Why Do Pugs Lick The Air? Is It Normal?

All dogs like to lick. But why do Pugs lick the air? Noticing this bizarre behavior for the first time can be confusing.

Should I be worried? The answer is simple. It depends.

But don’t fret. That’s what we’re here for.

In this article, we’ll be discussing when air licking is normal and when it’s something to be concerned about – plus some bonus tips and hints to help you get that incessant licking under control.

Ready. Set. Go!


Why Do Pugs Lick The Air – Is It Normal?

Not all Pugs develop this habit. And some dogs like to lick more than others. Puppies in particular are well known for licking… well… just about anything. And despite looking a little odd, licking the air is a fairly common canine behavior.

Dogs might start licking the air for fun, or it could be that they have an itch that’s out of reach. But, nevertheless, sometimes air licking is cause for concern – especially when the behavior becomes incessant.

In just a moment we’ll be distinguishing between normal air licking behaviors and those that warrant a trip to the vet.


Normal Licking – Causes and Behaviors

Let’s start by alleviating some of your worries. Most licking behaviors are completely normal and nothing to worry about.

Dogs lick their noses. It’s a natural canine behavior that helps them smell better and keeps those noses nice and moist.

Licking is also how your dog cleans itself, reacts to delicious, delicious smells, and takes in exciting scents – this is called the Flehmen response. It can also be an indication of mood, submission, or appeasement (especially if you’re in the process of training your Pug).

Normal causes for licking include:

1. They’re hungry

Good smells and a hungry belly. Just like us,  your Pug might lick their lips. But licking the air is not uncommon either. Licking signals to the body to start producing those all-important digestive enzymes.

2. Or thirsty

Your pooch might be thirsty. Nobody likes having a dry mouth. The ideal solution? Licking. Licking produces saliva to relieve the dryness until a drink of water can be had.

If your pooch is licking the air, make sure there’s water available. That might just do the trick.

3. You’re giving them a good scratch

If your Pug has an annoying itch that they can’t scratch, chances are you’ll help them out. And it’s not uncommon for them to lick the air whilst you give them a good scratch.

4. They’ve eaten something sticky

If you give your Pug something sticky to eat (I’m thinking peanut butter, for example) it’s undoubtedly going to get stuck in their teeth. Don’t be alarmed if your pooch starts licking the air after this delicious (but messy) treat.


Abnormal Licking – Causes and Behaviors

Even though licking is relatively normal behavior, persistent licking might be a cause for concern. When a dog keeps licking the air and you’ve ruled out other causes, there may be a behavioral issue that needs to be tackled. Possible behavioral issues include:

  • Stress
  • Seeking attention
  • Compulsive disorders
  • Cognitive dysfunction

A Pug may lick the air if they are feeling stressed or anxious. Perhaps they suffer from separation anxiety or have just experienced a particularly stress-inducing situation. Stressed dogs are also more likely to develop compulsive behaviors.

Canine cognitive dysfunction (not dissimilar to Alzheimer’s for dogs) can result in some behavioral particularities such as licking the air. If your Pug is displaying compulsions, it’s always worth checking in with your veterinarian.

We all know that Pugs love company. It’s possible that they’ve already learned that licking air gets them the attention they’re craving. If that’s the case some reverse training might be in order.

Avoid positive or negative attention whilst your Pug is exhibiting this undesirable behavior. Eventually, they will learn that licking the air won’t get them what they want.


When is Licking A Cause For Medical Concern?

In some cases, licking air may be a symptom of a more serious medical condition. Monitor your pet, and if in any doubt, visit your vet.

Medical conditions associated with the behavior range in severity, but it’s always advisable to catch them early to ensure the best treatment outcomes.

Continuous air licking could be a symptom or sign of the following health conditions:

1. Nausea

Signs that your Pug is feeling nauseous include, drooling and licking. If your Pug has already vomited you may notice these symptoms.

This is usually nothing to worry about, but if your Pug continues to experience nausea or vomiting then visit your vet for advice.

2. Pain

If your pooch is in pain you might notice them licking air more than normal. Especially if they are experiencing prolonged gastrointestinal pain.

Just like us humans, Pugs are vulnerable to intestinal diseases like IBD (that’s short for Inflammatory Bowel Disease). Look out for changes to your Pug’s appetite, stools, and any signs of nausea or vomiting.

3. Trauma

If your Pug has an injury, bite, or sting (especially if it’s in the facial region), they will try to lick it to relieve the inflammation. And if that injury is out of reach, chances are they’ll end up licking the air in the process.

4. Seizures

At the more serious end of the spectrum, physical behaviors like licking air can sometimes be a sign of seizures. Repeated motions like this are typical of seizures of varying severity.

Subtle licking could indicate that your Pug is experiencing a partial seizure. If you suspect this might be the case it’s extremely important to visit your vet.

5. Other possible causes include:

  • Dental problems like gum disease, tooth loss, abscesses, etc.
  • Foreign bodies stick in your Pug’s mouth (e.g. bones or sticks).
  • Pancreatitis causes swelling, pain, and nausea.


How to Prevent Air Licking Behavior

If your Pug has a habit of licking the air, and you’ve already ruled out any medical or behavioral causes, what can you do to stop this habit from getting out of hand?

Here are some simple tips that will prevent this behavior.

  • Minimize situations that may cause unnecessary stress or anxiety
  • Brush teeth regularly (daily if possible)
  • High-quality feed
  • Plenty of attention, fun, and exercise


No More Licking The Air 

So there we have it. Why do Pugs lick the air? When Pugs lick the air it can be confusing for us as pet owners. Sometimes it’s normal and sometimes it’s not.

A bit of licking from time to time is nothing to be worried about. But if this behavior becomes persistent, it’s important to check in with your veterinarian.