As a dog behaviorist with a house full of rescue companions, I've seen my fair share of butt-licking in dogs. Most of the time, it's nothing to be concerned about – it's just a part of their natural grooming routine. However, there are instances when excessive butt licking can signal a deeper issue, just like in the case of my recent foster dog, Penny, who turned out to have rectal cancer.

This is definitely a worst-case scenario, so don't panic if you see your dog licking their own rear end. So then, why do dogs lick their butts? Let's dive into this common canine behavior.

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  1. Why Do Dogs Lick Their Butts
  2. Medical Conditions and Butt Licking
  3. The Three Categories of Butt Licking Behavior in Dogs
  4. Why Is My Dog Biting Their Butt
  5. Why Do Dogs Lick Each Other Butts
  6. Why Do Dogs Love Butt Scratches
  7. FAQs
  8. Conclusion

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Butts

Dogs lick their butts for several reasons, and mostly it’s a standard part of oral self-grooming and relieving stress. However, excessive licking may mean a medical issue that is causing a painful, inflamed, or itchy butt. It could also be related to a compulsive behavior issue or stress. But it's essential to understand that this behavior is entirely normal in most cases.

To shed some light on this topic, I'd like to refer to the work of Dr. Bonnie Beaver, DVM, and the insights from MSD Manuals research. Dr. Beaver, a renowned expert in canine behavior, explains that one primary purpose of grooming dogs, including licking, is to disperse stress or relieve tension. It's like a stress-relief mechanism for our canine companions.

When dogs find themselves in a stressful or tense situation, they might engage in grooming as a displacement activity. This means they exhibit normal behavior, like grooming, at an inappropriate time, which helps defuse the tension. For example, when a nervous dog encounters a very intimidating one, they might start grooming as a way to cope.

But here's the thing: while grooming is a natural behavior, it can sometimes become excessive, signaling a problem. Dogs can overdo it, especially when it comes to oral grooming. They'll lick their limbs, the area around their mouth, and yes, even their anogenital area — their butts. Injuries, especially those with blood or serum oozing from them, can also be the focus of their licking.

Sometimes, the problem is psychological, and dogs may start licking their butts and genitals, an obsessive-compulsive behavior, or to self-soothe when they are stressed.

Medical Conditions and Butt Licking

While most butt-licking is harmless, some medical issues can lead to excessive grooming. Many of these problems are connected to sensations of pain and discomfort in the buttocks. This could include issues like anal sac disease or impaction, perianal fistulas, hernias, and tumors like my own rescue case, Penny. Penny licks her buttocks a lot, especially as the area is prone to bleeding and inflammation.

It's also crucial to consider various medical conditions as potential causes of excessive butt licking. These could include:

  • Referred pain;
  • Sensory neuropathy;
  • Encephalitis (especially after distemper);
  • Psychomotor epilepsy.

Cushing’s disease is also associated with pruritus and excessive licking.

The Three Categories of Butt Licking Behavior in Dogs

Understanding the root cause of excessive grooming can help treat the problem effectively. When a dog is licking their private parts and their buttocks a lot more than usual, the reason usually falls into one of the following categories:

  • Psychogenic Causes: This involves learned problems, like when a wound heals but the dog's licking persists. This could happen after a dog gets a tear in their rectum that heals, but they still want to lick the area.
  • Social Interaction: Pet parents may unknowingly reinforce the behavior by paying attention to the dog while they groom, making it harder to stop.
  • Maintenance: The dog's living environment can also contribute to psychogenic disorders. Environments lacking stimulation that leave your dog bored or stressed may lead to problem behaviors like excessive licking.

If you suspect that your dog's butt licking is excessive and could be due to a medical issue, it's essential to monitor their behavior closely. Using a Pet cube Cam can be an excellent way to keep an eye on your dog, especially when you're not at home. It allows you to observe their behavior and seek veterinary assistance if needed.

Why Is My Dog Biting Their Butt

Just like butt licking, butt biting can raise concerns. It's crucial to explore the various reasons behind this behavior, some of which may require immediate attention.

Common Reasons for Butt Biting in Dogs

  • Perianal Fistulas: Perianal fistulas are painful, inflamed tracts or openings near the anus. These can cause extreme discomfort and lead to butt-biting as dogs try to alleviate the pain. If your dog is showing signs of distress while biting their buttocks, it's essential to consult a veterinarian.
  • Intestinal Worms: Worm infestations, particularly tapeworms, can lead to itching and discomfort around the anus. Dogs may resort to biting their butts to relieve this irritation.
  • Anal Sac Impactions: Dogs have anal sacs that can sometimes become impacted or infected. This condition can cause discomfort and lead to butt-biting. A veterinarian can diagnose and treat anal sac issues.
  • Foreign Object in the Rectum: Sometimes, dogs may ingest or insert foreign objects into their rectums accidentally. This can be painful and prompt butt-biting. If you suspect a foreign object is the culprit, seek immediate veterinary care.
  • Rectum Tears and Other Rectal Conditions: Tears or injuries in the rectum can cause severe pain, leading to butt-biting as a way to cope. Various rectal conditions, such as prolapse or inflammation, can also contribute to this behavior.
  • Painful Tumors: The presence of painful tumors in or around the rectal area can cause dogs to bite their butts. If you notice any unusual growths or lumps, consult your veterinarian promptly.
  • Polyps: Rectal polyps are abnormal growths in the rectal lining. These can be painful and lead to butt-biting. A vet can diagnose and recommend treatment options.
  • Matted Fur: Matted fur around the anal area can trap moisture and irritate the skin, prompting dogs to bite and chew at their butts. Regular grooming can help prevent this issue.
  • Flank Sucking: While not directly related to butt biting, flank sucking is a problem seen mostly in Dobermans. It involves the dog obsessively sucking or chewing on their flank area. However, it can sometimes look like the dog is trying to bite their own butt. While the exact cause is not fully understood, it has a genetic component and may be linked to stress or anxiety.

