You are here:

Canine Behavior/My dog either sucking or licking in his sleep


I have a dog that is almost a year old. He is a Chorkie. When he is sleeping on me at night, I wake up to a hole in my shirt and it being all wet. What is causing this and how do I break him of it? I have lost many shirts now that I have had to throw away because of the holes in them. Please advise, I am going crazy on why he does this.

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry you're having a a frustrating experience. It sounds like he's suckling - much like an infant or toddler would on their thumb or a pacifier. Some dogs do this. We often see it in dogs who were weaned too early from their mom (before 5-6 weeks of age). It's a self-soothing, or comforting behavior. Because it's happening as he falls asleep, or while he's asleep, you are not going to be able to break the habit.

Your only option here will be management. He does not need to sleep ON you. Perhaps near you, on his own blankets or even on his own bed (my little dog slept on his own bed, which was on my bed for a long time - this gave him a defined space as his, but kept him where I could reach out and touch him) so that if he is suckling, he's doing it on his own bed or blanket and not your shirt. Or, if you do require him to be physically on you, then put a layer or two between you and him so that he's not accessing your clothing.

Also, you should have your vet conduct a complete dental on him to ensure that he doesn't have any oral issues that might be exacerbating the behavior. If there's a medical cause, then treating that will likely reduce the behavior when he's feeling better. But often this is not medical in origin.

Does he suckle on anything else? At any other time of the day? His own bed? toys, furniture, etc? If so, then we're looking at something that we might be able to intervene and redirect because he's awake. But if it's only happening as he's falling asleep and/or during sleep, then management will be your only option.

I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of any further assistance.

Worcester, MA Behavior Specialist
Masters Candidate - Animals and Public Policy (Animal Behavior)
Tufts Cummings school of Veterinary Medicine

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]