Most dogs will lick their paws. It’s a normal part of them grooming themselves, nothing very weird about it. But maybe if you feel like your pup is always going at them, we understand that you might feel a little funny about it. Especially if there might be something there worth checking out. So, how do you know when a dog licking their feet is excessive or normal? Is there something you should do if your pup keeps chewing on their paws?

Well, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for. In this article, we’ll be getting into the nitty gritty of why dogs lick their paws. By the end, you’ll learn how to work out why your dog is licking their paws, what to do if there’s a weird reason behind it, and what to do in case it is. 

Download a trial of the Zigzag app to get your pup off to the best start. We have lessons on socialisation, life skills training, guides and tips, and access to a team of fully qualified puppy trainers to help you every step of the way. 

dogs licking paws
Photo by Real Natures Food on Unsplash

Why do dogs lick their paws?

Before knowing how to stop a dog from doing something, it’s always important to understand why they’re doing it in the first place. Knowing why your dog is licking their paws helps you figure out what to do next. Dogs lick their paws for plenty of reasons, so let’s dive in and find out what they are.

Paw licking can just be a part of normal grooming

Dogs clean and groom themselves by licking, so licking their feet is just part of them giving themselves a personal bath. 

Stressed or anxious dogs lick their paws

Paw licking can be what we call a “self-soothing” behaviour. To your dog, it just feels good to do it. However, if you see your dog pacing, panting excessively, or scratching their paws a lot, there is a chance they are anxious or worried about something. This could be fireworks, thunderstorms, separation-related problems or just general anxiety. Our article on puppy body language will help you read into it.

Your puppy could be licking their paws due to a foreign body or injury

As you may know, most dogs don’t wear shoes. This means their paws can become cut or grazed by walking on rough pavements. Thorns and grass seeds can also get into their paws, possibly causing abscesses or inflammation.

Fleas and other parasites can cause your pup to lick their paws

Fleas and parasites are nightmares. They’ll make your dog feel itchy, and will show their irritation with them licking or chewing their paws. Our article on puppy flea treatments will tell you much more about these nasty little things.

Paw licking can be a sign of a yeast infection

Yeast infections are commonly found in dogs’ feet and paws. Yeast infections make the skin really sore and red, with some brown discharge and hair loss too. Have a sniff, yeast overgrowth smells like stinky cheese. 

Allergies can cause a dog to lick their paws

Food intolerances, allergies, and environmental problems can cause the skin to act up too, causing atopic dermatitis. It could really be anything – from the dust, the food they’re eating, to even the particular cleaning products you use. 

Problems with anal glands can cause a dog to lick their paws.

Yep, bet you didn’t know there could be a connection there. Dogs licking their feet is strangely a well known sign of impacted anal glands. This means that they’re essentially full and can’t empty themselves. Poor things. Another sign of this is a puppy biting at their tail and bottom

Dogs chew their feet because they’re bored

Boredom can also be a big reason why your puppy licks their feet. When nothing’s going on,  gnawing at their feet is just the next best thing.

Front paw licking can be due to neurological issues.

Dogs who pull in collars, who have had choke chains or slip leads used as corrections, can have problems with their nervous system. This can cause strange sensations down their front legs, causing your dog to lick their paws – just another reason for why we don’t recommend them.

You might be walking your puppy too much

Going for long walks and overexercising your puppy can put stress on their joints and delicate skin, which can cause your puppy to chew their feet.

Not sure how much you should be walking your puppy? Check out our articles on puppy exercise and puppy walking schedules to get it right.

Feet chewing can just be your dog chewing their nails

If your dog’s nails are long and need trimming, they can become uncomfortable. In these situations, some dogs will have a go at trimming their claws by having a nibble.

dog paws
Photo by Ruby Schmank on Unsplash

Is my dog licking his paws bad for him?

Paw-licking as a part of regular self-grooming is normal. But if you notice your dog suddenly begins to lick a particular paw much more than they previously did then it’s good to take a closer look since it might be a sign of injury. 

If your dog is maniacally chewing and biting at their paws, you might see other signs of pain or irritated-ness along with it like frequent scratching or head shakes. If you think this is it, you might want to give your vet a call.

If their paws are becoming red, sore, smelling funny or have any discharge seeping out from all that licking, this is definitely your sign to give your vet a call. It must be awful to have such itchy skin!

Like we said above, if it smells cheesy after giving it a sniff, it could be a yeast infection. This is sometimes diet related, but the vet will know. 

How to stop my dog from licking their paws

If your dog’s paw licking is excessive, here are some ways keep them from sucking their feet away:

  1. First on the list should be to check for underlying causes, and see a vet – especially if there’s any soreness, redness or infections!
  2. For dogs sensitive to noise, try a white noise machine to help muffle scary sounds.
  3. Check their diet, and keep a close eye on any potential allergies with their food, or any other ingredients.
  4. After walks, clean and dry your puppy’s paws.
  5. Make sure their nails are trimmed regularly and as part of a grooming routine.
  6. Take them for a walk so they get some stimulation from the fascinating world that lives outside. 
  7. Play with them! A nice game of fetch perhaps, to help them manage boredom and anxiety.
  8. Give them an interactive puzzle to play with or a chew to munch on instead of their own paw.
  9. Do some training and teach them some basic commands using positive reinforcement.
  10. In some cases, you might want to teach them to wear boots or shoes. More and more owners are doing this as their dogs have sensitive paws which get cut by debris on pavements, or damaged by salt, grit or anti-freeze in winter months. They look funny, but will save them from feeling uncomfortable…and you from being annoyed from hearing ticking licking sounds in the background.

There. We’ve kept it short and sweet. We hope we’ve helped you solve the mystery of  ‘why does my dog like their paws?’. If your puppy is hurt, make sure to call the vet first, but if you think there’s something you can do to help it, go back to the list to see the many ways in which you can distract them.

puppy licking window
Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Your dog is communicating with you all the time, you can learn a lot about their behaviour through their body language, from the way they wag their tail, to the reason they lick your hands, or your feet! Click the links to read more.

While you’re here, why not download the Zigzag puppy training app and go through some of the lessons there? They’re bound to stretch your dog’s brain and keep them busy. We have a team of expert puppy trainers on hand 7 days a week to talk you through any of the struggles you might be having too.