The Real Reason Dogs Lick Their Paws

According to the Independent, the sudden urge to "nibble" an adorable baby or "dropkick that puppy" because "he's so cute," demonstrates a phenomenon that scientists call cute aggression. Apparently, a person or pet can be so aww-inspiring that you feel the spontaneous urge to eat or beat it. And since your dog is obviously the most adorable thing since that cute loaf of bread you aggressively sliced, then you might think that when your dog licks its paws, it wants to cannibalize its cute widdle puppy feet or dropkick its sweet little tongue.

If that's what's going on, then your dog is pretty darn narcissistic. Not that anybody is judging ... well maybe a little. And far be it from anyone to say your canine doesn't look lovably scrumptious enough for you to plop it on a plate or — a hotdog bun, if it's a weiner dog — and chew that cutie to bits when it's done snacking on itself. But there's a good chance that when your pooch puts its paws in its mouth, especially if the licking is frequent, that something more than self-directed cute aggression is afoot.

When paws get their licks in

American Kennel Club contributor Dr. Jerry Klein writes that there are various reasons that dogs may lick or even chew their paws. The cause can be as mundane as boredom or as worrisome as an infection. If a dog licks its paws constantly, that's grounds for concern. That may indicate an injury such as a torn nail, an allergic reaction to something, or the presence of an unusual growth on the paw. Your dog might even have a yeast infection. PetMD notes that such infections may affect paws, ears, and skin, and dogs may continuously lick infected areas. Strangely, foot-and-mouth disease wasn't listed as a possibility.

The Spruce Pets points out that some dogs are "fastidious self-groomer[s]" and will wash their paws after meals, or returning from outdoors, like good little boys and girls. One way to tell if the licking is health-related is if your pooch favors one paw in particular. And if your pet is tasting itself so much that it makes you uneasy, just chuck the paws for splinters, cuts, and other possible irritants, or tell it to quit being so deliciously cute.