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Why Do Boxers Lick So Much? (Excessive Licking Solved)

Boxer dogs are known for licking, and while some find this not to be a problem, many owners don’t like it. Whether your boxer is licking your face, himself, or even licking the air, this article has your answers and explains what you can do.


Reasons Why Your Boxer Licks So Much

A typical response is that “some breeds just lick more than others” and while that may be a factor with Boxers, most of the licking behavior can be explained.

As mentioned previously, it depends a lot on where he is trying to lick that will determine the main cause.

Let’s run through each of the most common areas you may see your boxer licking.

Why Your Boxer Tries To Lick You or Your Face

When your boxer tries to lick your hands, feet, or face it’s either his way of showing you affection, gaining attention, recognition, or he can smell or taste something interesting on you.

If your boxer losses his mind and fanatically licks you in the mornings when you wake up, it’s likely just his way of saying good morning.

In this situation, it’s safe to say it’s a sign of affection and a moment for him to gain your attention.

Another reason could be that he thinks he’s “grooming” you as dogs do to each other in the wild, which again would be considered some form of appreciation and care from him to you.

If he’s licking certain parts of your body at other times, like your hands or feet, it’s typically because he can smell or taste something interesting.

Not that I’m saying your feet stink, but just remember that a dog’s sense of smell can be anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times better than ours! Now imagine what your feet smell like to him…

Why Your Boxer Licks The Air

This is more of an interesting one, and it’s actually very common. Many boxer owners report that air-licking is at first amusing but quickly becomes concerning.

Check out the following reasons behind air-licking.

1. Wetting his nose. When your boxer licks the air, he’s indirectly making his nose wetter. A wet nose has many functions, the two most important being that scent particles can stick better to wetter surfaces, meaning, a wet nose helps him smell better. A wet nose also helps keep body temperature down.

This also raises another issue, perhaps your boxer isn’t drinking enough water and therefore experiencing a dry nose in which he’s trying to keep wet. It’s worth considering this possibility.

2. Moistening his airways. Air licking will also bring moisture (his own saliva) up into his nose as he breaths in. This will reduce any discomfort he’s experiencing at the back of his mouth. This could be caused by an infection or stress in general.

3. He’s got something stuck in his mouth. Believe it or not, when dogs lick the air, it could suggest he has food leftovers stuck on the roof of his mouth. If you see your boxer licking the air, it’s worth opening his mouth to ensure he hasn’t got anything stuck.

4. Stress & compulsive disorders. Excessive licking, in general, can be an indicator of stress and anxiety. Licking, like a nervous twitch, can become a compulsive habit designed to soothe underlying anxiety or stress.

5. Taking in strong scents. When your boxer catches the scent of something strong, typically a pheromone, urine, blood, or feces he’s going to try and take in the smell as much as possible. Air licking is a way to push those scent molecules up his nose in order to smell them better. There’s a scientific term for this and it’s called the “flehmen response” PetMd.

So what can you conclude from air licking?

The most important question to think about is how often is it happening. If it’s happening all the time then it could be related to stress, a compulsive habit, he’s continuously dehydrated, or has some ongoing throat problems.

If the air licking comes and goes infrequently, it could suggest he’s smelt something interesting, he has something stuck in his mouth, or he’s trying to cool himself down.

It’s also worth mentioning, the occasional air-lick shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Just watch out for when this behavior becomes excessive and on a daily basis.

Recommended Read: How to deal with boxer shedding: best tips for owners

Why Your Boxer Licks His Paws

When your boxer continues to lick his paws it suggests something is irritating him in that location. This can include such things as food or environmental allergies, yeast infections, bacteria, or mange (skin mites).

If your boxer is excessively licking, or evening chewing his paws the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

While you might be able to see visible redness and irritation, it will still be hard for you to diagnose exactly what’s causing it. Your veterinarian will be able to inspect the skin and perform the necessary checks.

