Why do dogs lick the air

Why Do Dogs Lick the Air?

Are you sitting with your canine companion and suddenly notice them engaging in a peculiar pantomime, tongue out, as if tasting the invisible? You’re not alone. Many dog owners have scratched their heads over this seemingly eccentric behavior: why do dogs lick the air?

Let’s embark on a journey of discovery, shall we?


Dogs, with their boundless energy and insatiable curiosity, are full of quirky behaviors. These loveable creatures often wear their hearts on their sleeves, or rather, in their wagging tails and lolling tongues.

Why do dogs lick the air
Why do dogs lick the air

But when their tongues seem to go on an independent exploration of the air, what could be the reason?

The Natural Behavior of Dogs

Firstly, we need to understand that dogs are not simply domesticated wolves. They’ve evolved into a species all their own, carrying a unique blend of characteristics that sets them apart. Among these is their way of interacting with the world. Dogs “see” the world through their noses and tongues as much as their eyes.

  • Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell. They rely on it to explore their environment and identify other beings.
  • Dogs also use their tongues to taste and touch, helping them gather more information about their surroundings.

The Lure of Luscious Scents

Can you smell what your dog is cooking? Probably not, but your dog sure can! The air is chock full of tantalizing smells, from the mouthwatering aroma of your dinner to the heady scent of blooming flowers. Dogs can pick up these smells and more, and air licking is often a reaction to a particularly captivating scent.

Imagine walking into a bakery and being hit by the rich aroma of freshly baked bread. Wouldn’t you instinctively “taste” the air? Dogs are no different.

The Cry for Comfort

Sometimes, the air licking may not be about what’s out there, but what’s inside. Dogs often use licking as a way of comforting themselves. It’s their version of a warm cup of tea or a fluffy blanket at the end of a long day.

Ever noticed how your dog seems to lick the air more when they’re stressed or anxious? It’s not a coincidence. They’re trying to self-soothe. Just like we humans might fidget or bite our nails, dogs have their coping mechanisms too.

Physical and Psychological Reasons for Air Licking

Like a multifaceted diamond, the reasons behind air licking aren’t straightforward. They span a spectrum from physical to psychological explanations, each demanding its due consideration.

Physical reasons might include:

  1. Hunger and anticipation of food: Ever noticed how your dog starts air licking as you prepare their favorite meal? It’s their way of expressing anticipation and hunger.
  2. Nausea or gastrointestinal discomfort: Air licking can indicate tummy troubles. Just as humans might lick their lips when feeling queasy, dogs may lick the air.
  3. Oral discomfort: Issues like dental diseases or foreign objects lodged in the mouth can cause air licking.

On the other hand, psychological reasons can encompass:

  1. Anxiety and stress: Dogs may resort to air licking as a self-soothing behavior during stressful situations.
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Dogs, like humans, can develop compulsive behaviors, and obsessive air licking can be one of them.

How to Differentiate Between Normal and Excessive Air Licking

Air licking is a normal canine behavior when it’s occasional or situational, like during meal times. However, when it becomes frequent or seems unprovoked, it might indicate a problem. Keep a keen eye out for changes in behavior, duration, and context of air licking to identify potential issues.

Health Concerns: When to Worry

While often endearing or simply peculiar, the canine practice of air licking may sometimes herald a deeper concern. In these instances, a keen eye and swift action are vital in ensuring your furry friend remains hale and hearty. But how can you tell? Let’s consider some red flags:

Excessive or Obsessive Air Licking

Canines, much like their human companions, have their quirks and eccentricities. However, if your dog’s air licking habit seems to border on the excessive or obsessive, it may be cause for concern. Is your pup frequently caught in the act of air licking, seemingly entranced, oblivious to their surroundings? Are they licking the air so compulsively that it seems to dominate their behavior or disrupt their daily routines, such as eating, playing, or sleeping? If the answer is yes, this could be indicative of a deeper issue and warrants further investigation.

Signs of Discomfort

An air-licking dog may also exhibit other signs of discomfort, such as whining, restlessness, or unusual agitation. Dogs are highly stoic creatures, often masking their pain or discomfort, but these subtle cues might reveal that all is not well. Is your dog constantly shifting positions as if unable to find a comfortable spot? Are they whimpering or exhibiting behavior changes such as increased aggression or withdrawal? These could be your dog’s way of communicating their discomfort.

Loss of Appetite or Changes in Behavior

Another telltale sign is a sudden loss of appetite or drastic changes in behavior. If your once food-loving dog suddenly turns away from their favorite treats or if their hearty meals are left untouched, consider this a potential red flag. Similarly, if your energetic pup suddenly becomes lethargic or if your independent dog becomes unusually clingy, it’s important to take note. These changes could signal that your dog is feeling unwell and may be linked to their air licking behavior.

These symptoms could be indicative of a variety of health issues:

  • Dental issues: Problems like periodontal disease, tooth decay, or oral injury can make your dog uncomfortable, leading them to lick the air.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Conditions like gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, or bloating can cause nausea, leading to excessive air licking.
  • Neurological disorders: Certain neurological conditions, such as seizures or cognitive dysfunction syndrome (also known as canine dementia), could manifest in unusual behaviors, including air licking.

If your dog exhibits any of these signs, it’s important to call your vet. Remember, early detection and intervention can make a significant difference to your dog’s health prognosis. Trust your instincts – you know your dog best, and if something doesn’t seem right, it’s always worth seeking professional advice. After all, our four-legged friends depend on us to help them when they can’t help themselves. With love, vigilance, and timely care, we can ensure they live their happiest, healthiest lives.

How to Respond

So, what should you do when your dog starts licking the air? Here are some expert tips:

  1. Stay calm: Dogs can pick up on our emotions. If you get anxious, they might get more stressed and lick the air more.
  2. Observe their behavior: Keep an eye out for patterns. Is there a specific trigger that make your dog start licking the air? Is it after a meal, during a thunderstorm, or when strangers are around? Identifying the trigger can help you address the issue.
  3.  Distract them: If the air licking is a stress response, try to distract your dog with a game or a toy.
  4. Consult a vet: If your dog is licking the air excessively or showing any signs of distress, it’s best to consult a vet. They can guide you on the next steps and provide appropriate treatment if necessary.


Dogs, in their delightful, whimsical ways, often leave us wondering about their behaviors. Air licking is one of those canine quirks that can mean anything from “That smells interesting!” to “I’m a bit stressed out.” By staying observant and understanding, we can help our furry friends navigate through their unique ways of interacting with the world.

Key Takeaways

  • Dogs lick the air as a way of exploring their environment or self-soothing.
  • The behavior can be triggered by captivating scents, stress, or even health issues.
  • Stay calm and observant, distract your dog if necessary, and don’t hesitate to consult a vet if the behavior seems excessive or comes with signs of distress.

So, the next time you see your dog licking the air, don’t just scratch your head in bewilderment. Instead, see it as an invitation to understand your four-legged friend a little better. After all, isn’t that what our companionship with these lovable creatures is all about?

Remember, each wagging tail and lolling tongue is a chapter in the never-ending story of our friendship with dogs.

So let’s keep turning the pages, one lick at a time.

Dennis & Becca
Authored by Dennis & Becca

Dennis and Becca, have always shared a passion for man’s best friend. As dog enthusiasts, they put together articles that inform, engage, and captivate fellow dog lovers.

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