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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Why does Bertie lick the carpet?

Hi Beverley

This is Bertie, my two year old Westie.  We have two other female Westies, Daisy 14 and Lily 9.  Bertie is very dominant over the 9 yr old, and loves her, but deferential to the 14 yr old, who ignores him.  He's very healthy and happy, extremely intelligent. bores easily, gets tired like a toddler in the evenings and winds himself up - constantly asking to go out into the garden and just barks when he's out there.  As soon as you put him to bed, he practically passes out.  He's pretty hyper on walks and can't be trusted off the lead.  He's had training and socialisation, but that also seemed to wind him up although he was very good at 'tricks' as he's so bright.

In the evenings, when we're all calming down, he'll lie or sit with us for a while, but soon starts padding around, licking the carpet.  He'll do it obsessively, even walking along.  You can distract him for a couple of seconds but very quickly picks it up again.  He seems to get into a groove with it.  Sometimes if he's sitting with me on a chair he'll lick the furnishings too.

He is incredibly bright and needs a lot of stimulation and possibly doesn't get enough of that in the evenings, but this seems to be more to do with habit or tiredness, and not being able to relax.

Any ideas?

Tracey Walton, by email


  1. Our Deerhound licks whatever is nearest to her face all the time. Mostly the cushions on the sofa, throw on the bed or the rug. She just likes licking stuff we think. Apart from wet upholstery there have been no ill effects.

  2. I would suggest your first stop is your vet's office to make sure that there's nothing physically wrong with Bertie that's causing this behaviour.

    It may be wise to look at what you feed him, and switch him to a food with no colourings (which are added for the humans benefit!); sugars, E numbers, and no or very little fillers, such as corn.

    After that, perhaps look at his level of exercise, you say he's tired at night and "practically passes out" once you put him to bed, perhaps starting to reduce the amount of physical exercise he's given, and increase the mental stimulation through "trick" training (though it's all tricks to dogs!); or puzzle games, and stuffed food carrier toys.

    If that doesn't help, it might help to call a behaviourist in, someone from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors will have qualifications and experience in companion animal behaviour therapy.

  3. Licking the floor is often a stereotypical behaviour and simply performed because it is easy to do and licking produces endorphins which help keep him calm.

    Try breaking the habit. Perhaps feed Bertie just before he starts the licking behaviour. Because he is so bright maybe an interactive feeding toy will help, as well as to make his meal last longer. Try and adjust his routine so the habit dies out. Has he a crate where he can go into and perhaps chew on a filled Kong instead? A different environment and a different feeding pattern may help.

    It may also be wise to get a vets opinion in order to rule any medical issues. And finally, check the food he is currently on. I have heard of some dogs licking the ground because they have a mineral defect which maybe caused by poor quality food.
    In a nutshel, look at health, diet and a stress-free evening routine.
    Good luck.