Dogs like to get their paws, noses, and tongues into all sorts of undesirable things, and you might find yourself wondering – why do dogs lick feet?
If your dog has a habit of nosing through your laundry or licking in between your toes when you are in bed, keep reading to find out why they do this and what you can do to stop them.
In this article, we will discuss:
- Why do dogs lick things?
- What does licking mean in the dog world?
- Why do dogs lick feet?
- How to stop your dog from licking your feet
- Why is my dog licking and chewing his paws?
Why Do Dogs Lick Things?
As a dog owner, you have to become accustomed to a number of your dog’s weird or disgusting habits that perhaps would have annoyed or grossed you out before you brought a dog into your life.
Your friends and family who do not own a dog might find some of your dog’s behaviors antisocial. When it comes to licking, for example, not many people enjoy having a dog’s slobber deposited all over their faces.
Many dogs have a strange habit; one might even go as far as to say that they have a taste for, licking your feet.
Some people may not mind this behavior at all.
It could be quite pleasant and relaxing to have a dog’s warm tongue running in between your toes, but if you have ticklish feet, then your dog’s feet licking habits might get on your nerves.
The most important thing to note is that licking is perfectly normal and healthy behavior for a dog.
The action of licking provides dogs with information about their environment, and it is one of the main ways that they communicate with each other and with us.
Dogs have an extra sensory organ called the Jacobson’s organ. It provides a connection between the nasal cavity and the mouth, enabling dogs to smell and taste things at the same time.
The Jacobson’s organ is extremely useful for a dog, whose primary way of “seeing” and understanding the world around him is through scent.
You may have noticed while out walking your dog that when he stops to sniff something, sometimes he tentatively licks the area at the same time.
The reason your dog does this is to moisten or “activate” old scents on a surface so that he can smell them better and get more information about them.
This is also why dogs lick their noses to keep them wet so that scents from the environment are more easily attracted to the nose.
What Does Licking Mean In The Dog World?
In the dog world, licking is an essential form of communication. Licking is one of the first forms of communication a dog receives as a puppy from its mother after it has been born.
The mother dog licks her puppies to communicate affection and care for them. This establishes the act of licking as an essential tool for dogs to “talk” to other dogs.
Licking is used to express a wide range of emotions in dogs. Have you ever noticed that puppies are far more “licky” than older dogs?
This is because they use licking as a way to communicate their submission towards other dogs, showing that they are not a threat.
If you have ever tried to pet someone else’s puppy and it has responded by pointedly licking your hands, what the pup is trying to communicate is that he doesn’t know who you are.
Therefore he is “pushing” your hands away in a submissive manner by using his tongue to ask for the space he needs to feel more comfortable.
Often the best way to say hello to a puppy is to hold out your hands for them to sniff, and allow them to approach you rather than the other way around.
Licking can also be linked with anxiety. If you see a dog licking his lips, he could be trying to offer another calming dog signals, or perhaps even trying to calm himself down in a stressful situation.
Obsessive or compulsive licking can also happen when a dog is anxious, for example, if the dog has been left alone in the house and suffers from separation anxiety.
The obsessive licking is a way to direct the stressful energy onto something specific that will provide the dog with some mental relief.
Why Do Dogs Lick Feet?
Your feet, especially if they are not washed, contain a vast amount of biological information, like pheromones, and these are very interesting to your dog.
Feet often tend to be sweaty too, and the salt that sweat contains is very appealing to your dog because it tastes so good to them.
Licking can become annoying, though, especially when a dog passes the boundary of a few innocent and friendly licks to full-on invasive licking sessions.
If you find that your dog is taking his feet licking habit too far, you could be dealing with a behavioral issue.
Excessive licking behavior in dogs is often linked to attention-seeking.
When a dog licks you, it probably receives some form of positive reinforcement, whether you intend to give it or not.
A simple acknowledgment of the behavior sometimes can be enough for the dog to feel he has been given the attention he was looking for, and that will encourage him to use feet licking as a way to continue to get your attention.
If your dog licks your feet and you respond to it, whether your response is positive or not, it can quickly turn feet licking into a game for your dog.
Once your dog thinks something is a game, it can be challenging trying to stop them from wanting to play it!
How To Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Feet
If you don’t want your dog to continue licking your feet, thankfully, there are some simple things that you can do to discourage the behavior.
The number one rule when teaching your dog anything, whether it is teaching them to do something, or teaching them not to do something, is to avoid using punishment.
The best way to train a dog is always to use positive reinforcement and be clear and consistent so that your dog never has the opportunity to get confused.
The first step is to remove the temptation. If your dog seems to target your toes when they are out in the open, try wearing slippers or socks around the house.
You may not particularly want to do this, but remember that it is a temporary fix that will help your dog to learn more desirable behaviors faster.
Secondly, make sure that everyone in the household is on the same page. Your dog is not going to understand that there are specific rules for one person and then a completely different set of rules for someone else.
If one person is not enjoying having their feet washed by the dog’s tongue, then the whole family needs to be supportive and help to give the dog one simple, clear rule to learn –human feet are not to be licked.
If your dog is licking your feet because he is seeking attention, the best thing to do is to use distraction techniques and positive reinforcement.
It would help if you made it clear to your dog that you decide when playtime, food, or walkies time is, and that is when your dog gets your attention.
In between those times, you must make it clear what your dog is expected to do. If that is to relax in his dog bed while the family watches TV in the evening, then provide your dog with something rewarding like a dog chew that he can enjoy in his dog bed or crate.
You will essentially be rewarding your dog for that behavior.
Why Is My Dog Licking Or Chewing His Paws
If your dog is licking his paws, there could be an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed.
Some dogs chew their own feet out of boredom or habit, but more often than not, it will be because your dog’s feet are irritated in some way, and the licking behavior is providing them with some relief.
You should carefully examine your dog’s paws if you notice them paying too much attention to their feet, especially after walks.
It is easy for dogs to get grass seeds stuck in between their toes, and if these start growing into a wound on your dogs’ feet, it can be dangerous.
Your dog could also have walked on broken glass on the street and have a tiny piece embedded in his paw that he is licking to try and remove it.
Other standard foot irritations can include bites and stings from insects or plants, small cuts or abrasions, and allergies or infections caused by fungal conditions in the nail beds.
Related Topic: Why does my dog lick me at bedtime?
Another potential cause of your dog’s foot irritation could be that his nails are too long, and this is causing them to impact the nail bed when he walks or runs, making his toes sore and enflamed.
If you are concerned that your dog’s paw-licking is due to something medical, observe to see if they are focussing on any area in particular, and then take your dog to be checked over by a veterinarian.