It could end up being something as simple as eliminating an ingredient from his diet, or something more serious like mange which needs to be seen as soon as possible.

When To See a Veterinarian

Visiting a veterinarian is always the safe and recommended thing to do, but not all of these cases require it.

Depending on what’s causing the licking will change whether or not you should visit the veterinarian now, or try to resolve it yourself.

When to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible
If your boxer is excessively licking or chewing one single part or area of his body
If your boxer is excessively licking on a daily basis
If your boxer is licking surfaces all of the time (may suggest a GI issue)
If this behavior cannot be explained with a non-urgent reason

Times when the licking is probably nothing to worry about
When you see him lick the air randomly, infrequently
When he comes to lick you or other people (behavioral issue)
When he licks due to having food in or around his mouth (as long as it isn’t blocking airways)
When he licks due to having smelt a strong scent.

These are just guidelines and if you are ever unsure, our advice is to speak to your veterinarian.

How To Stop Your Boxer From Licking You

This section will run through ways you can limit and eventually stop your boxer from licking your hands, feet, and face.

Please note, this is intended for those who are confident their boxer is already in good health, and the licking is likely just a bad habit that you want to stop.

1. Ignore the behavior

Your boxer will perceive your reaction as either permission to carry on or to stop. The truth is that any kind of response you give other than ignoring him or outright punishing him (not recommended) will be seen as a positive reaction.

So although it’s very hard to do in the moment, ignoring the behavior is the first and best thing to try. A complete lack of response from you will not stimulate, entertain or appease your boxer and he’ll very quickly learn that licking you is boring.

For many boxers, this will work, for some others, it won’t. So keep reading on 🙂

2. Say “No” pull away, then walk away (or continue to ignore)

The next thing for you to try is a firm “No!” in a serious tone. This is essentially just as good as a punishment.

Make no mistake, dogs understand our different tones of speech to a very high level. This has now been studied extensively and brain scans reveal how a dog’s brain reacts very differently depending on the tone of voice being used. A firm and strong “No!” is understood by your boxer just as well as it is another person.

After you say “No!” pull your arm, hand, or foot away from him and continue to ignore him.

If he’s the kind to pause for a second, then lunge back to you, do the same, but this time leave the room or remove him from the room where you are.

3. Redirect his licking

The next time he goes to lick you, try to redirect his focus onto one of his favorite toys.

I know, this always sounds easier than it actually is, and it’s true. This isn’t easy, but it is a well-documented and proven method to train against unwanted behavior.

Whenever he goes to lick your hand, foot or face, swiftly bring a toy into the mix to redirect him from you. If his focus now remains on the toy, be sure to offer him a reward for doing so.

This is considered positive reinforcement training and it’s without a doubt the most powerful way to train a dog.

But it doesn’t happen overnight, it may take a week or even two, of consistently redirecting his unwanted licks, and eventually, he will stop.

4. Stay on top of his exercise

Licking can be caused by boredom, frustration and simply having too much energy.

And let’s not forget, boxers are a super high-energy breed that requires a solid 1-2 hours of exercise per day. Preferably spaced out in the morning and evening.

Keeping on top of his exercise is basic, but absolutely crucial.

And believe it or not, something as simple as more exercise will help solve and prevent A LOT of unwanted behavioral issues in general. It’s the same with all highly energetic breeds.

Popular Boxer Articles:
Why Your Boxer May Be Smaller Than Average
What Breeds Best Get Along With a Boxer?
When Can Boxer Puppies Leave Their Mother?

Last Thoughts

If your boxer is licking you, the air, or himself, it can usually be explained in a few different ways. It could suggest he’s showing you affection, he has food or environmental allergies, he has something stuck in his mouth, or maybe even has a yeast infection.

The list of reasons behind licking is extensive and will change dramatically depending on where he is licking.

If you are concerned for the health or safety of your boxer please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

If you are concerned for the health or safety of your boxer please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.