Ask Alecia: My Dog Is Obsessively Licking My Toes!

Dear Alecia,

Hi, I’m worried about my 4-year-old Yorkiepoo/Jack Russell mix. She follows me obsessively licking my toes, won’t go outside potty or leave her dog bed when I leave her with my sister, she pulls on her own hair on her front legs, she’s aggressive to any new people especially hat wearers, and she just licks me and my sis obsessively. I want her to be happy! When she was young, I was hospitalized a few months and since then we have moved a couple times. She also is aggressive with other dogs! — Melissa

Dear Melissa,

Thank you for sharing with me what is going on with your sweet girl.

She is an interesting mix, sweet poodle and feisty Jack Russell. So she is bold but also insecure. Sounds like she has not released her separation anxiety from when you were in the hospital and that insecurity and lack of confidence is coming out on the other end as defensiveness and aggression. So as you can see this can have some challenging repercussions as your dog has learned that through her imbalances she is able to use her insecurities to control the situation. In essence, she feels she has become the leader, without actually having the skills to be one. The issue here is about assisting her to get back into balance mentally as she still seems caught up in the trauma of being away from you while you were in the hospital.

This real issue here is that she is not in the present moment but stuck in some past trauma and it’s affecting her behavior. Your dog has learned that she can get away with things, and I am going to assume for a moment that there is not as much structure, expectations or follow through on corrections as there was when she was a puppy.

The first thing I would recommend is going back to basic re-training. Sits, stays, downs, comes, and walking with you on leash.

No matter how old the dog, every dog needs to know who their leader is. A dog that is not the leader thrives in the face of an authentic confident leader. By not having that leadership a dog will try to assume it but will usually flail and you will see unbalanced behaviors show their face.

So just take 3-5 minutes a day per command and practice them with her. When she does good praise her, when she is not paying attention or listening – either walk away and try it again later or be calm, clear and persistent about what you want from her and stick with it until she begins to get it that you are the boss not her. Not only will this clear up any miscommunication you two are having but your dog will begin to learn that you are a person of your word, that you say what you mean and mean what you say and that no matter how many times you have to say something you will continue to calmly do so until you get what you asked for.

Often times this takes dogged determination and patience on your part to remain calm, clear, consistent and get your emotions or ability to take things personally out of the picture. With dogs, one of the greatest insights I have had is its ok to go backwards to go forwards. All dogs and pups innately remember their basic training and if you reinforce with kindness and clarity what behaviors are acceptable which are not and remain consistent your dog will be more confident in you as a leader, be willing to take your command and respect your word more often.

Paws Up! Alecia

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Alecia Evans is the inventor of The Walk In Sync™ Humane Dog Walking and Training System with her exclusive 5 Minute Manners Makeovers using the Walk In Sync™ Harness and Accu-Grip Leash, along with her Walk In Sync™ 3 Easy Steps to teach any human/dog duos to Walk In Sync in just minutes.

The former host of the award-winning GrassRoots Aspen TV Series, The Whole Animal-An Alternative Approach to Animal Care, Alecia takes a natural approach to dog training and health care. Her work has been featured on Fox and Friends, The Sandra Glosser Show, NY 1, and in Aspen Magazine,, The New York Daily News and Woof Report.

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Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the award-winning authors of over 30 pet and travel books as well as the founders and publishers of CatTipper and DogTipper.