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Why Do Dogs Chew or Lick Their Paws?

Why Do Dogs Chew or Lick Their Paws?

It can be almost maddening, hearing that constant licking or chewing sound. Glancing over, you find your dog with his eyes closed and ears laid back, licking at his foot like it was the latest flavor of popsicle. Can something be done to prevent this, short of your pulling all your hair out? Is it a sign that there’s something from with your dog, or is it just another nasty habit? Also, once you figure out what’s wrong, is there a way of stopping this behavior, once it’s already started? All of these are great questions and, with just a little advice and patience, you’ll be well on your way to overcoming “the canine toe-sucker’s blues.”

The Reasoning?

This varies from dog to dog. In some cases, excessive licking can be a sign of irritation, such as an allergic reaction or due to bites from something like ants. Whether the spot is itchy or burns, chances are that your puppy will try and lick away his discomfort. Examine the area closely, looking for any sign of redness, infection, bumps or swelling. Doing so will help you to determine the cause and how best to treat it.

For some dogs, licking is a sort of OCD behavior that’s left over from their puppy days. Licking, nibbling and sucking on their feet can help soothe them and help them to relax when they’re upset. Sometimes, a dog will start to do this when he’s injured or stressed and it will simply become a habit for him. While they may not have a physical reason for doing this, the behavior is important to your dog as it helps him to unwind or occupies his time. On occasion, some dogs will even resort to toe-licking when they’re bored - talk about a way to pass the time!

How to Stop It

The first step in determining how to stop a toe-licking problem is figuring out what’s at the root of the problem. What’s causing your dog to behave in this fashion? If it’s an allergic reaction or injury, chances are that his feet will have to be bathed in a medicated solution and then wrapped until they heal. Allowing him to lick can only complicate matters further and spread infection elsewhere.

For some dogs, the excessive licking is due to boredom or stress. This is a condition that may best be solved by turning to behavior modification classes, to help stop your dog’s self destructive tendencies, or you can find things to do, to take your pet’s mind off of what’s bothering him. They say the devil makes use of idle hands - imagine what he can do with 4 bored paws?

There are many tools to help you in stopping this behavior - wraps for your dog’s paws, bitter apple sprays to make the legs and feet less palatable - even Elizabethan collars can be applied, preventing your dog from reaching his feet in order to lick them. While dog’s licking their feet is an age old practice, with a little perseverance and personality, we can help them end this destructive behavior and get back to what dogs enjoy doing most: being man’s best friend.

Shawna L. Krautheim
2007

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