Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws? (6 Reasons)

TerrierOwner.com is reader-supported. If you buy a product through a link on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

It’s common to see dogs licking or chewing at their paws. This behavior may seem harmless at first, but excessive paw licking can be a sign of underlying issues.

Dogs lick their paws for a variety of reasons. While occasional paw licking is normal grooming behavior, chronic or excessive licking may indicate a health problem needs to be addressed.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common reasons why dogs lick their paws and what you can do about it. By understanding what’s motivating your dog’s paw licking, you can get to the root of the behavior and provide any treatment needed.

We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about paw licking in dogs. Read on to learn more about this peculiar canine habit.


Siberian Husky puppy licking paw. Dogs often lick and chew their paws due to irritation from allergies. These allergies can be triggered by pollen, mold, dust mites, specific foods, and other factors.

One of the most common reasons dogs lick and chew at their paws is because they are irritated by allergies. Dogs can develop allergies to things like pollen, mold, house dust mites, certain foods, and more.

These allergies cause itchy skin, which leads to excessive licking and biting at the paws, legs, and belly.

Allergy symptoms typically worsen seasonally, such as during spring when pollen is high. You may notice your dog licking his paws more during allergy season.

Dogs with food allergies tend to lick their paws year-round. The licking is usually focused on the paws because they are the closest skin surface to the allergens when a dog cleans his face and inches.

If you suspect allergies are behind your dog’s paw licking, take him to the vet. Testing can identify the specific allergen. Your vet will recommend treatment to manage the symptoms, which may include anti-itch shampoos, antihistamines, steroids, or immunotherapy.

Controlling environmental allergens by vacuuming frequently, washing bedding on hot, and using HEPA air filters can also help reduce paw licking.

Injury or Infection

Dog licking paw at the park. Dogs may also lick their paws due to injuries or infections. Problems such as cuts, ripped nails, splinters, burns, calluses, yeast infections, ringworm, or inflamed tissue can make a dog uncomfortable and lead to excessive licking.

Sometimes dogs will lick at their paws because of an injury, wound, or infection. Issues like cuts, torn nails, splinters, burns, calluses, yeast infections, ringworm, and inflamed tissue can all cause a dog discomfort and prompt them to lick excessively.

Lacerations from sharp sticks or discarded trash are one of the most common dog park injuries.

Dogs may lick a hurt paw in an effort to clean or soothe it. However, too much licking can exacerbate the problem. The moisture from licking can lead to infections. And constant licking can cause sores or wounds to become bigger.

It’s important to check your dog’s paws regularly for any signs of injury or infection. Look for limping, redness, swelling, discharge, foul odor, and of course, excessive licking.

Your vet can diagnose and properly treat any underlying condition. For wounds, antibiotic ointment and an Elizabethan collar may be needed to prevent licking while it heals.

Getting to the source of the irritation and resolving it is key to stopping the paw licking behavior. Once the infection clears or injury heals, the obsessive licking should stop.

Boredom or Anxiety

White Bulldog licking paw. At times, paw licking is linked to a dog's mental well-being rather than a physical problem. Dogs may lick their paws excessively if they are bored, not stimulated enough, stressed, or anxious. This behavior can be a sign of canine compulsive disorder or displacement behavior.

Sometimes paw licking stems from a dog’s mental state, not a physical issue. When dogs are bored, under-stimulated, stressed out, or dealing with anxiety, they may lick at their paws obsessively. This is a form of canine compulsive disorder or displacement behavior.

Dogs need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Without adequate activity and enrichment, dogs can become restless and anxious, which leads to compulsive paw licking.

Separation anxiety can also cause paw chewing and licking, as the dog deals with stress when left alone.

The best way to curb boredom or anxiety-related paw licking is to make sure your dog is getting sufficient daily exercise and playtime. Provide interactive toys and puzzles when you leave the house and crate train to create a safe space.

Your vet may also recommend anti-anxiety medication in severe cases. Behavioral modification training can also help teach your dog to remain calm.

By keeping your dog active, enriched, and confident, you can reduce anxiety and boredom that manifests as obsessive paw licking. The behavior should improve as your dog’s underlying emotional needs are fulfilled.


Dog licking paw. Light paw licking is normal for dogs and is part of their self-grooming routine. It's a way for them to keep clean, much like how cats bathe themselves. This type of licking is usually not a cause for concern.

It’s perfectly natural for dogs to lick their own paws while self-grooming. Licking their paws and legs is a way for dogs to regularly clean themselves, similar to cats’ impulsive bathing. Light licking as part of a dog’s normal grooming routine is nothing to worry about.

However, problems arise when paw licking becomes excessive and obsessive. If your dog is over-licking one particular paw or focusing on the same spot for long periods, it may signify an underlying issue.

