You may have noticed that your dog has started licking his paws and are curious about why this could be. Alternatively, perhaps your dog has done this for a long time and it’s become natural, therefore making it more difficult to spot yourself.
When your dog licks his paws, it could be for several different reasons. Some of these reasons are fairly harmless and easy to treat while others may need medical attention. If you think that your dog needs to be seen by a vet, do not hesitate to give them a visit. They are able to provide plenty of help and advice regarding why your dog is licking his paws and what you need to do about it.
However, if you think that your dog is not currently under any immediate threat, take a look at some of the common reasons why they might be licking their paws. All information and advice in this article is from personal experience as well as research from other websites and professionals.
Hopefully you’ll find the answer you’re looking for and you’ll have a happy doggy in no time!
So, what are some of the common reasons why your dog could be licking his paws?
They’re feeling anxious
Dogs can experience anxiety just like we can. Often when we’re anxious, we turn to specific behaviours to try to calm ourselves or make the fear go away.
Before deciding whether or not your dog is licking his paws because he is anxious, you’ll need to determine what he could be anxious about.
Dogs can often become anxious or fearful because:
- They are traumatised from a previous experience such as with other dogs or humans
- They are experiencing changes to their health
- They are experiencing separation anxiety
- They have generalized anxiety perhaps from a change in schedule, location or owner
If your dog is particularly anxious over something traumatic, it might be that they will show other symptoms to show their fear. However, remember that this is not always the case.
Ozzy the Cocker Spaniel loves to chew sticks to keep him chilled.
Other symptoms of anxiety that you might notice:
- Destroying furniture or toys
- Whining and barking
If your dog’s anxiety seems quite mild, try to watch them closely to see what they could be reacting to. If there are quite drastic changes, make sure that you seek help if you are concerned.
Your dog’s anxiety may also increase at certain times depending on whether they are experiencing something new. For example, if they hear a loud noise that seems unusual to them, they might be anxious in the moment. However, if they are persistently licking their paws and perhaps showing other symptoms too, it’s more likely to be a long term issue.
If you have rescued or adopted a dog, you may not always know what they have been through in their past. It might take a little while to understand their behaviours and what they react to. Charlie, the Westie that I sometimes look after, is a rescue and he will lick his paws when he has been away from his owners for too long. It is a way he deals with the separation. However, it’s not good for his skin and so he has to be told to ‘stop licking’, and then he obeys.
We’ve all had those times when we have been bored. We’ve felt like there is nothing else to do and so we turn to mundane tasks that keep us focused for a little while. Dogs are the same and one thing they might do in these cases is lick their paws.
Do you ever play with your hair when you’re bored? Check the textures and lengths of strands of hair? If you notice that your dog is doing the same to his paws, consider whether he might be a little bit bored.
If you have a particularly active dog, it might be that they are filling their time with licking their paws to distract them from wanting to go and get more exercise. Consider whether they are as tired as you would expect them to be when you notice them licking their paws.
Try to make sure that you give your dog lots of interaction and play time, both indoors and outdoors. Dogs need to stretch their legs and run around outdoors to burn off energy and feel happy. You are the centre of your dog’s life, so they will also want plenty of interaction and play time indoors with you too. Try playing games with them indoors with their toys to keep them entertained.
If you notice that your dog is licking his paws at the same time each day that you are there, try to change that behaviour by replacing it with something else such as trick training. This way you can work out whether they are bored or whether them licking their paws is something different.
George the Cockapoo loves a run around the park with plenty of leaves around.
They want a distraction
Wanting a distraction from something is a fairly common behaviour for both humans and animals alike. Dogs licking their paws as a distraction from something does link closely with the previous reasons I have stated.
It could be that your dog is trying to distract themselves from something they fear. Or, perhaps they are trying to give themselves something to distract themselves from the feeling of being bored.
In a similar way, if your dog is anxious about a loud noise, his go-to behaviour might be to lick his paws to distract himself from what he is afraid of. Try to give your dog plenty of reassurance and give him a different, positive distraction instead.
There is something stuck in their fur
Most dogs like being outdoors with lots of different smells, animals and humans. It’s natural for your dog to get things stuck in his fur considering all the plants, trees and rubbish that is outside.
