Why Does My Dog Kick Out His Back Leg And Lick His Paw?

Why Do Dogs Kick Their Legs and Lick Their Paws?

Many dog owners have experienced their pet dog suddenly kicking their back leg or obsessively licking their paw. While these behaviors may seem peculiar, they are actually quite common in dogs. In this article, we will explore the various causes – both medical and behavioral – for these behaviors. We’ll also provide tips on how to curb the behavior through training, home remedies, and when it’s time to seek veterinary advice.

First, we’ll examine why dogs kick their legs out. This is often referred to as the “scratch reflex” and serves multiple purposes for our canine companions. Next, we’ll look at the reasons behind excessive paw licking, which range from allergies to boredom. Finally, we’ll outline approaches for stopping the behavior through training, distractions, and even home remedies like bitter apple spray.

By the end of this article, dog owners will have a thorough understanding of why their pooch might be kicking and licking, as well as actionable solutions to stop the behaviors. The goal is to provide helpful information so owners can address these common dog mannerisms and enjoy a happy, healthy pup.

Leg Kicking Explained

Dogs kick their back legs for a number of normal reasons:

  • Scratching or itching – Dogs have scratch reflexes just like humans. When you scratch them in certain places it can stimulate a reflex that causes them to kick their leg. This is totally normal. According to one study, most dogs show a scratch reflex on their belly, thighs, chest and base of the tail [1].
  • Marking territory – After going to the bathroom, dogs will sometimes kick their back legs in the grass. This is to spread their scent and mark their territory [2].
  • Stretching – Like humans, dogs stretch their legs to relax muscles. Kicking back legs can be part of a good stretch after lying down for a while.

Kicking legs only becomes a concern if it happens along with signs of pain, irritation, limping or changes in posture. If it becomes excessive or is accompanied by licking or biting the area, there may be a medical issue like a rash, infection, joint problem or neurological issue. In those cases, consult your vet.

Mostly, occasional back leg kicks are completely normal dog behavior. As long as your dog seems relaxed and unbothered during and afterwards, you have no cause for concern.

[1] https://www.hillspet.co.id/dog-care/behavior-appearance/dog-scratch-reflex-and-leg-kicking

[2] https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/dog-behavior-why-do-dogs-kick-their-feet-after-pooping

Paw Licking Explained

Dogs lick their paws for a variety of reasons. Some amount of paw licking is normal grooming behavior for dogs to keep their paws clean. However, excessive or sudden increased paw licking may indicate an underlying issue.

Reasons dogs may lick their paws include:

  • Grooming – Dogs lick their paws to clean and groom themselves, much like cats. The moisture and texture of the tongue helps remove dirt and debris.
  • Itchy skin – Allergies, insect bites, dry skin or infections can cause itchiness leading to excessive licking. Paw licking stimulates endorphins for temporary relief.
  • Injury – Licking serves as a self-soothing behavior for pain. Dogs may excessively lick a wounded paw pad or nail.
  • Cleaning – Dogs may lick their paws to clean away stuck-on food, drool or other sticky substances.

Occasional paw licking during grooming or after outdoor activities is normal. However, consistent licking, inflamed skin, hair loss or wounds indicate a possible health issue requiring veterinary attention. Left untreated, excessive licking and chewing can lead to secondary infections or trauma.

It’s important to observe when and how often your dog licks their paws. If they excessively lick at the same spot for long periods, it may signal discomfort or pain warranting a veterinary exam. Consulting with your vet can help identify and treat the underlying cause.

Medical Causes

There are several medical issues that can cause a dog to excessively lick their paws, including:


Allergies are a very common reason dogs lick their paws. Allergies to foods, chemicals, pollen, mold, or other substances can cause itchy skin, rashes, and irritation between the toes and paws. This discomfort leads dogs to lick, bite, and chew their paws repeatedly. Food allergies in particular are a frequent cause of paw licking in dogs. Switching to a hypoallergenic dog food may help identify food allergies (Source).


Bacterial or yeast infections between the paw pads or nails can cause redness, itching, and irritation that leads to excessive licking. Staph, strep, and other bacterial infections are common causes. Keeping the paws clean and dry can help prevent infections that lead to paw licking (Source).


Cuts, torn nails, fractures, blisters, or other injuries to the paws are painful and prompt intensive licking as a natural response. Inspect your dog’s paws and toes regularly to check for injuries. Paw licking right after walks may be a sign something got lodged between the paw pads (Source).


Fleas, ticks, mites, and other parasites can live between a dog’s paw pads or toenails. This causes severe itching, which leads to nibbling, licking, and chewing at the paws. Consult your vet about parasite prevention medications if pests are suspected as the cause of paw licking (Source).

Behavioral Causes

Some dogs excessively lick their paws due to behavioral causes like boredom, stress/anxiety, or compulsive disorders.

Boredom is a common reason for paw licking in dogs. Dogs left alone for long periods with little stimulation may resort to licking their paws out of boredom or frustration. Providing puzzles, toys, and activity can help deter boredom paw licking.

