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The Root of the Behavior
Chewing on paws is natural for dogs. In the past, dogs lived in the wild and often chewed their paws to remove debris, cleanse the area, and sooth their sore paws. Today, dogs are domesticated and still have the tendency to chew their paws on occasion for the same reasons. An occasional chewing on a paw every few months is often random and your dog solves the issue on his own. However, dogs that chew their paws excessively are usually experiencing something much deeper. Separation anxiety is experienced by dogs on a daily basis. It’s natural for them to feel some sort of anxiety because, in reality, you are their pack leader. In the wild, dogs that are separated from their pack leader often panic and become stressed. A common reaction to stress is chewing on paws. The action of chewing helps him get his energy out and keeps him busy until you get home.
Allergies to food and harsh chemicals are also another cause for paw chewing in dogs. Commercial dog food contains a variety of ingredients which makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. If you have read the ingredient list on your dog’s food you probably feel overwhelmed with the number of options. Veterinarians are valuable during this situation because they can help narrow down the options and eventually pinpoint the ingredient that leads to the allergic reaction. Flea and tick medication along with strong shampoos are common causes of skin allergies in dogs. The medication or shampoo drips down in between your dog’s toes and sits there, which can cause itchiness. Your dog will naturally attempt to solve the problem by chewing on his paws until he feels more comfortable. Sometimes that relief never comes and your dog will continue to chew excessively until you realize the cause and avoid using the medication or shampoo in the future.
Encouraging the Behavior
As a pet parent, you want to do everything you can to discourage this behavior. The occasional chewing is fine, but when it becomes excessive, it's up to you to determine the cause and get your dog treated as quickly as possible. Continuous chewing on the paws can lead to infection, bleeding, and long-term damage if the issue goes on long enough. You can prevent your dog from chewing his paws by determining the cause. However, this might be easier said than done. It’s wise to write down notes regarding your dog’s triggers for paw chewing. This means you need to carefully observe your dog every chance you get.
If your dog tends to chew his paws when you are not home, he probably is experiencing separation anxiety. You can remedy this situation by taking steps to ease your dog’s stress. There are a variety of ways you can help your dog feel safe and comfortable while you are at work and away from home. Providing your dog with a dog crate, comfortable bed or blanket, and some toys can help the situation. You can also invest in doggie clothing that helps your dog feel like he is being hugged and loved while you are away.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog doesn’t stop chewing his paws and you have tried everything you can to stop it, you should consult with a professional dog trainer. Dogs with anxiety can often be taught by reassurance and other training techniques to remain calm while they are home alone. Dogs that experience allergies due to food, pesticides, and other harsh chemicals need to visit the veterinarian for further examination. Sometimes paw chewing can be due to a simple issue such as a broken nail, or it can be something more serious. Professionals can help determine the cause and offer the proper treatment to stop the issue or at least reduce the amount of chewing.