The Nighttime Ritual: Why Dogs Lick Themselves Before Bedtime

July 11, 2023

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The Nighttime Ritual: Why Dogs Lick Themselves Before Bedtime


If you're a dog owner, you've likely noticed that your furry friend has a peculiar habit of licking themselves, especially during bedtime. This nighttime ritual may seem strange, but it serves several purposes for our canine companions. In this blog, we will delve into the reasons behind why dogs engage in self-licking behavior, particularly as they prepare for sleep. Understanding this behavior can deepen our connection with our beloved pets and shed light on their unique needs.

1. Cleaning and Grooming

One of the primary reasons dogs lick themselves, including before bedtime, is for cleaning and grooming purposes. Licking helps them remove dirt, debris, and loose hair from their fur. Dogs have rough tongues designed to act as natural grooming tools. By licking, they can reach areas that are difficult to clean with their paws or teeth alone.

Just like humans, dogs appreciate the feeling of cleanliness before settling down for the night. By meticulously grooming themselves, they ensure their coat is free of any irritants, which can contribute to a more comfortable and restful sleep.

2. Sensory Exploration

Licking also serves as a way for dogs to explore and interact with their environment. Their tongues are highly sensitive, allowing them to gather information about different textures, scents, and tastes. When dogs lick their paws or other parts of their bodies, they are essentially gathering sensory information and processing it through their taste buds.

As dogs prepare for bedtime, they may engage in self-licking as a means of sensory exploration. It's their way of winding down, absorbing any remaining scents or tastes from the day, and familiarizing themselves with their surroundings before they drift off to sleep.

3. Comfort and Self-Soothing

Licking can have a calming effect on dogs. Just as we humans engage in activities like reading, listening to music, or taking a warm bath to relax before bed, dogs have their own self-soothing techniques. Licking releases endorphins in their brains, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

If you observe your dog licking themselves excessively before bedtime, it could indicate that they are seeking comfort or trying to alleviate any restlessness they might be experiencing. It can be a self-comforting behavior that helps them transition from the excitement of the day to a more relaxed state conducive to sleep.

4. Maintaining Body Temperature

Dogs regulate their body temperature through a combination of panting and sweating through their paw pads. During the licking process, dogs distribute their saliva onto their fur, which then evaporates and cools their skin. This self-cooling mechanism can be particularly important during warmer nights or for dogs with thick coats.

By licking themselves, dogs ensure that their body temperature is at an optimal level, making them more comfortable as they settle down for sleep. This behavior is especially prevalent in breeds that are more prone to overheating.


The habit of dogs licking themselves, including before bedtime, is a multi-purpose behavior that serves their hygiene, sensory exploration, comfort, and temperature regulation needs. As loving dog owners, it's crucial to understand and appreciate this behavior, as it contributes to their overall well-being and contentment.

If you notice excessive licking or any changes in your dog's behavior, it's essential to monitor them closely. Excessive licking can be a sign of allergies, skin irritations, or underlying health issues. If you have concerns, consult with a veterinarian who can provide guidance and ensure your four-legged friend remains happy and healthy.

So, the next time you witness your furry companion engaging in this nighttime ritual, appreciate the unique way in which dogs care for themselves and prepare for sleep. It's just one of the many fascinating aspects of being a dog owner and sharing your life with these incredible creatures.