Why is my old dog licking her bed? 11 possible reasons

Dottie loves her bed and sometimes will lick it!

Dogs lick. It’s their nature. But why do older dogs lick more than their puppy counterparts? And why, for crying in a bucket, do they lick their beds? I mean, surely, that’s not a pleasant experience. Or maybe it is? I mean, they sniff each other’s butts too. Gross.

If your older dame is suddenly licking her bed more than usual, you might be worried. Read on to find common reasons for older dogs to lick their beds.

It’s Her Bed

Dogs are territorial. While some pee all over the place to stake their claim, others are more “civilized” about it, licking whatever they see as theirs, specifically their beds. It’s a way of spreading their scent and settling in when they’re ready for a nap ().

She Has the Munchies

Dogs often hide food or treats in their beds or carry their favorite treats to their beds to eat there . So, Sheila might be licking her bed to scoop up a few crumbs, or because it smells like those yummy treats you spoil her with.

If you’re not bothered but this behavior, don’t sweat it. If it bothers you, you could always remove those treats and give the bed a proper wash to get rid of the smell. It’s a good idea to feed your old dame away from her bed. This helps keep the mattress clean, and she won’t associate the bed with eating.

She Wants Attention

Dogs are inherent pack animals, so a lot of their behavior comes from this heritage. Licking and other excessive grooming behavior is often a sign of submissiveness, anxiety, stress, or boredom. If you spot your elderly fur kid licking her bed like there’s no tomorrow, she might be telling you that she wants some mommy cuddles, or that she’s a bit stressed. Go over and give her some love – this might sort everything out.

Pay attention to when your dog licks her bed. You might spot a pattern that helps explain the behavior.

Separation Anxiety

Your older dog will have your routine down pat. Seriously, these old pooches read their owners like a book. So, if you notice that she licks her bed around the time you head off work or the gym, or when you’re getting ready for an outing, it might be a sign of separation anxiety.

This condition isn’t age-specific or necessarily triggered by a traumatic event. It affects puppies and older dogs alike and can start at any time. There are some cases where separation anxiety is triggered by an event your pooch found traumatic, like if you went away on a two-week vacation without her. Keep an eye out for signs of this and reassure her that you’re coming back soon. Things that will help in this regard include leaving her with a comfort object, like a favorite toy. It would also help if you’re cheerful, so she knows that it’s not a big deal and that you’re not leaving forever. Then, when you get back, make a big fuss with greeting her again. She must know that you’re happy to be back with her.

She’s Bored

Dogs show boredom in a variety of ways, including licking and getting up to mischief. So, if your dog is licking her bed, or chewing on random things when you’re not looking, she might be bored. This is especially relevant if your pooch is of a more intelligent and energetic breed, like a Jack Russel or German Shepherd. While older dogs aren’t as active as they used to be, they still need lots of stimulation. Keep her occupied with intelligent toys and regular, age-appropriate exercise.

Because older dogs often suffer from arthritis and other debilitating, age-related conditions, they can’t run around as they used to. As a loving parent to your fur kid, you could find this challenging and tricky, since some proper exercise is bound to counteract the boredom. So, you have to get creative with ways to stimulate your pooch in ways that are not too physically taxing but still encourages her enough to ward off boredom.

She Might Feel Under the Weather

Old age is not for the faint-hearted, whether you’re human or canine. When dogs feel under the weather, particularly when they’re a bit nauseous, they’ll start drooling, licking, and chewing. Your pooch’s diet might have changed recently, or she’s less tolerant of food she used to love. It could all be signs of old age catching up with her, and she might start licking stuff (especially her bed) after a meal. Again, keep an eye out for patterns, since this will help you pinpoint the cause, and determine if it’s anything to worry about.

If you spot a sudden change in your fur kid’s behavior, chat with the vet. She might have some health problems that need attention.

She’s Stressed Out

Dogs display excessive grooming behavior when they’re stressed. For some dogs, licking is about as therapeutic as a relaxing massage for their human parents. Older dogs tend to be less tolerant of noise and movement in their immediate surroundings than their boisterous puppy counterparts. If you realize that this is the case, help your old dame out by calming down her environment. She might be telling you that it’s time to let the kids play outside or to turn down the music.

You’re the best person to figure out the reason for her being stressed out since you’re her parent.

Some things that generally help calm down stressed out pooches include a consistent daily routine. It might sound weird because all they do is eat, sleep, and play, right? Yes, but they still expect certain things at certain times, because they’re creatures of habit. Keeping things consistent for your fur kid helps her manage expectations and not freak out when an activity catches her unawares.

Missing Some Mommy Love

Sometimes, dogs get taken away from their moms too soon. This premature separation is especially prevalent in stray dogs or other types of difficult circumstances. When these pups get older (usually after puberty), they start licking things (themselves, the floor, furniture, people) in search of that maternal affection. You know, licking other things the way their mom used to lick them as babies. Most of us have some soothing mechanisms to help us through tough times, and our four-legged kids are no different.

This behavior is usually not a problem and can be remedied by giving your pooch some extra love. Just keep an eye on your dog’s tongue, though. Sometimes, licking courser surfaces can lead to some irritation, which would require your intervention.

OCD Dog

Yup, our pets can have OCD too, it’s not just for humans. If your old dame is licking her bed compulsively, she might be suffering from this horrible condition. You know, not just when she’s sniffing around for treats, or getting ready for a nap. Poor pooch. It’s best to keep her occupied and busy during the day, so she’s knackered by the time she hits the hay. This way, she’ll be too tired to fuss much.

Old Age

Old age affects all species, and your pup is no exception. Some dogs suffer from dementia, which would lead them to lick their beds more often. This is not as severe in canines as it is in humans, though. So it’s not necessarily anything to worry about.

As your pooch ages, she might lose her appetite, be slower to respond to you, sleep more, or be irritable. Ever heard of the grumpy old man syndrome? All of these could cause her to lick her bed as a coping mechanism. While none of these conditions are necessarily alarming, it would be wise to keep an eye out for patterns, or in case they get worse. If you’re worried at all, chat to your vet for advice and an assessment.

Managing the Situation

Dogs may lick for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are entirely harmless, while others are a cause for concern. Pay attention to when your dog licks her bed – you might spot a pattern helping you identify the cause.

If your dog licks for behavioural reasons, you can discourage this through positive reinforcement. Reward your pooch if she stops when you say “stop” or “leave it.” Punishment won’t help in this case.

If your poor old dame is stressed, create a calm environment, helping her manage the stress. This principle goes for any behavior triggered by environmental factors.

If there’s a medical reason for your dog licking her bed, talk with your vet. Take note of any accompanying behavioral and physical changes – these might help the vet figure out what’s going on.

In Closing

Dogs lick for many reasons, most of them entirely harmless. If you spot your dog regularly having a go at her bed, you might want to do some sleuthing. If the behavior is new and the change is sudden, check for environmental or medical causes. If your pooch has always been a “licker,” it’s probably nothing to worry about.

Either way, if you’re not sure, have a chat with your vet to rule out any serious causes.