Continuous and vigorous licking that leads to hair loss, irritation, sores, and infection clearly crosses the line from normal grooming behavior.

Most dogs do not need help cleaning their own paws. Be concerned if your dog seems fixated on their paw cleaning compared to a quick tidy up.

Monitor to see if the licking is in response to a minor injury or skin condition. You can gently discourage paw licking during grooming to redirect the behavior. But extensive licking likely points to a different health-related cause.

In moderation, paw licking is simply an innate self-care behavior for dogs. But excessive licking may require vet attention to address the root problem causing your dog’s obsessive focus on their paws.


Dog laying in the dirt licking the bottom of his paw. Dogs may also lick and bite their paws due to parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites. These parasites lead to irritation, swelling, and itching by feeding on the dog's blood.

Parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites can also prompt a dog to lick and bite at their paws. These parasites cause irritation, inflammation, and itchiness as they feed on your dog’s blood.

Dogs will lick and scratch at their bodies to try and get relief, especially focusing on their feet and legs.

You may notice small black flea dirt particles in your dog’s fur near areas they are licking. Check for any signs of parasites crawling on your dog’s skin as well.

Ticks tend to embed in the paws, which is why dogs attack their feet to try and dislodge them.

Your vet can diagnose a parasite infestation and provide effective topical or oral medication to kill the pests. Be sure to treat your home as well by vacuuming thoroughly, washing bedding in hot water, and using flea and tick sprays if needed.

Removing the parasites will stop the itching and irritation leading to excessive paw licking. As your dog finds relief from the infestation, their obsessive foot chewing should resolve. You may need to provide anti-itch remedies in the meantime to deter licking.


Dog licking paw. Another reason dogs may lick their paws is canine atopic dermatitis. This skin condition triggers intense itching and swelling. Affected dogs often lick and chew not just their paws, but also their underside and the base of their tails.

Canine atopic dermatitis is another common skin condition that leads to paw licking in dogs. This allergic skin disease causes severe itching and inflammation. Dogs with atopic dermatitis usually lick and gnaw at their paws, underside, and the base of their tails.

Dermatitis can be triggered by environmental allergens like pollen as well as infections, parasites, food allergies, and more. The chronic itching and irritation leads dogs to lick and scratch for relief. This can cause further skin injury, worsening the condition.

Identifying and avoiding triggers is important in controlling atopic dermatitis. Your vet may prescribe anti-itch shampoos, antibiotics, antihistamines, or immunosuppressants to manage flareups. Allergen specific immunotherapy may also help some dogs.

Getting the dermatitis under control and treating any secondary skin infections will reduce your dog’s urge to compulsively lick their irritated paws. It takes diligence to properly manage this chronic condition long-term.

Paw Licking FAQ’s

Why do dogs lick their paws at night?

Dogs may lick their paws more at night because they have less to distract them from the urge. Boredom and stress tend to worsen at night as well. Allergies can also flare up at night, causing paws to itch. Try providing chew toys before bedtime and make sure your dog is getting sufficient daily exercise.

Why do dogs lick their paws after they eat?

It’s common for dogs to lick their chops and paws after eating as part of grooming. Ensure there is no food irritating the skin. Rule out food allergies. Over time, excessive licking after meals may point to a digestive issue.

Is my dog licking his paws excessively?

Occasional paw licking is normal self-grooming behavior. But if your dog licks the same paw continuously, causing hair loss, sores, and irritation, that’s excessive. Paw licking that seems obsessive, lasts more than a few minutes at a time, or occurs when unattended can indicate a health problem.

Conclusion: Providing Relief from Excessive Paw Licking

While licking paws now and then is perfectly normal for dogs, excessive and obsessive paw chewing is a sign something is wrong. From allergies to anxiety and many issues in between, there are various reasons your dog may be fixating on licking their paws. The key is identifying the root cause behind the behavior.

By taking your dog to the vet and thoroughly examining their paws and skin, you can try to pinpoint the problem. Treatment will depend on the specific reason, whether it’s an infection, injury, parasites, allergies, boredom, or compulsion.

Medication, topical solutions, environmental control, training, and behavioral therapy can all help resolve excessive licking.

Relieving any discomfort, inflammation, irritation, or stress is crucial in redirecting your dog’s obsessive licking habit. With diligence and patience, you can get to the bottom of what’s causing your dog’s paw chewing and help them find relief from the urge to lick.

Your dog will be happier, healthier, and free from constant licking when their needs are addressed.

Kevin William

Kevin grew up with a female West Highland White Terrier named Murphy who was always by his side. Kevin currently lives in New York state with his family including a Labrabull (Labrador Retriever Pit Bull) named Lily.

Recent Posts