Nearly everyone has seen the family pet or another dog lying down and licking his feet. Some people, the more curious, probably wonder why a dog does this particular thing. It may be wise to first understand that several members of the animal kingdom lick their feet, for several reasons.
A dog licking its feet is probably just doing some normal cleaning. This is similar to the washing and grooming that a cat does on its body. A dog, however, is just making sure that its feet are free of dirt and objects that might keep it from walking and running normally. Not only that, but a dog doesn’t want small rocks or twigs lodged between the pads of its feet. These might cause discomfort or injury.
A dog’s foot has distinct pads rather than one complete piece of skin covering the bottom of the foot. These pads can be scraped or cut and the injury could become infected if not kept clean. While some pet owners are very careful to watch for these conditions, dogs that are active outside may take care of potential problems on their own.
Most of the time a dog will lick its feet to keep them clean and in good condition for walking and running. However, canine experts also say that a dog may do this as a way to deal with being bored or as a way to relieve stress. In other words, a dog may lick its feet as a nervous habit. There is a veterinary medicine term for soreness that develops on a dogs foot pad when it is licked too frequently. The rough surface of the tongue may cause the pad to become tender and raw. This is called granuloma in the medical field.
More serious conditions such as infected claw/nail or broken bone may cause the dog to lick as a way to relieve the discomfort. Pet owners should watch for excessive licking and problems with walking or running. These may be signs of something that needs medical attention. But a dog licking its feet to stay clean and healthy is not something worry about.
There is another foot to consider when asking why dogs lick feet. Friendly dogs may lick a human’s bare foot or even a shoe to show that the dog wants attention or wants to be friendly. In addition, dog tongues are very sensitive and the animal may be investigating, trying to find out more about the person. In fact, canine experts have noted that a dog that is new to a family may lick the feet of family members as a ritual of being accepting. Dogs establish an order within a family or a group of dogs and licking the feet may be a sign that the dog is seeking its place in the group.
The biological reason behind this involves the sweat glands in human feet and the information the sweat and taste of the skin can provide to the dog. Dog tongues and noses can gather and interpret very complex information based on aroma and taste.