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Why Does My Dog Lick My Feet?

Why do some dogs lick feet?

Does your dog lick your feet when you put them up on the coffee table? Maybe he follows you around the house, licking your feet whenever they slow down enough?

Some people don't mind this canine behavior, but it really bothers other people. And if it doesn't upset you that your dog engages in foot-licking, it might really annoy your guests.

Why Do Dogs Lick Feet?

Dogs lick things for a few reasons. For many, it starts when mother dogs lick their puppies. They do so for several reasons:

  • To clean them
  • To stimulate elimination
  • To check on them

Puppies learn licking behavior from their mothers and, for some, it can make them feel loved because they experienced it as such young puppies. As they grow, they engage in licking as a way to show love and affection themselves.

Dogs also lick to gather information about an object. Smells and tastes can provide a wealth of knowledge to a dog, and a person's feet have a lot to tell. The sweat glands there release substances that can presumably give your dog information about your mood, where you've been, and with what and whom you've been in contact.

Dogs also lick feet because they usually get a reaction for doing so. You might laugh, move around, or talk to your dog when he does it. That provides reinforcement for him to do it again.

Some dogs lick more when they're feeling anxious, so a foot-licking habit can indicate an anxiety disorder in some dogs. When this is the case, the licking is often accompanied by other signs of stress like a crouched posture, fast, short tail wags, and panting or yawning. Learn more: "How to Help a Dog with Anxiety."

When Foot Licking Goes Too Far

If your dog has a habit of licking people's feet and it's annoying because of its constancy, you'll need to train him to stop. The way to do this is not through punishing or reacting in a big way when your dog licks your feet. Instead, you'll want to replace the licking with some other behavior that's more acceptable to you and reward your dog for doing the new thing.

For example, try keeping a chew toy with you at all times, and when your dog licks your feet, toss the toy a few feet away from yourself. When your dog chases it and grabs it, give him big praise. You can even use a puzzle toy with treats in it to make the alternative behavior more rewarding. Be consistent, and your dog will learn it's more pleasant to grab his toy and chew it near your feet than to sit and lick your feet.

If your dog shows signs that foot licking is a compulsive behavior, talk to your veterinarian. You might need to use anti-anxiety medicine for a short time while you do behavioral training, or you might wish to consult a canine behavioral specialist for individual recommendations. Never give medications, though, without checking with your vet first because some human medicine is toxic to dogs.

What If My Dog Constantly Licks His Own Feet?

If your dog's foot-licking habit is directed at his own paws instead of your feet, you'll need to take action before he creates big sores or a skin infection. Dogs might incessantly lick their own paws due to anxiety or a skin condition like external parasites or allergies. Visit your veterinarian if your dog won't stop licking his paws.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Lick Granuloma: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention of Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs

Dealing With Canine Scratching and Licking

Atopy: Inhalant Allergies in Dogs

How to Help a Dog with Anxiety

How to Talk to Your Dog

Why Does My Dog Follow Me Everywhere?

Do Dogs Get the Winter Blues?

Canine Body Language: What Is Your Dog Saying?


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