Why Do Dogs Lick The Air When You Pet Them?

Does your dog lick the air when you stroke and pet them?

Would you like to know why they do this?

Did you know that air licking can indicate underlying health conditions?

This post will go into all these topics in detail to help you understand what is going on with your dog.

Why Do Dogs Lick The Air When You Stroke Them?

Canine air licking can occur for various reasons.

From the dog using their tongue to catch a scent to trying to remove food from the teeth.

However, it can also signify something more serious such as gastrointestinal problems and even epilepsy.

Also, it is worth mentioning that in some cases, the fact that you notice this behavior when you are petting your dog could just be a coincidence.

Stroking your dog is unlikely to cause the air licking.

It could just be that this is when you notice it.

Here is a detailed list of all the potential reasons why your dog licks the air when you stroke them:

  1. To improve their sense of smell.
  2. To lick and moisten their nose.
  3. To get your attention.
  4. To ease feelings of hunger.
  5. To get rid of food stuck in their mouth or teeth.
  6. To relieve boredom, stress, or anxiety.
  7. They have pain in their mouth or teeth.
  8. It could be a sign of canine cognitive dysfunction.
  9. The dog could be suffering from allergies.
  10. The dog could be having a seizure.
  11. Your dog could have gastrointestinal problems.

Now, let’s look at each one in more detail so that you figure out why your dog is licking the air when you pet them.

Related Post: Why Do Some Dogs Look Away When You Look at Them?

1. To Improve Their Sense Of Smell

Medium Sized Dog Licking the AirMuch more than humans, dogs live their lives and understand the world they live through smells.

Sometimes when dogs lick the air, they are trying to drive more scents into their noses.

Fun fact – Basset hounds have very long floppy ears to guide scents off the floor and into their noses.

2. To Lick And Moisten Their Nose

In most cases, the skin of a dog’s nose should be moist.

If your dog has dry skin on its nose, it may lick it to moisten it, which might appear to you as if your dog is licking the air.

NOTE – You might enjoy reading this post that answers the question – why do dogs huff and puff?

3. To Get Your Attention

Most dogs love and crave human attention, especially from their owners.

Dogs will do all sorts of weird things to try and get more attention from their humans.

If your dog licked the air in the past and you reacted by giving them attention, they might try doing it again, hoping to get the same result.

4. To Ease Feelings Of Hunger

When dogs are hungry, they will often lick things as a way of attempting to satiate their hunger.

Or if food is on its way, they might lick their lips (and the air) to stimulate more saliva into their mouth.

5. Getting Rid Of Food Stuck In Their Mouth Or Teeth

It could be this simple.

Your dog might get food stuck in their mouth and then lick the air in an attempt to dislodge whatever morsel is stuck.

Dogs don’t have hands, so they have to use their tongues and whatever they can chew to clean their mouths.

NOTE – You may also want to read this post asking the question: Why do dogs stick their tongue out?

6. To Relieve Boredom, Stress, Or Anxiety

Small Yorkshire Terrier Licking the AirIf your dog is bored, stressed, or feeling anxious, they might lick the air as a way of trying to alleviate those feelings.

Licking things can be a way for dogs to distract and soothe themselves from unpleasant feelings such as pain, fear, or stress.

7. Pain In The Mouth Or Teeth

If your dog is in pain, they may lick the air or even random household items to relieve it.

This may be accompanied by pawing at their mouths or similar behaviors.

8. It Could Be A Sign Of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction (or, to give it its less fancy name – doggy dementia, occurs as dogs get older (similar to how dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases affect humans).

Symptoms can include confusion, irritability, loss of appetite, incontinence, and excessive licking, including licking the air.

9. The Dog Could Be Suffering From Allergies

Sadly thousands of substances can potentially cause allergic reactions of varying degrees in dogs.

Some allergic reactions can cause pain, irritation, inflammation, and swelling around a dog’s mouth.

If this happens, a dog may lick the air to try and alleviate the irritation caused by the allergy.

10. The Dog Could Be Having A Seizure

This one can seem surprising to some dog owners, but canine air licking can occur when a dog has a seizure or epileptic fit.

Various neurological conditions cause it, and if you think this is happening to your dog, you should take them to the vet to seek professional advice.

It would help if you also tried to film the seizures when they occur and note how the dog behaves before, during, and after, as this information will be really useful for your vet.

This video shows a great example of a dog licking the air or “fly-catching.”


11. Your Dog Could Have Gastrointestinal Problems

A dog licking the air can indicate stomach or digestive problems, and the licking is the dog trying to ease their discomfort.

Keep a close eye on your dog’s eating habits and pooping, and also watch out for other signs of ill health, such as having less energy, loss of appetite, or drinking much more (or less) water than usual.

Should You Worry About Your Dog Licking the Air When Being Petted?

The air licking itself isn’t a concern, but if an underlying physical or mental health issue is causing it, you need to take some action.

Typically if something is wrong with your dog, they will show it in various ways, such as body language, changes in behavior, different patterns of eating or drinking, etc.

So watch your dog carefully for other signs of distress or ill health, and if you see anything concerning, take them to the vet for a checkup.

How to Stop Dogs from Licking the Air When You Pet Them

There is no need to try and train a dog out of this behavior.

The act of licking the air when being petted isn’t anything to worry about in and of itself.

However, you should do your best to figure out why your dog behaves this way and, if necessary, take action to fix the underlying cause.

Important Note – If you think there might be an underlying health issue causing your dog to lick things, please consider taking them to the vet for a checkup.

If you are struggling financially and worried about vet bills, this website lists places you can contact for help.

(If you do not live in the USA, you can use Google to search for similar help near you, there is a lot of support out there for dog owners in difficulty).

Final Notes On Why Dogs Lick the Air When You Pet Them

They are many reasons why your dog might lick the air when being stoked and petted:

  1. They are trying to improve their sense of smell.
  2. They are trying to moisten their nose.
  3. They are trying to get your attention.
  4. They want to ease feelings of hunger.
  5. They are cleaning their mouth or teeth.
  6. They want to relieve boredom, stress, or anxiety.
  7. They might have pain in their mouth or teeth.
  8. It could be a sign of canine dementia.
  9. The dog could have allergies.
  10. Your dog could be having a seizure.
  11. Your dog could be suffering from gastrointestinal problems.

Ok, that is the end of this post; looking at the question – why do dogs lick the air when you pet them?

We hope you now have a much better understanding of why your dog does what it does.

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