3 Random But Useful Things to Know About Dog Feet

How much do you know about your dog's feet?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

1. Frito feet. 

That special aroma probably arises from normal bacterial and fungal growth, or maybe just paw sweat and skin oils (AKA your dog's toe jam). Strangely disconcerting to know this, isn't it, especially if you sort of like the smell? Since there doesn't seem to be any actual research on the subject, why don't you just go on pretending that Dogalini keeps a stash of Eau de Corn Chip somewhere in her crate?

(However, should your dog's feet smell outright rank, or seem painful, or look rusty, that's another story -- head for the vet. Could be an infection or parasitic infestation or other real trouble going on.) 

2. The Forepaw Lift.
It's so cute, and it's what's known in behavior-speak as an "appeasement behavior." One animal will offer an appeasement behavior to signal to another animal that it doesn't have hostile intent and won't pursue a fight. Your dog may raise a forepaw appeasingly if you're angry with her, but we also see forepaw lifts when dogs are just being generally conciliatory and polite. Human smiles work much the same way. And, like us, dogs use a wide range of appeasement behaviors to signal friendly intent or to "apologize."

Wait, there's more!

3. Sweaty Paws. You may notice sweaty pawprints on the floor of your vet's waiting room. That's because dogs' feet sweat when they're anxious and stressed. Check out my article about doggy stress signals for more -- if you're seeing a lot of stress in any common situation, consider starting a behavior modification program to help your dog feel at ease.

You can help your dog avoid the sweaty-foot brigade in the first place by teaching her from early puppyhood that the vet's office is fun to visit. Drop by at random times and feed her biscuits in the waiting room. Vets and vet techs love cooperative patients -- they may be happy to help with a short, treat-filled fake exam.

And, of course, the most important thing about doggy feet is they were made for walkin'. Out you both go, and let those feet take your dog to the best places to sniff.

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).