Why do dogs chew on their feet and nails?

Answered by Tom Adger

When it comes to anxious pets, one common behavior that you may notice is excessive licking or biting of their paws and nails. This behavior is often seen in dogs and is a way for them to self-soothe. It’s their way of distracting themselves from their anxious thoughts and finding something to focus on.

Anxious dogs typically target their front paws for this behavior. You may observe them obsessively licking or nibbling at their paws, sometimes for extended periods of time. It’s important to note that the paws usually do not show any signs of redness or outward irritation. This is because the licking or biting is not driven by any physical discomfort, but rather by their anxiety.

For these dogs, the act of licking or biting their paws provides a temporary relief from their anxious thoughts. It’s almost like a form of repetitive behavior that helps them cope with their anxiety. Similar to how humans may bite their nails or fidget with their hands when they’re nervous, dogs may resort to licking or biting their paws as a way to self-soothe.

It’s important to understand that this behavior is not a conscious choice made by the dog. They are not deliberately trying to harm themselves or cause any damage. Instead, it’s a compulsive behavior that arises from their anxiety. If you notice your pet engaging in this behavior, it may be a sign that they are feeling stressed or anxious about something.

There can be various reasons why a dog may experience anxiety. It could be due to separation anxiety when they are left alone, fear or phobias of certain situations or noises, or even general anxiety caused by changes in their environment or routine. Identifying the underlying cause of their anxiety is crucial in addressing the issue and helping your pet find relief.

If you notice your dog excessively licking or biting their paws, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist. They can help you determine the root cause of your dog’s anxiety and provide appropriate strategies to manage it. It may involve behavior modification techniques, environmental changes, or even the use of medication in severe cases.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate your dog’s anxiety and reduce their paw licking or biting behavior. Providing them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation through regular exercise and playtime can help reduce their overall anxiety levels. Creating a calm and safe environment for them, with a designated space where they can retreat to when they feel anxious, can also be beneficial.

Additionally, there are products available, such as bitter-tasting sprays or special socks, that can be applied to your dog’s paws to deter them from licking or biting. However, it’s important to consult with a professional before using any of these products to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your pet.

Remember, patience and understanding are key when dealing with an anxious pet. It’s important to provide them with the support and care they need to overcome their anxiety. With the right approach, you can help your furry friend find relief from their anxious thoughts and reduce their paw licking or biting behavior.