Do dogs clean themselves, clean canine or dirty dog?

Do dogs clean themselves? The short answer is yes. Self-grooming is a natural part of our dog’s behavior and keeps our dog’s fur and skin in good condition.

They may not have the advantage of stepping under a shower any time they want to freshen up, but they have their own unique personal hygiene system.

How do dogs clean themselves?

If you’ve spent any time with a dog, you will have noticed that they spend quite a lot of time grooming. Although they can’t clean themselves in the same way that we do, they have several ingenious ways to keep themselves spick and span.


The most obvious way that dogs self-groom is through licking. Although they can’t compete with their feline counterparts, dogs spend time passing their tongues over their fur to clean it.

Of course, paws get the most attention when it comes to licking.  But our dogs are also prone to cleaning other, more private parts of their bodies, much to the embarrassment of their owners.


When our dogs lick, they also nibble at their fur.  Our dogs use their small incisor teeth to make small quick bites that act a bit like a comb to remove dirt and debris from their coat and skin.

Besides, when our dogs nibble themselves, it stimulates the natural oil glands in their coats. The oil produced helps to keep the skin and fur clean as it travels down the hair shaft removing dirt and debris as it goes.

dog nibbling, do dogs clean themselves

Body shake wet or dry

A complete body shake is an effective way of removing foreign objects from our dog’s fur. If you’ve ever witnessed your dog performing a body shake, you may have noticed that it starts with its head and follows with a wave of twists to the end of its tails.

The full-body shake produces a force that is between ten to seventy times that of gravity. And it’s the reason why your dog has to close their eyes while they do it. When wet, an entire body shake can get rid of 70% of the water in a dog’s coat in just 4 seconds.


Despite some dog’s desire to roll in smelly stuff, they also do it to aid in fur cleaning too.

When dogs roll around in the grass, sand, and dust, it allows them to get rid of excess fur and dislodge debris from their coats. And after eating, a dog’s quite likely to rub their face across the carpet and furniture to make sure that their face is beautiful and clean!


When a dogs self-cleaning becomes a problem

Although all of the above behaviors are a natural part of our dog’s cleaning regime, licking can become problematic. If your dog is licking excessively, don’t ignore it. Excessive licking can indicate physical problems, such as pain and irritation, or emotional issues like stress.

Examine your dog thoroughly and check for any areas of discomfort, open wounds, ticks, or regions that may seem painful for your dog. You know your dog, so if their self-grooming behavior changes and their licking increases, there is usually something that they are trying to tell you.

Reasons for excessive licking

Most excessive licking falls into two groups; Physical reasons and emotional reasons. We’ve outlined some of the most common causes below.



Licking and nibbling are our dogs’ way of trying to rid themselves of these tiny terrors. Unfortunately, some dogs are allergic to flea bites, which create inflamed skin, leading to even more licking and chewing.

Environmental allergies

Just like us, dogs can suffer allergies to things in their environment. Common allergens are grass, household cleaner, and food. Allergies not only affect your dog’s skin, making it itchy, but also their eyes, nose, and ears.


Dogs lick sores and open wounds to relieve pain and clean the area. However, licking can cause issues of its own. A dog’s tongue is not the most hygienic way to clean a wound, and inflammation and infections are common secondary issues.


Even when there isn’t an open wound, dogs will lick if they are in pain. Joint pain, discomfort from tick bites, and sore paws are common. If you notice your dog licking the same spot repeatedly, it could be a sign of distress.


Persistent licking and chewing can create what’s known as hot spots or acute moist dermatitis. These hot spots are wet, red, and irritated and can occur anywhere on your pet’s body. Most commonly, they are found on the chest, head, or hips and can become sore extremely fast.



Dogs lick to relieve boredom if they can’t alleviate the monotony in any other way. If your dog is licking while you are otherwise engaged, it could be because they are bored.


Dogs commonly lick or chew to relieve stress, anxiety, and fear. New environments, new people, or a change in routine can all increase the activity.

Canine compulsive disorder; CCD

Just like in humans, OCD can occur in dogs too. Licking and biting become a behavior that your dog finds soothing and will resort to repeatedly.

How to manage excessive licking

If you think that your dog’s licking routine is extreme, then there are ways that you can manage and minimize the behavior.

Depending on the cause of your dog’s need to lick depends on the best way to help control it. However, the general rule is to use diversionary tactics. Shouting or scolding a dog will rarely work, and if your dog licks because of stress or anxiety, you are likely to make the behavior worse.

If your dog is showing signs of extreme grooming, it’s essential to look for the reason why. If you can’t find any physical reasons why your dog may be licking, there may be a psychological one instead.

By far, the most straightforward mental problem to overcome is boredom. Providing your dog with interactive toys or feeders, playing with them, showing them affection, or taking them for additional walks will all help. Interactive feeders also help dogs with anxiety and dogs with CCD. By working for their food, they are engaging in a healthier licking behavior than chewing their feet.

Do dogs clean themselves?

Yes, they do. Grooming is a natural part of normal dog behavior, and our dogs have developed ingenious ways to keep themselves in good condition. Of course, they also benefit from a helping hand from us. Being part of your dog’s grooming ritual is an integral part of sharing your life with a dog.

However, if your dog shows signs of a change in cleaning behavior or becomes obsessive, don’t ignore it, as it could indicate a serious problem. If you are unsure of what may be causing excessive licking, do consult your Veterinarian, who can investigate to see if there are any underlying medical or problems.

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