If you notice that your dog is licking his paw, try checking to make sure that he is not being irritated by something stuck in his fur. If your dog does not usually lick his paws, it gives you a pretty big indication that it may be something he is trying to get out of his fur.
Ozzy the Cocker Spaniel loves jumping around in the grass and the woods!
Licking, along with chewing and gnawing at the paws can definitely show that your dog is uncomfortable. This could be something stuck in the fur or that their fur is matted. Either way, take a closer look if your dog lets you and make sure that there’s nothing harming him. If you are able to gently remove it from his fur without causing pain, try it. If not, let a professional handle it.
They have a yeast infection
A yeast infection in a dog is not necessarily life-threatening but it is quite annoying for your dog to live with. One of the signs that your dog might have a yeast infection would be persistent licking of the paws.
Along with this, you might notice that:
- Your dog’s paws have an odor
- Your dog’s nails become red
- Your dog’s paws are inflamed
- Your dog is persistently chewing his paws
K9 of Mine suggests that the following breeds are most likely to suffer from yeast infections:
From experience, Charlie the Westie suffers with it and so has my partner’s childhood Old English Sheep Dog. It’s just about finding ways to make it manageable for you and your pooch to try to keep the symptoms at bay.
They have an allergy
Just when something irritates us that we are allergic to, it irritates your dog too. Dogs can have allergies to food and things in the environment just like us.
Dogs can show a range of symptoms when they are allergic to something and this includes continuous licking of their paws.
According to American Kennel Club, other symptoms can include:
- Inflamed skin
- Runny eyes
Make sure you keep an eye out to see if anything changes with your dogs allergies. See if your pooch reacts to something specific to try to work out if his persistent licking of his paws is down to something in the environment or his food.
If you are worried about the types of things that your dog can and cannot eat, make sure you look at the common foods that your dog should not eat. The article will also give you tips on what they can eat.
Always make sure that your dog does not have an adverse reaction to something new he consumes. As tasty as it might be, you want to make sure it is not something that could be harmful to his health.
Charlie the Westie is a rescue dog who licks his paws regularly!
Their skin is dry
I’m sure a lot of us have suffered with dry skin at one point, whether that’s on our face, body or in our hair. For dogs, this can be extremely itchy and can be set off by the slightest touch.
Their dry skin can be caused by many different things, a couple of which might be their diet as well as the environment around them. Feeding your dog dry food could lead to dehydration because the food takes in moisture. Make sure that your dog’s diet is not affecting his skin and always make sure that they have enough water to quench their thirst.
If you want to make sure that you avoid your dog having dry skin as much as possible, make sure that you wash and groom them regularly to get any excess dirt and oil out of their fur. The dirt and oil can affect their skin, so ensuring that this is removed will help to keep their skin healthy. The space between their toes are relatively small, so bacteria can form from the dirt which leads to excess licking.
You can always take a look at some great dog shampoo products to find the best one for your pooch.
If your dog has serious issues with their skin, do make sure that you seek help from a professional as they will have plenty of help and advice to offer.
They have a flea or a tick bothering them
With plenty of them going around, it is not uncommon for your dog to be bothered by ticks or fleas. Ticks and fleas both survive by feeding off of the blood of mammals.
Ticks do not always cause your dog to lick their paws (obviously it also depends on where the tick settles on their body) or itch other areas of their body. This is because they can go undetected. However, dogs can have a reaction to a tick bite.
Fleas can cause a lot of irritation for dogs, especially if it is a full-blown infestation. Fleas can jump all over the body, including the paws. They cause irritation to their skin, which can also lead to licking of the paws. However, fleas often hide around the neck.
If you do notice that your dog has a tick on their body or that they are licking their paws from a tick, make sure that you know how to deal with them.
If you notice that your pooch is licking his paws or scratching a lot more than usual due to fleas, make sure that you are familiar with what they are and how to deal with them.
There’s lots of different reasons that dogs might lick their paws, whether they do it excessively or not! Make sure that you keep a close eye on your pooch if you notice something different and always seek advice from a professional if necessary.
To summarise what I have discussed in this article:
- Dogs can suffer from different skin problems
- Anxiety can cause dogs to act irrationally or find a distraction like licking their paws
- Paw licking can be a sign of a yeast infection
- Dog allergies can be caused by environmental factors as well as their diet
Have you noticed any other reasons why your dog licks his paws? Let us know and share your knowledge!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.