Why Do Beagles Chew Their Feet

Unusual
Concerning

Introduction

Beagles earn high marks as one of America's most beloved dog breeds. Their trademarked handsome looks are unmistakable. The Beagle's loving, gentle nature makes him an ideal family pet, and his intense sense of loyalty marks him as an ideal companion. Particularly well-suited to homes with children, the Beagle is affectionate, loving, and cheerful of spirit. But Beagles, like other breeds, can fall prey to illness and nuisance behaviors. Maybe you've come home from work to find your exceptionally happy Beagle has emptied your trash and recycling bins and strewn their contents throughout your entire house. A common Beagle behavior? You bet.

Owning a Beagle means becoming an expert at keeping things under lock and key. Perhaps your Beagle frequently chews his paws. Is this yet another quirk peculiar to all Beagles, or could there be something wrong? Dog behavior can sometimes perplex us and leave us scratching our heads in wonder. Undertaking a thorough study of the breed, its history, and specific characteristics can help us to better understand the motivations behind why our dogs do what they do. Is chewing paws a normal Beagle behavior, or does Fido need a little one on one time with his favorite canine doctor?

The Root of the Behavior

The original low maintenance dog, Beagles are easy to live with indeed. Owners of this genial breed cite their lack of shedding, minimal grooming requirements, and no odor coats as some of their favorite breed attributes. Beagles are also a breed that exhibits little to no drooling. This sets them apart from other members of the hound family who seem to produce vast amounts of spittle much to their owners' chagrin. As prominent members of the scent hound variety, Beagles have a keen sense of smell which is highly attuned to prey. Originally bred to assist their owners on a hunt, Beagles retain this intense drive today. Though most Beagles live in family homes and are not regularly used in hunting, they are equally at ease relaxing with their "people" and enjoying being a regular part of family life. It cannot be overstated that Beagles were always intended to live and work in groups. On a hunt, Beagles would work in a pack and would seek continual communication with the hunter. Staying together increased the likelihood of a successful hunt. As such, the Beagle's ability to function properly within a group was highly valued. 

Today's Beagles find their pack consists of people. For this reason, your Beagle wants to be where you are at all times. Though they may not understand their compulsion to do so, they are drawn to be near you and to seek direction from you. So, when it comes to chewing paws, what does all of this mean? Could any of these traits be the culprit behind your Beagle's nightly chewing activity? Though there is nothing in the Beagle's genetic makeup to suggest that he is more prone to paw chewing than any other dog breed, there are many reasons why dogs chew their paws. For some dogs, allergies play a critical role in constant skin licking or chewing. Allergies can come in the form of food sensitivities or even reactions to environmental stimuli. If your Beagle is suffering from allergies, he is likely chewing his paws to relieve the itch. The most common cause of allergies in dogs is an autoimmune response to specific proteins. If you suspect your Beagle might be experiencing a negative reaction to the food he is eating, it might be time to head to your veterinary clinic to formulate a new plan for Fido's food. Your veterinarian can also perform a skin scraping to assess the condition of the skin and rule out any potential allergens. In the absence of any relief from the switching of foods, your veterinarian can also prescribe topical shampoos or oral medications to alleviate the symptoms of allergies and eliminate the chewing.

Encouraging the Behavior

If you find that Fido is more prone to chewing his paws at certain times of the year, the weather or even the season might be to blame. Dogs tend to have drier skin in the winter months when homes are heated with electric heat. This dry skin can become itchy and inflamed, and chewing provides a sense of relief for your dog. The problem with the chewing of paws is that it can become habitual and can also to lead to painful skin conditions. To avoid dry skin from outsourced heating units, feed your dog Omega 3 oils to assist with healthy skin, provide plenty of water to ensure proper hydration, and use conditioning shampoos which replenish natural coat oils when baths are necessary. Stress is another culprit that could bear the responsibility for your Beagle's fascination with chewing his paws. Dogs don't understand how to positively cope with stressors in their lives. Yet, they must find some form of release. Because of this, sometimes dogs will lick or chew their paws. Licking and exercising their jaws is a natural de-stressor for our pets. It is a sort of self-soothing that helps restore our dogs' sense of peace and tranquility. However, if your Beagle is chewing his paws because he is anxious, frustrated, stressed, or even bored, it is important for you to begin to work with Fido on better coping strategies for his feelings. 

Of course, licking and chewing behaviors can sometimes be indicative of pain. Because our dogs are masters at disguising when something hurts, Fido might be doing a very good job of acting like it's business as usual. But chewing paws is never a normal canine behavior. It is always indicative that there is something else going on that you need to get to the bottom of. A thorough examination by your veterinarian can help you to pinpoint the source of the problem and provide a course of action for treatment. For some dogs, being away from their owners feels like the end of the world. These dogs suffer from separation anxiety. When a dog feels stressed or anxious by the absence of their owners, it can lead to extreme behaviors. These behaviors can include destruction of property and even self-mutilation. Chewing paws is one of the less troubling coping mechanisms seen in dogs struggling with this condition, but it can easily lead to obsessive behavior that is very harmful both physically and mentally for your pet. If your Beagle struggles with separation anxiety, consult with a professional dog trainer who can assist you in beginning behavior modification therapy to help to ease Fido's stresses when you cannot be with him. Fido might also benefit from anti-anxiety medication from your veterinarian. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

Certain health conditions can also be evidenced through paw chewing. This is why annual wellness examinations are so important. By choosing to take Fido to the vet once a year for a thorough examination and run of bloodwork, you and your vet can head off problems at the pass, ensuring that Fido stays well. If your Beagle is a frequent paw chewer, there are steps that you can take to reduce and even eliminate the activity. The first step is to determine the motivation behind the chewing. If the reason for your dog's chewing is purely medical, your only course of action is veterinary assistance. However, paw chewing derived from medical origins is generally far easier to treat. If your dog is chewing his paws for behavioral reasons, finding the right solution can be more challenging. It is always wise to rule out any medical issues that may be contributing to the problem and to begin any veterinary recommended treatments. This will go a long way to giving Fido the focus he needs to kick the habit once and for all. 

While you work on behavior modification techniques, you must prevent Fido from continuing with this action. As with all nuisance behaviors, the pattern must be broken. There are a number of tools that you can use to prevent paw chewing in your Beagle. Among the most popular items are making use of Bitter Apple, a spray with an off-putting taste, on your dog's paws, or applying an Elizabethan collar to your dog's neck to keep him away from his feet. Both of these options merely eliminate opportunity but may not be completely effective for determined dogs. Avoid putting substances such as coconut oil on your dog's paws to speed in the healing process. If your dog likes the taste of it, he will lick all the more, thus exacerbating the problem. 

Conclusion

Does your Beagle chew his paws? Allergies could be to blame. Make a visit to your favorite veterinary clinic to get a thorough examination which will help you rule out any potential illnesses, injuries, or allergies. Paw chewing can lead to infections and habitual behavior which is not healthy for your Beagle. If your dog struggles with paw chewing, seek wise veterinary counsel and enlist the assistance of a reputable professional dog trainer who specializes in behavior modification to help Fido learn appropriate ways to express his emotions.