotely looks like dog's would "want" to eat it! If it comes off the stove, frig, or from a drive-thru, she's all over it!! I wondered if it was the detergent I washed the comforter in - but the couch?? I'll bet it's like biting your nails - you don't realize you're doing it until somebody tells you to stop!

I'll keep you posted....


2nd November 2007, 07:26 PM
Miles likes to lick the inside of the car (the area on the inside of the door) and the kitchen cabinets...once we tell him to stop he generally will, but it is kind of an odd behavior!

2nd November 2007, 07:50 PM
Fiona is a major licker also...the couch, the sheets, the windows, the walls...she only does it at certain times of day though, usually right before bed and when she's waking up. She's gotten better as she's gotten older, but it's still an odd habit.

Yes, have to agree, with Holly it's only before bed as we are settling down...i have a video of her doing it, i'll try and find it