How to Stop a Dog From Licking the Paws

Updated April 17, 2017

Although dogs occasionally lick their paws to clean them, repeating licking of paws signals a problem. The dog encounters discomfort not only from the problem causing it to lick its paws in the first place, but also by the irritated skin as it licks its paws raw. If you can't resolve your dog's paw-licking issue, consult a veterinarian. Sometimes dogs need stronger medicine than you can get at the pet store, or dogs might need help dealing with anxiety.

Watch to see when your dog licks its paws the most. If it licks shortly after coming in from outside, dirt, stones or allergens might cause the problem. If it licks during stressful times, such as when company comes over or after you return from a long outing, the problem might be anxiety-related.

Give your dog a bath with a gentle soap, such as one containing oatmeal. Pay special attention to its paws to make sure they get completely clean. Use a soap designed to rid the dog of ticks and fleas if the dog spends a lot of time outside.

Check with your veterinarian to see if the paw-licking behaviour could be caused by a fungus similar to athlete's foot or if the dog has allergies. A veterinarian can administer allergy injections to help the problem.

Distract your dog with positive attention when it licks its paws. This will stop any licking that occurs as a simple bad habit. After a couple of weeks, the paws will heal, and the dog will lose interest. Do not yell at or smack your dog; the additional stress will make the problem worse.

Give your dog lots of play time, and if you need to change its food, do it gradually to avoid causing stress. Deal with any separation anxiety issues by leaving the dog alone for increasingly longer times. Stress is a common cause of paw-licking behaviour, and the irritation caused by the licking causes more stress, and a cycle has begun.

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About the Author

Usha Dadighat has been writing since 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Science in computer science and a minor in psychology from the Missouri University of Science and Technology in December 2010. She currently works as a software development engineer and has extensive technical writing experience.