Why dogs lick their paws, and 3 other strange habits dogs have


Dogs have a way of constantly entertaining us, but some of their habits can seem downright weird. From licking their paws, licking their humans, and digging, to tilting their head when you talk to them, we discuss what may be driving these silly but decidedly canine behaviors. Everyone has a specific way that they prefer to clean themselves, whether that be by showering, by bath, or… by licking? Many animals, although usually not humans, get rid of dust and debris found in their fur by licking themselves spotless. Specifically, house cats and other felines are renowned for their constant self-bathing. But, are cats the only pets that lick away until they feel squeaky clean? Most can likely recall seeing a dog, likely an older one, licking their legs and paws, so the answer has to be “no”… right?

Well, the answer is a lot more complex than that. Occasionally, yes, dogs do lick some dust and dirt off of their fur, however, there are other more significant reasons for said licking. Oftentimes, dogs partake in “compulsive licking” which is their way of subtly communicating fear and nervousness. This type of licking does help relieve stress, serving as a stimulating activity, but only to a certain extent. However, obsessive licking reinforces anxiety and only escalates these negative emotions. 

1. "Kissing"

Another habit that dogs have that involves licking, is giving us humans a boatload of “kisses”. This affectionate gesture that leaves most absolutely overwhelmed with joy is a lot more complex than meets the eye. While yes, dogs do lick people in order to show their love, there are a couple of other reasons behind their actions. One of these reasons is a somewhat obscure idea.  According to an article published by the American Kennel Club, sometimes, a dog may lick someone because they like how they taste (https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/advice/why-is-my-dog-licking-me/) . However This should not be taken the wrong way, your dog does not want to eat you, they may just enjoy the taste of salt on your skin. This is a common occurrence in the animal kingdom, most popularly observed in mountain goats, who lick the sides of mountains because of the salt reserves within them.

2. Digging

Another thing that some dogs do that confuse pet owners, is dig while inside. On occasion, you may find your furry friend pawing and scratching away at the couch, rug, or floor, with no clear explanation. The reason behind this is similar to their licking habit, which is to release frustration, stress, and energy. The digging serves as physical stimulation and helps them deal with their emotions, similar to how humans have a tendency to fidget with random objects. Also, according to studies documented by authors at Rescue Dogs 101, digging may also be a result of anxiety and other negative factors (https://www.rescuedogs101.com/how-to-stop-my-dog-from-digging/).

3. Head Tilting

As stated in the previous entries, dogs have many similar habits to humans, including some when it comes to communication. While humans who are engaged in a conversation nod their heads to signal that they are paying attention, dogs tilt their heads to show interest and intrigue. This non-verbal way of communicating encourages the continuation of the “conversation” as well as human attention and care. Another reason that dogs tilt their heads, is because of their relatively limited directional hearing, meaning they have to turn towards some sounds to more clearly interpret and register them correctly.