Dogs are big on licking, whether it's licking other dogs, their owners or themselves during their own grooming process. Licking is not something that's usually a major concern, even if your dog licks the rug occasionally. If that carpet licking becomes a constant harmful problem, you can fix his habit by figuring out what's causing it.
Stress-induced displacement behaviour can be the reason behind your dog's habit of licking the rug, according to veterinarian Rolan Tripp and his wife Susan Tripp, both animal-behaviour experts. Such behaviour occurs when a dog is stressed about two different choices. Rather than choosing, he opts to lick the carpet, a third option that displaces the other two. He knows licking the carpet is a safe choice, provided he's never been scolded for such behaviour.
Boredom and Stress
Licking the carpet can stem from boredom or from stress from other sources. Dogs that are not trained well and remain confused about how to act inside a home often turn to carpet licking, as do dogs that are not sure why they are being punished. Stress can occur when a dog does not feel like he's in control in his environment. Dogs also get stressed out when they don't get enough exercise. Others often suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for periods of time.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. The disorder often leads to obsessive and compulsive actions--like endlessly licking the rug. Such a disorder can actually stem from an extended stress-induced displacement behaviour, the Tripps explain. You'll know the behaviour turned into OCD when a treat, toy or other attractive ploy doesn't work to stop your dog from his carpet-licking session. The longer OCD behaviour continues, the tougher it is to break or replace with a different behaviour.
If your dog's rug licking is neither obsessive nor harming him or the carpet, you can ignore it, the Tripps say. Otherwise, try to change the licking behaviour by interrupting him. Don't punish him, but rather gently draw his attention to something else. If your dog is using the carpet licking to get your attention, give him no attention when he starts to lick. Give him plenty of positive attention for other behaviour, but disregard the carpet licking by turning away or leaving the room. If gentle persuasion or inattention do not work, another option is a visit to a veterinarian behaviourist or pet therapist.
Your dog's carpet licking may get worse before it gets better. Interrupting his licking with scolding or yelling can further stress out your dog. This could lead to more carpet licking. If he used to get attention for licking the rug and you suddenly give him none, he will find another way to get your attention. There's no way to say what new method he'll choose and it may be more detrimental than licking the carpet.