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Category: Training For Dog Trainers | Author: admin 18.12.2013
The first step in treating any behavioral condition is accurately diagnosing the cause.  Although excessive licking and chewing of the paws most frequently has a primarily psychological origin, often enough the behavior has a primarily physiological etiology, where the behavioral condition is secondary to the primary physical cause. Attention Seeking Behavior- Owners may inadvertently reward dogs with attention whenever they lick or chew, which in turn ironically provokes the dog to lick or chew more frequently in an attempt to seek greater attention. Boredom- Dogs that are bored may begin to lick or chew their paws to provide themselves an activity or to out of habit commence an action that improves their emotional state via a release of dopamine and opioid neurochemicals. Depression- Depressed dogs may begin to lick or chew their paws to create the anti-depressant effects created by the natural release of dopamine and opioid neurochemicals. General Anxiety Disorder- Dogs that are generally anxious may lick or chew their paws to release nervous energy or to obtain a more relaxed emotional state via the release of calming or satisfying neurochemicals.

General Understimulation- Excessive confinement, a dull home environment, loneliness, lack of walks, lack of exercise, lack of mental stimulation, a lack of chew or play toys, or a general lack of sensory stimulation may result in depression or anxiety, whereby the dog begins to compensate by licking or chewing its paws. Habit- Paw licking or chewing may commence due to a physical etiology, but remain a behavioral problem after the physical origin is resolved, due to the formation of habitual behavioral patterns.
Obsessive-compulsive Behavior- An obsessive-compulsive status occurs when the dog’s incessant licking or chewing interferes with normal lifestyle activities, such as eating, playing, socializing, or sleeping.  In such a case, the dog may be unable or unwilling to cease the behavior without overt extrinsic modes of prevention, interruption, or diversion. Separation anxiety- Dogs that are distressed due to separation or isolation may begin to lick or chew their paws to expend nervous energy and create a more relaxed emotional state due to the release of dopamine and opioid neurochemicals.
Stimulus-specific anxiety- A dog may begin to lick or chew its paws as a coping mechanism to relieve anxiety, stress, or tension resulting from a specific stimulus that the dog finds aversive, threatening, or unpleasant.

Stress- Dogs that become generally stressed due to boredom, understimulation, depression, frequent exposure to an aversive stimulus, or a general anxiety may begin to lick or chew paws as a coping mechanism that both reduces systemic cortisol levels and increases systemic dopamine and opioid neurochemicals.
Modifying the sensory environment (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile taste) to better relax the dog when isolated.

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