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Why Do Dogs Lick Each Other Butts

Now, let's dive into a topic that might seem a bit, well, cheeky – why do dogs lick each other's butts? As a dog behaviorist who's spent countless hours observing our four-legged friends, I've got the inside scoop on this curious canine habit.

Social Communication

Dogs have a unique way of communicating with each other, and one way they do it is through licking. When a dog licks another dog's butt, it's like exchanging business cards in the canine world. It's a form of social bonding and an essential part of their pack dynamics.

Scent Analysis

Dogs are detectives in the animal kingdom, and their noses are their superpower. They can pick up scents and subtle chemical cues that we humans can't even fathom. The anal area contains scent glands that secrete chemical messages about a dog's identity, mood, and more. When one dog licks another's butt, they're essentially gathering information – like a canine Facebook status update.

Grooming and Hygiene

Dogs are meticulous about their cleanliness (well, some of the time at least). Sometimes, they'll lend a helping hand to a buddy who's missed a spot during their grooming routine. It's a bit like offering a hand (or a tongue) to a friend in need.

Social Hierarchy

In the doggy world, there's often a pecking order within a group. The more dominant dog may engage in butt-licking as a way to assert their dominance. It's like saying, "Hey, I'm in charge here."

Puppy Love

Mother dogs need to lick their newborn puppies' buttocks to stimulate their digestive tract to poop. So this is a natural part of the way mommy dogs take care of their pups for the first few weeks or whatever.

Taste Testing (Yes, Really)

Dogs explore the world with their mouths, and sometimes they're just curious about the taste of things. Butts, well, they're no exception. While it might not be the most appetizing thought for us, dogs have different taste preferences.

Licking Injuries and Ailments

Dogs are incredibly intuitive, and they often sense when something's not quite right with a fellow pack member. If a dog in their group has an injury or problem in their rectal area, another dog may try to lick it. It's like offering a helping hand (or tongue) to comfort a friend in need.

So, the next time you catch your furry pals indulging in a little butt-licking session, remember that it's all part of their complex canine communication and social rituals. While it may raise eyebrows (and giggles) among us humans, it's just another day in the life of our four-legged companions.

Why Do Dogs Love Butt Scratches

You've probably noticed it – that look of pure bliss on your dog's face when you scratch their butt. But why do dogs love butt scratches so much? Well, it's not just about indulging in a guilty pleasure, there's some science behind it.

A dog's hindquarters are a nerve-ending wonderland. When you scratch their butt, you're hitting the jackpot of feel-good sensations. It's like an instant spa day for them, minus the cucumber slices.

And, here's the thing – the butt is a spot they often have a hard time reaching themselves. When you lend a hand (or rather, a scratch), you're helping them out where they can't reach, and that's something they truly appreciate.

Butt scratches can also reinforce the bond between you and your pup. Dogs thrive on physical touch, and when you scratch their butt, you're not just providing physical pleasure – you're saying, "I love you, buddy."

Dogs can also get itchy in all sorts of places, and the hind end is no exception. Butt scratches can help alleviate itchiness, making your dog feel more comfortable and content.

If you've ever wondered whether your dog enjoys those butt scratches, just look at their tail. That happy, rhythmic wagging is their way of saying, "Keep it coming!" They should also have a relaxed mouth and no tension in their body. You may also see some thumping in a back paw.

So, the next time your pup nudges you for some quality butt scratch time, go ahead and indulge them. It's a simple yet profoundly satisfying way to make your dog's day – and yours too.


Why is my dog's butt itchy?

Your dog's itchy butt could be due to fleas, allergies, anal gland issues, skin infections, or parasitic infections. Consult your vet for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Why is my dog chewing on her butt?

Chewing on her butt may indicate itchiness, anal sac problems, foreign objects, infections, or allergies. A vet's examination and diagnosis are essential for finding the cause and providing relief.

Why is my dog licking my other dog's butt?

Dog-on-dog butt licking is a social grooming behavior, a form of scent analysis, and a way to maintain hygiene. It's part of their social interaction and communication in the pack.


Understanding why dogs lick and chew their butts or engage in butt-licking with other dogs sheds light on their complex behaviors. Whether it's itchiness, social bonding, or hygiene, these actions are part of their unique canine communication.

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