Stress and anxiety can also cause dogs to lick their paws excessively. Licking produces endorphins that help relieve anxiety, so it can become a compulsive soothing behavior. Identifying and minimizing sources of stress is key. Consult a vet about anti-anxiety medication or supplements if needed.

Compulsive paw licking is similar to OCD in humans. It’s repetitive, excessive, and serves no purpose. Compulsive licking may stem from a medical issue originally but then becomes a habit. Training, distraction techniques, and medication can help curb compulsive licking.

When to See the Vet

Excessive or sudden paw licking in dogs can be a sign of an underlying medical issue, so it’s important to monitor your dog and watch for any changes. According to Reedy Creek Vet, you should take your dog to the vet if you notice any of the following:

  • Changes in the frequency or duration of paw licking. If your dog goes from occasional licking to constant, obsessive licking, see your vet.
  • Excessive licking or chewing that leads to wounds, sores, or irritation on the paws. This can indicate a skin condition or infection.
  • Other accompanying symptoms like limping, swelling, hair loss, or redness around the paws.

According to FirstVet, signs like inflammation, bleeding, and pain in the paws mean you should take your dog to the vet immediately. Paw licking paired with lethargy, appetite changes, or other behavioral shifts also warrants a vet visit. It’s important to get an official diagnosis and treatment plan from your vet for excessive licking.

Home Treatments

There are several home remedies and lifestyle changes pet owners can try to help reduce excessive paw licking in dogs:

OTC Topical Treatments

Applying over-the-counter topical treatments to your dog’s paws may help soothe irritation and reduce licking. Some popular options include:

  • Apple cider vinegar – Contains antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that can help heal infections causing itchiness. Dilute apple cider vinegar with equal parts water and apply to paws with a cloth. Rinse after 5-10 minutes. [1]
  • Baking soda – Has a natural anti-inflammatory effect to ease skin irritation. Make a paste with equal parts baking soda and water and rub gently into paws. Rinse after 5 minutes.
  • Coconut oil – Moisturizes dry, cracked paws. Apply a thin layer to paws 2-3 times per day.

Dietary Changes

Adjusting your dog’s diet may help reduce allergies causing paw licking:

  • Switch to a limited ingredient or novel protein dog food to identify food allergies.
  • Add omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil to reduce inflammation.
  • Eliminate high allergen ingredients like beef, dairy, chicken, and wheat.

Increased Exercise/Play

Getting your dog more physically and mentally stimulated may curb anxious paw licking behavior. Try:

  • Going on longer, more frequent walks.
  • Playing more interactive games like fetch and tug-of-war.
  • Using food puzzle toys to engage their mind.
  • Providing chew toys to redirect licking behavior.

Prevention Tips

There are a few things you can do to help prevent excessive licking and kicking in dogs:

Regular grooming and paw care can help minimize irritation and discomfort that may trigger licking. Be sure to trim the fur around the paws and keep the areas clean. You can apply a hypoallergenic moisturizer or balm to the paws if they seem dry or cracked.

Providing mental stimulation through walks, play time, puzzles, and training can help deter obsessive licking behavior stemming from boredom or anxiety. Try introducing new toys and changing up your dog’s routine to keep their mind engaged.

Additionally, identifying and addressing any underlying medical issues with your veterinarian can help reduce excessive licking. Skin allergies, joint pain, infections, and gastrointestinal issues are some possible causes to rule out.

Training Techniques

There are several effective training techniques you can try to stop your dog from excessive paw licking:

Redirecting the Behavior – Get your dog’s attention and redirect them to another activity when you notice them licking their paws. Ask them to sit or lay down, provide a treat or toy for distraction, or initiate playtime.

Providing Alternatives – Give your dog appropriate alternatives to satisfy their urge to lick, such as chew toys, frozen Kongs, or food puzzles. Having an acceptable item to focus on can curb excessive licking.

Using Deterrents – Pet safe anti-lick sprays like bitter apple spray1 can be lightly applied to paws to deter licking with an unpleasant taste. Be sure to monitor your dog and don’t overuse deterrents.

Positive Reinforcement – Reward and praise your dog when they refrain from licking their paws. This positive reinforcement can help reinforce the behavior you want to see. Be patient, as it may take time for results.

With consistency and persistence using these training methods, you can help curb your dog’s obsessive paw licking for good.


In summary, there are several possible reasons why dogs kick their back legs and lick their paws, ranging from behavioral causes like boredom or anxiety to medical issues like allergies or injuries.

It’s important for dog owners to try to identify the root cause of these behaviors, since the approach to solving the problem will differ depending on if it’s medical vs. behavioral. Observing when the behaviors happen and any triggers or accompanying symptoms can help pinpoint the issue.

Some final tips for owners include providing plenty of exercise, mental stimulation and affection to curb behavioral causes. Checking for skin irritations, soreness or foreign objects can identify medical problems. And contacting a vet for an exam is recommended if the causes are unclear or don’t resolve with simple home treatments.

With patience and detective work, owners can get to the bottom of leg kicking and paw licking behaviors in dogs. Determining the underlying reason will lead to the best solutions for eliminating the problem long-term and keeping a dog happy and healthy.

Scroll to Top