Why Does My Dog Lick the Air When I Scratch His Bum

In this blog post, we will explore the interesting behavior of dogs licking the air when their bum is scratched. 

Have you ever noticed your furry friend doing this peculiar action? We will delve into the possible reasons behind this behavior and shed some light on what it means. 

Understanding why dogs engage in this behavior will not only satisfy your curiosity but also help you better understand your pet’s needs and emotions.

The Behavior of Air Licking

When dogs lick the air while their bum is being scratched, it is a behavior that can be both fascinating and perplexing for dog owners. 

During this behavior, dogs often extend their necks, raise their heads, and stick out their tongues to lick the air. 

They may also exhibit a blissful facial expression or even close their eyes, indicating pleasure or satisfaction.

For example, let’s say you’re sitting on the couch and your dog comes up to you, wagging their tail, asking for some attention. 

As you scratch their bum, you notice that they start to lick the air. Their head tilts back slightly, and their tongue flicks in and out as if they are tasting something delicious. 

This behavior may seem strange at first, but it’s actually quite common among dogs.

So why do dogs engage in this behavior? 

While there is no definitive answer, several theories can help shed light on this intriguing behavior. 

The reasons behind air licking can be categorized into instinctual, behavioral, and medical factors, which we will explore further in the following sections.

By understanding the behavior of air licking and its typical characteristics, we can begin to unravel the possible motivations behind this peculiar action.

Instinctual Reasons for Air Licking

One possible reason why dogs lick the air when their bum is scratched is rooted in their instinctual grooming behavior. 

Dogs are known to be fastidious groomers, and they use their tongues as a primary tool for cleaning and maintaining their hygiene.

For example, let’s imagine a scenario where you have just returned home from a walk with your dog. 

As you settle down on the couch, you notice that your dog starts to lick their paws and then moves on to licking their backside. 

This grooming behavior is not only a way for dogs to remove dirt and debris from their fur but also to maintain the cleanliness of their sensitive areas.

When dogs engage in air licking while their bum is being scratched, it can be seen as an extension of this instinctual grooming behavior. 

It’s important to note that dogs have different levels of grooming tendencies, and some may exhibit more intense grooming behaviors than others.

Understanding the instinctual nature of dogs and their natural inclination to groom themselves can provide insight into why they may engage in air licking when their bum is being scratched. 

By recognizing this behavior as part of their grooming routine, you can better appreciate the depth of their instincts and the unique ways in which they express them.

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Behavioral Reasons for Air Licking

While instinctual reasons can explain some instances of air licking when a dog’s bum is being scratched, there are also behavioral factors that may contribute to this behavior. 

Dogs have unique personalities and may exhibit certain behaviors as a way to cope with different situations or emotions.

For example, let’s say you have recently moved to a new house, and your dog is adjusting to an unfamiliar environment. As you scratch their bum, you notice that they start to lick the air. 

This could be a sign of anxiety or stress in response to the new surroundings. Dogs may engage in self-soothing behaviors like air licking as a way to alleviate their anxiety or provide comfort.

Similarly, loud noises, thunderstorms, or other stressful events can trigger dogs to engage in air licking behavior. 

They may use this behavior as a coping mechanism to distract themselves from the fear or discomfort they experience during these situations.

It’s important to observe your dog’s overall behavior and consider any potential triggers that could be causing them to lick the air when their bum is being scratched. 

By identifying and addressing the underlying behavioral causes, such as anxiety or stress, you can help your dog feel more secure and reduce the likelihood of them engaging in this behavior.

Medical Causes for Air Licking

In addition to instinctual and behavioral reasons, there are also medical causes that can lead to dogs licking the air when their bum is scratched. 

If your dog seems unusually sensitive or reacts negatively when their bum is touched or scratched, it could be an indication of pain or discomfort in that area. 

This could be due to various reasons, including allergies, anal gland issues, injury, inflammation, or even a more serious condition. 

It’s essential to monitor your dog’s behavior and consult with a veterinarian if you notice persistent signs of discomfort or pain

How to Stop or Minimize Air Licking

If you notice that your dog frequently engages in air licking when their bum is being scratched, there are several strategies you can employ to help reduce or eliminate this behavior. 

However, it’s important to note that addressing any underlying medical causes should be the first step before focusing on behavior modification techniques.

For example, if your dog has been diagnosed with allergies or skin irritations in the anal area, following your veterinarian’s recommended treatment plan is crucial. 

This may involve dietary changes, medication, or other interventions to alleviate the discomfort and reduce the need for air licking.

In addition to medical treatment, providing alternative outlets for grooming can be beneficial. 

Regular brushing sessions can help keep your dog’s fur clean and reduce the need for excessive self-grooming behaviors. 

This can also strengthen the bond between you and your dog as you engage in a positive and soothing activity together.

Another approach is to redirect your dog’s attention when they start to engage in air licking behavior. 

For example, if you notice your dog licking the air while their bum is being scratched, you can gently and calmly distract them by offering a chew toy or engaging them in interactive play. 

This can help redirect their focus and provide a more appropriate outlet for their energy and stimulation.

It’s important to remember that training and behavior modification take time and consistency. Reinforce positive behaviors with rewards and praise, and be patient with your dog as they adjust to new routines.

If the air licking behavior persists or is causing significant distress to your dog, consulting with a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist can provide additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.

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The Importance of Observation and Individual Differences

Each dog is unique, and their reasons for engaging in air licking when their bum is being scratched may vary. It’s crucial to observe your dog’s behavior closely and consider their individual needs and preferences.

For example, some dogs may simply find the sensation of air licking pleasurable or enjoyable. They may have developed this behavior as a self-soothing mechanism or as a way to enhance the sensory experience of being scratched. 

In such cases, if there are no signs of discomfort or pain, and the behavior does not interfere with their overall well-being, it may be considered a harmless quirk specific to that particular dog.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that not all dogs will exhibit air licking behavior when their bum is being scratched. 

Some dogs may have different ways of expressing pleasure or satisfaction, such as wagging their tail, leaning into the scratch, or offering a relaxed body posture. 

Understanding your dog’s individual preferences and reactions will help you develop a stronger bond and communication with them.


In conclusion, while the behavior of dogs licking the air when their bum is being scratched can be intriguing, it’s essential to approach it with a balanced perspective. 

By considering instinctual, behavioral, and medical factors, along with individual differences, you can gain a better understanding of your dog’s needs and ensure their overall well-being. 

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions about your dog’s behavior, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian for professional advice and guidance tailored to your specific situation

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