Even though there are a few dogs who don’t mind, most dogs are averse to having their paws touched. What causes their reluctance is up for debate.
Reactions vary from just jerking back a paw to exhibiting severe aggression. What is known about handling canine paws? Let’s see what we can find.
Why does my dog hate having her paws touched?
Your dog doesn’t like having her feet handled. You just got her, and you want to know what causes this and whether there is anything you can do about it. Let’s see what we can figure out.
A dog’s feet contain nerve endings that are hypersensitive. The tops of a dog’s paws are the most delicate parts of their bodies.
The bottoms, though they are thicker and tough to withstand rough ground and weather, are sensitive, as well, able to detect slight changes in terrain. The areas in between the toes are extremely tender, as well, as the tops of the paws.
Touching a dog’s paws may feel awkward to them or may make them feel strange, like if a stranger came up and put his hand on your hips. The mere act signals to the recipient that there is a strong possibility of danger ahead.
Maybe, like some humans, her ‘feet’ are ticklish.
Dogs have many instincts, and at least, two could make them touchy about their paws.
Paws are crucial to a dog’s survival, so it is only natural that they would go to great lengths to protect them. Dogs are descendants of wolves, so this would’ve become instinctual while survival in the wilderness was a must.
Another instinct that could be the problem is dominance. Since the paws are so sensitive and more of a ‘no-go’ zone, your dog may feel like you are trying to exert dominance over her when you touch her paws.
Be careful, as your dog may bite in this instance.
“Negative association” happens when a dog has a negative experience, and then, later, reacts skewed by a fear that that negative experience will recur. The best example is when a dog is being groomed and gets a nail clipped too short or gets a paw nicked by the clippers.
Nails cut too short will bleed and can even become infected. Because a dog’s paws are so sensitive, this can leave a dog in terrible pain.
The experience can leave a dog ‘gun shy’ about being groomed to the point that they never get over it. One problem with this is that letting a dog’s nails grow too long can also cause them great pain.
Another example that quickly comes to mind is abuse. Your dog may have somehow been abused by someone hurting her paws.
Your dog may also bite in these instances.
Why does my dog hate having her tail touched?
Some dogs don’t like to have their tails touched either. What would make a dog not want her tail touched?
An injury, such as a cut, scrape, strain, or break can cause a great deal of pain, as can a bee sting, but the probable culprit is allergic dermatitis (skin allergies), one of which is flea allergies, and it tends to affect the tail area more than any other.
It could be a matter of dominance, or it could be just a matter of pure instinct since the tail area is another extremely sensitive area of a dog’s body. Of course, it could be a negative association. Maybe someone has stepped on his tail, or maybe his tail has been run over.
Dogs are individuals, just like we are. Some just don’t want to be touched because they don’t want to be touched.
Why won’t my dog let me touch one paw in particular?
Sometimes, dogs normally don’t mind if you touch their paws, but suddenly they won’t let you touch one paw in particular. This could mean something has happened to your dog’s paw. These are some possibilities.
A pebble, a sticker, a splinter, a sliver of glass or metal…even the teeny-tiniest object lodged in between her toe pads or under her nail sheath can leave her in intense pain.
Bites and Stings
A snake bite or a bee sting in your dog’s paw can leave your dog in a lot of pain, and a snake bite can be deadly, depending on the type of snake.
Your dog may have scrapes or cuts on her paws. Her paws may have been bruised. While bruises are hard to detect in dogs, scrapes and cuts can usually be located fairly easily.
Allergic Dermatitis (Skin Allergies)
Because your dog’s paws carry him around by walking directly touching the ground, they can come into contact with substances that irritate them.
Of the three types of allergies that affect the skin (flea allergy dermatitis, food allergies, and environmental allergens), food allergies and environmental allergens are the two that most affect the paws.
Many times, what people call food allergies are actually food irritants and not actual allergies. Food allergies (irritants) usually cause itching around a dog’s paws and ears.
Dogs’ paws come into contact with the ground constantly. They pick up dust, pollen, and mold and track them into the house.
These allergens get stuck in the dogs’ paws and cause terrible itching. Because your dog licks, scratches, and bites at his paws, he can cause a secondary infection, like a bacterial or yeast infection that requires treatment.
To reiterate, your dog’s paws come into direct contact with the terrain everywhere she goes. If there are chemicals or the like spilled along the path, she can step in it.
The chemicals can irritate, burn, or even start to disintegrate her paws from the outside in. Plus, your dog’s compulsive licking of her paws can get the chemicals inside your dog’s belly.
You must keep an eye on your dog’s feet. You must help her take care of them.
Bone or Joint Issues
Dogs, especially older dogs, can have bone and joint issues. This type of problem usually sets in slowly and in one body part at a time.
It could be that a condition like arthritis is setting up in your dog’s paw.
Keratomas (Foot Corns)
Foot corns or keratomas are benign growths of the cells in the skin that produce keratin. A foot corn normally forms on the bottom of a pad.
It can be exorbitantly painful for dogs to walk on foot corns.
How do I get my dog to let me touch her paws?
You should always stay aware of the condition of your dog’s paws. Check her paws periodically, or if she is favoring them at all, you need to find out why.
If she favors a certain paw, runs away, or panics when you attempt to check her paws, that just means it is that much more important that you check them, whether she resists or not, first checking for obvious injuries.
Whatever problem you find, deal with it appropriately, probably with a visit to the veterinarian.
Train your dog at a young age to tolerate the handling of her paws if you want to handle them. It’s something you’ll have to continue practicing over time, rewarding her when she displays acceptable behavior.
Never punish her for pulling her paw away, as it will harm more than it will help.
Never startle her. Always give her plenty of notice. Approach her slowly, and grasp her gently.
If you are having issues with your dog not wanting you to touch her paws, consult a vet or a veterinary behaviorist for help, especially if your dog becomes aggressive when you touch her paws, as this can be extremely dangerous.