My son, an only child, is 19 months old. His two "siblings" are dogs twice his size and they get along great (I'm not sure how that sentence reads, but I'm not one of those people that actually treats our dogs like they're actual children). Recently he's starting acting out a few things like our dogs. Most of them are cute but one is beyond gross: He's opening his mouth and getting as close as he can to the dogs to invite them to lick... his mouth... like they (the dogs) do to each other.

I'm trying to get him around more kids, but it's not always practical. Once a week or two is typical though.

He does get a lot of attention, but I could still see how this could be a vie for an immediate reaction. I try to diligently stop it as it happens as calmly as possible but he's relentless! I'll admit that the calm part isn't always successful. I can't exactly ignore it and hope he abandons this behavior because it doesn't get a reaction. Suggestions?

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    At nineteen months, I doubt he's doing it to get your attention. The dogs, maybe. Most likely, he's just playing and can't understand that you have a problem with it or why. You love the dogs, he loves the dogs, the dogs love him. I don't think there's an immediate fix for this.
    – Marc
    Dec 4 '14 at 1:49
  • That's a good point. As a side note, I'm stricter on the dogs on this but I try not to fight any interactions between the dogs because, well, who am I to tell them how to dog? I guess I'll just keep bucking it until he's old enough to know better.
    – Gary
    Dec 4 '14 at 4:06

Well, since no one has given this answer yet, I will propose it.

My dog (the licker) knows the command no licking!

She loves to lick (not obnoxiously, but if I even just compliment her, she wants to lick my hand. She also indicates her desire to play, eat, or go outside with hand licks [plus body language]. And other unknown stuff.)

Not liking too much licking, I taught her no licking!

I don't use it all the time, but when I do, she will stop even if my hand is a quarter-inch away. I make sure to praise this obedience (which makes her tongue slip out, heh, but she doesn't make contact.).

If you can't/don't want to train your baby, you can always train your dogs. You might just end up training both your dogs and your baby at the same time by saying no licking while they're both engaged in this interaction.


Okay, if you truly want to immediately stop the behavior, you will need to give immediate unpleasant results when he does it. "No Thank You" and other firm verbal commands do work - over time. The child needs to learn what the phrase means before it will have any impact.

At this stage in the game, a light tap on the cheek, with a firm "No" will equate that word(or phrase) with "Something I shouldn't do because it causes something unpleasant".

I know there is large controversy over corporal punishment, and that's not really what I'm suggesting. The light tap can easily be replaced by anything the child finds unpleasant, as long as it is consistently, immediately, applied and always acompanies your chosen phrase for "don't do that".

I suggested the light tap because it is an immediate unpleasant consequence, that's all.

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    I'm sure this will work for some, but to me this is conditioning, not teaching, and I don't agree with it (corporal or not). I'd do this with my dog, but my child I want to be able to make good decisions on his/her own, not as a response to a consequence.
    – Joe
    Dec 5 '14 at 20:51
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    How do you go about making decisions on your own? The answer is you make decisions based upon likely consequences. but frankly 19 month old children have absolutely no context in which to base their decisions. So yes initially you have to give them immediate consequences. Right now the child is simply imitating behaviors that it sees that's normal child development. And, as I said, this is just a tool to get the behavior to stop immediately. Since dog saliva poses a health risk I consider it more important to get the behavior to stop immediately. Dec 5 '14 at 22:00
  • I disagree. My twenty month old has no problem learning to make decisions without externally imposed consequences. If you teach them to make decisions based on your consequences alone, you don't teach them good decision making skills; you teach them to avoid doing things you don't like where you can see them.
    – Joe
    Dec 5 '14 at 22:04
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    Well, you are luckier than I was when my kids were toddlers. Still, I think you misunderstood me. I agree with you. I am not saying your child raising needs to change. I made my answer the way I make all my answers. This situation only. You asked for help with a situation, and specified immediate. What you were trying wasn't working, So I suggested an alternate method that would give immediate results. No method works all the time on every child. And, If this is the only time you need to use it? Wonderful! My answer was only ever intended to be a short- term, one- time fix anyway. Dec 5 '14 at 22:26
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    Good answer btw, @ThorinSchmidt -- I feel it will fall on deaf ears though.
    – Keith
    Dec 8 '14 at 17:25

For me this is a combination of a few approaches. I usually go through something like this:

  1. Can I live with this? If so, then do. I mostly prefer the hands off approach when possible (let him learn through experience). But of course sometimes the answer here is 'no', and the answer is different for different people.
  2. At least the first few times, be a bit silly. "Eww, that's icky." Things like that, where I convey my feelings on the matter with humor. It works surprisingly well for me with my two guys; they don't always comply, and sometimes they do it more for a bit, but usually in the long run it works for things that have obvious icky factors (like dog licking, though we don't have a dog).
  3. If that doesn't work, or it's something more complicated, then I try to explain the reason. "We don't eat food off of the floor because it can make you sick." "Sorry, that's dirty now."
  4. If none of those work, and I can't live with it for a while, then we use a more firm "No thank you" just like we would if he were hitting his brother or some other unacceptable activity. This we keep to a minimum, but sometimes you're just not okay with him chewing on the subway seat...

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