Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 5:30 pm | Fair 74º


Inquisitive Canine: Getting to the Bottom of Paw Chewing

The behavior can be caused by any of a multitude of factors, both medical and behavioral


I have a quick question for you. My dog is always chewing on her feet. I’ve heard it’s allergies to grass. Is that true? Also, is there something I can do to make her feel better?

— Emily

Dear Emily:

It’s a quick question, but one with an answer that is not as quick or simple.

Regardless of the reason for your dog’s feet chewing, you’ll want to have your dog examined by a veterinarian, and possibly by one who specializes in veterinarian dermatology. That will help rule out any underlying medical causes. The paw-chewing behavior may have started initially because of a medical issue, but has since developed into a compulsory habit.

Allow me to make it clear that Poncho and I are not veterinarians. We’re canine behavior experts and would never work outside our scope of practice. Poncho wanted to give this topic his own canine spin, which you can read about on his Poncho’s Prose blog.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I’d like to provide you with questions to help you plan ahead for the visit with your dog’s veterinarian:

» How long has your dog been partaking in feet chewing? When you say “always,” does that mean from the time she was a puppy or more recently? It would be a good idea to keep a log.

» Does she chew on all four paws? Or just certain ones?

» Is the area irritated? Inflamed? Swollen? Is there any hair loss? Drainage or oozing? Lumps or bumps?

» Have you checked between her toes and around her nail beds?

» Have you changed your dog’s diet? New medications? Shampoos? Flea medicine?

» Is she chewing at the same time every day? The feet chewing could be a sign of stress. Maybe before being left home alone?

» What situations are happening before and after the feet chewing occurs? Is it after she goes out and plays in the grass? After walking on hot concrete or icy walkways?

» If it arises after she plays outside on the grass, do you use chemicals or a specific fertilizer on your grass?

» Are there no apparent triggers? Paw licking and sucking also can be indicative of boredom, and it may help her pass the time. Or, she may just find it relaxing, pacifying and enjoyable.

If all medical reasons are ruled out, your vet most likely will encourage you to begin a behavior modification plan. It will take time, patience and consistency on your part. You will need to do the following on a regular basis:

» Keep her busy so she doesn’t have the time or energy to chew on her feet.

» Provide items that she would rather put in her mouth and chew, such as bully bones and interactive food toys.

» Reward her with yummy treats for ignoring her feet and chewing on appropriate items.

Unfortunately, paw licking and chewing is one of those behaviors that can be caused by a multitude of factors, both medical and behavioral. And, yes, allergies to grass can certainly be one cause of this common canine issue.

The thought of irritated paws is unbearable enough for us humans; I can’t imagine how your dog must feel. I commend you for taking the first steps to resolving this issue, instead of ignoring it and thinking it’ll just go away on its own. It can take time and some investigative work to find a solution, but it will be well worth the effort to relieve your dog of any unnecessary irritation.

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >