Best Dog Friendly Walks on Auckland’s North Shore


One of the things I like most about New Zealand is that it’s basically one big dog park! I used to live in Santa Monica, California where dogs are NEVER allowed on the beach, not even on a leash. Dogs and their owners are relegated to designated dog parks that are usually not very big and are never on the best bit of park land.

Here in Auckland we are spoiled for choice. You really can’t go wrong anywhere you take your dog.  But here is the best of the best:  my very favourite dog-friendly walks on Auckland’s North Shore:

1. Centennial Park, Campbells Bay

Although the Council’s website says that Centennial park is an on-leash area, I rarely ever see any dogs actually on-leash and I have never seen anyone patrolling the area, so you’re probably fine walking your dog off-leash (but you didn’t hear it from me!)

Centernnnial park kauri

You really feel like you’re in the middle of the bush, with all of the flora and fauna you could ever want or need, complete with little babbling creeks. There are several trails you can choose. We like the Nature Trail which takes you on a  loop complete with numbered indicators pointing out various trees and other points of interest. Much of the trail is on wooden risers.


You can complete the entire loop in under an hour and you’re never more than a 5 minute walk from civilization (on the other side of the trail is a  world-class 18 hole golf course). And for you history buffs, the ‘nature trail’ features a WWII pill box!

Getting there:  Access is either from Rae Road (off Aberdeen Road, by Campbells Bay School) or from Beach Road (by Campbells Bay).

Map-  Download a trail map here.

2.JF Kennedy Memorial Park Beach, Castor Bay

This is one of a few beaches on the North Shore where no leash is required- EVER. We like to start this walk at  Castor Bay Beach although you can go up to Kennedy Park and begin there.

riquie in field

This walk is fantastic because it involves open grassy fields  perfect for playing fetch, long spurts of running, and a fully protected beach where your dog can run free without any worry that he will run into the street.  On one side you have the ocean and the other side a cliff. So you’re really safe!

castor bay

The beauty of this beach is amazing, especially at low tide, because the rock formations  are so interesting, almost prehistoric.  In certain areas it looks like dinosaurs are underneath the ground and the cliffs will definitely intrigue the geologist in you (although your dog will probably find that aspect less interesting!)

It’s best NOT to do this walk at high tide because you won’t be able to walk on the beach at all.

Getting there:Park your car at Castor Bay Beach near the little park by the big tree. There’s usually heaps of paring. Walk toward the beach and then turn left. Near the public restrooms you’ll see a steep hill. Walk up the hill and go left. Follow the grass fields around. You’ll pass through a couple of gates, and go up and down a set of stairs.

You’ll follow the coast around until you see some bunkers. On the right you’ll see a massive set of stairs. Go down the stairs and there you are.  Or you can continue driving north and park right at Centennial Park. It’s much closer to the big set of stairs but you’ll miss all of the green grassy fields.

3. Takapuna Beach

This is a no-brainer and a very obvious option so I won’t go into too much detail. Takapuna is one of the largest stretches of beach on the North Shore and lots  of people take their dogs there making it a perfect spot to chase tail (for both the  canine and human set I reckon!)

At high tide it’s difficult to walk the entire length of the bay but at low tide you can continue all the way south around the point to St. Leonard’s Beach, which is off-leash all the time.

Takapuna Beach is off-leash 24/7 in winter, but only before 10am and after 6pm during daylight saving.

4. Onepato Domain & Northcote Tuff Crater

One of the many reasons we love this walk is because it starts at the Onepato Domain which has an awesome playground. So, if you have kids and dogs you get to kill two birds with one stone (please don’t actually kill any birds on this walk as many of them are endangered!)

From the park you’ll head over to the Tuff Crater Reserve which features a flooded volcanic crater encircled by a mostly-flat pathway.

Onepoto Basin is a the oldest dated explosion crater , erupting about 250,000 years ago. The Maori name “Onepoto” means small beach (named after Halls Beach near Northcote Point).

There’s lots of native bush to check out, views across Auckland Harbour, native birds and of course the volcanic crater.

Here’s a handy little video about this area compliments of

By the way, there’s a lake near the playground  where the kiddos can feed the ducks… but beware, our Westie wanted to eat one of the ducks and proceeded to jump into the lake. She didn’t catch the duck, but she did catch the most disgusting tar-like smelly black goopy mud in her coat.  Luckily, there was a faucet near the restroom where we could clean her up. So if you have a water-loving (or duck loving) dog, don’t take them near the lake!

tuffs crater walkway


5. Eskdale Reserve Bush Walk

Who knew that there was an enormous park right in Glenfield? Several reserves flow into one continuous forest walkway with a several tracks to choose from so be sure to familiarize yourself with a map before you head out. The following parks can all  be accessed from Eskdale:

  • Birkenhead Domain
  • Hiwihau Scenic Reserve
  • Eskdale Bush
  • Laurderdale Reserve
  • Francis Kendall Reserve

Once you’re in, you really feel like you’re in an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the surrounding area. You’re calmed by the swaying of the trees, the chirping of the birds and the stillness in the air, that is until your dog sees a duck or bird and starts barking like crazy!

Our favourite thing to do is the two hour return walk past an old cemetery, boardwalks, bush and mature forest.   You’ll see ponga tree ferns, nikau palms and  kauri trees. It even meanders alongside the Kaipatiki stream. Bring a picnic to enjoy along the way!

Although dogs are meant to be on leash, we did see many rule breakers.

The Eskdale Reserve bush tracks are highlighted in the Kaipatiki Explorer maps which you can download HERE.

6. Le Roys Bush Loop

We haven’t personally done Le Roys Bush Loop so credit goes to the website Walks In Auckland, an excellent resource you should bookmark. It sounds like a fabulous walk and we will absolutely be trying this one next with the pups.

Here are the highlights:

Le Roys Bush follows a stream downhill to the restored wetlands of Little Shoal Bay, Northcote (which was once a tidal estuary filled with mangroves).

Kauri Glen is one of the oldest bush reserves on the Shore (measures about 25 acres and first sizeable pieces of land that was placed under public management) which includes trees such as taraire, totara, kauri, tawa, rewarewa and maire.Kiekie and nikau are abundant in this sub-tropical rainforest. Smaller species of note are pate and karapapa. The area is alive with the likes of tui, fantails and moreporks.

Little Shoal Bay Reserve is a great place to start and finish at – with plenty of parking and a fun looking children’s playground.  Dogs must be kept on leash to protect the flora and fauna.[Read more about this walk]

7. Castor Bay to Milford Adventure Walk

Note: For this one you have to leave at LOW tide, it won’t be possible at high tide. Wear shorts, water is involved and remember, Milford & Castor Bay Beach are off-leash 24/7 in winter, but only before 10am and after 6pm during daylight saving.

Start at Castor Bay Beach and walk toward Milford. At low tide you are able to walk over all of the rock to Milford. This is fun for dogs, kids and adults. There are no big rocks or boulders so it’s no problem for small dogs (our Maltese and Westie managed perfectly). There are lots of nooks and crannies for dogs to sniff out, while the adults and kids look for starfish and other critters.

You’ll get to the entrance of the Milford Marina. If you time it just perfectly, you will be able to cross from Castor Bay to Milford getting only the bottom part of your lets wet. You’ll have to carry small dogs.

Once you’re at Milford, it’s a very similar vibe to Takapuna. Lots of dog walkers out enjoying the nice long stretch of beach. If you walk to the end, you’ll reach a raised sidewalk which takes you along lava rock. When the sidewalk ends, you can actually keep on walking over a narrow bridge, through more lava rock and some other bumpy terrain until you get to Takapuna. We usually don’t last that long. The real fun is walking over the rocks in Castor Bay and then wading across to Milford.

8. These beaches on the North Shore are ALWAYS off-leash

  • Rahui Beach, Greenhithe
  • Soldiers Bay Beach, Birkenhead

List Credit:

More Walks on the North Shore

Here’s a handy reference brochure to check out which goes over many walks on the North Shore.

Did we miss your favourite walk on the North Shore? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section below!

5 Ways to Improve Your Dog’s Breath (hint: they cost under $2.00!)


herbs and spices

Look no further than your kitchen cabinet or fridge for breath freshening herbs & spices! Many have germicidal properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Just finely chop the fresh herb and add them to your dogʼs food. To make it bind with the food (if feeding dry) you can toss the herbs and kibble with a little olive oil.

1. Parsley is excellent for digestion and for sweetening breath.

2. SAGE – The antiseptic properties in sage help reduce oral bacteria when the leaf is rubbed over the teeth.

3. Cilantro / Coriander is a wonderful natural way to clean teeth, stimulate gums and freshen breath.

4. Cinnamon (Ceylon Cinnamon) – Sprinkle it on your dogs food. Dogs love the taste of cinnamon, so ground cinnamon can be sprinkled on top of your dogʼs food. It helps dissolve food particles and aids with the digestion of food.

5. Mint, Peppermint and Spearmint are natural breath fresheners. Just chop the fresh herb up into fine particles and sprinkle into your dogʼs food. if theyʼre small enough your dog might not even notice. But if you have a picky eater, and youʼre feeding dry food, then toss the food and mint with some olive oil so it binds together.

Have you tried any herbs or spices you can recommend?

How to Calm Your Anxious Dog During Guy Fakes Fireworks


Guy Fakes is today  – time for boozy crowds of people and loud displays of fireworks.  While some dogs are just fine going out and enjoying the festivities with their owners, others become frightened or show signs of anxiety by panting, pacing, vocalizing, trembling, or trying to escape. If your pooch has problems with all the noise and confusion, you might want to try some of the solutions we have listed below.

Leave your dog at home.

For dogs skittish around crowds and loud noises, the best thing for his peace of mind – and yours – is to leave him at home. Too many dogs get lost from their owners every Guy Fawkes because the owners insist on taking their pets along during the celebration. Let your dog stay in the place he feels safest, his home, while you go out and enjoy yourself without having to deal with a frightened pet. This is especially good advice for very young puppies, senior dogs, and pets with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or cardiac disease that can be exacerbated by stress.

Introduce your dog to all-natural, organic calming therapies.

For mild cases of sound anxiety or fear, allow your pooch to breathe in the smells of lavender oil in a diffuser, or DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) in a diffuser, collar, or spray. All of theses products can be purchased on line or at your natural foods store and have been shown to quiet some dogs during times of stress. More nervous, anxious, or overactive dogs may benefit from Rescue Remedy, a blend of all-natural flower essences developed to address your dog’s underlying predisposition to anxiety and fear. Giving your dog Rescue Remedy orally, either dropped directly into his mouth or putting it on his food or treats, calms him down in about 20 minutes. The Tonic can also be used as a training aid to reduce aggression, barking, or cowering.

Exercise your pooch BEFORE you leave for the show.

Make sure your dog gets enough exercise earlier in the day to be relaxed and calm. According to canine behaviorists, the majority of dogs in this country walk only 15 to 20 minutes a day. To get good and tired, experts recommend that a healthy dog receive a minimum of 60 minutes walking time daily.

Leave your usual collar and leash combo at home – and use a harness.

Purchase a harness that fits snugly around your dog’s torso and that he cannot slip over his head if he gets spooked. A harness works on the same concept as a Thundershirt and helps your dog feel safe and comforted. Make sure all ID tags are attached to the harness and/or your pup is microchipped.

Take your pet’s crate with you.

Place your dog’s bed inside the crate and include a bowl for water. Bring along his favourite toys to keep him occupied, and permit him to crawl inside the crate if he gets anxious or nervous. Dogs are den animals and prefer being in small, enclosed spaces when they’re afraid. Additionally, when your pet is crated, he’s not able to run off if he spooks easily.

Allow your dog to stay physically close to you.

If your pooch becomes fearful of the crowds or the loud noises, allow him to crawl in your lap or lean against you. Petting and cuddling can alleviate his anxiety, especially when accompanied by his favorite treats.

You stay calm and relaxed.

When your dog is freaking out over the fireworks, you need to stay very tranquil while taking care of him. Our pets pick up on our emotions very easily; the key to helping your buddy stay relaxed is for you to slow your breathing and heart rate and model for him how to behave.

Provide your dog with his favorite toy or treat.

Take along a meaty bone or a rubber kong filled with Dogsbutter. Giving your pooch a distracting stimulus to focus on instead of the loud noise and the crowds is more likely to help him remain composed during times of anxiety.

Desensitize and socialize your puppy to loud noises and crowds.

Socialize a new puppy or young dog to crowds by taking him to the dog park for play dates and introducing him to new people and other dogs. To prepare your pooch for loud, booming noises, you can purchase a recording of fireworks on line and play it a low volume for a few seconds while giving him his favorite treats. Slowly increase the volume and duration of the recording over a period of several weeks, cuddling him and treating him all the while. This allows your dog to associate the sound of fireworks with something pleasurable to him. This type of counter-conditioning can also work with dogs frightened of thunderstorms.

dog in bubble bath

Try Shampoo Therapy to Relieve Your Dog’s Itchy Skin

New Zealand dog owners have a misconception that they shouldn’t bathe their dogs very often as it can make skin conditions worse, or dry out the coat.  Most veterinarians treat skin disease through a combination of steroids and antibiotics. But if you’re like me, you want to stay away from pharmaceutical ingredients as much as possible and go for all-natural solutions first.  The use of ‘shampoo therapy’ to treat skin conditions is, in my opinion, the most overlooked natural therapy for dogs with skin disease.


Your dog’s coat acts like a magnet for  dust, dander, toxins, yeast, bacteria and allergens. A weekly bath is essential for removing these potential hazards; especially if your dog has allergies. These substances can actually CAUSE the allergies.

In addition, shampooing also removes dead skin cells that linger on the surface of the skin. These dead skins cells can form the foundation for a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and yeast.  Regular bathing may also decrease your dog’s need for oral antibiotics or antifungal medication.


Many people also think that bathing a dog too frequently will remove the natural oils from your dog’s skin and coat. Yes, this  can occur, however, you must consider the trade off. The skin and coat may be marginally drier than if you didn’t bathe them, but, if it is helping to prevent allergies and itchy skin, then in my books it is well worth it.  Also, what’s worse, a slightly drier coat or the effects that pharmaceutical medications has on the dog’s liver.

Think about your own hair. You most likely wash it daily or several times per week. Does it make your hair dryer? Of course! If you didn’t wash it it would become oilier. But, you prefer cleanliness over a shiny head of hair. I’m sure your dog feels the same way.

Finally, if you have allergies, a clean dog will help reduce your own allergies. I am allergic to dogs but if I keep mine clean the symptoms are non-existent.


However, to mitigate a dry skin and coat, you can carefully choose the shampoo you will use for your dog’s weekly bath.

In order for shampoo therapy to be effective, you need to make sure you are using a shampoo that is natural, hypoallergenic and moisturizing. Oatmeal shampoos are an excellent choice.  They will help to improve the condition of your dog’s skin and coat while providing relief from scratching. Look for products that contain colloidal oatmeal instead of the inferior oat extract that many dog shampoos use. Colloidal oatmeal is simply oatmeal that is ground down to a fine powder. And because the powder granules are so tiny, they will readily absorb water or moisture. This then acts as a ready made moisturizer, binding itself to the skin in a protective layer.

Another thing to avoid is using human shampoo on dogs. Click here to find out why


When you choose a product for your dog’s shampoo therapy, it is not only important to pay attention to whether the product is all natural but also the ingredients that are used. The right formula will contain a full spectrum of all the most important ingredients to provide your dog with maximum healing. Look for botanical extracts that serve as a natural insect repellent (like peppermint or citronella), burdock for an anti-inflammatory agent, Indian frankincense and calendula, which have been used for centuries for soothing irritation and healing.

Finally, it is important to make sure that the shampoo you use does not overly lather (the sudsy dog in this photo is NOT what you want). Why is this important? Lather can be difficult to rinse out, resulting in soap residue that is one of the most common causes for canine itching.

When shampoo therapy is performed correctly and the right shampoo is used, you will notice that your dog has fewer allergic outbreaks and the condition of the coat and skin is greatly enhanced. Definitely try shampoo therapy to relieve your dog’s itchy skin.

16 all-natural remedies to soothe your dog’s itchy skin (hint: most of them are free)

 All natural remedies to soothe New Zealand dog's itchy skin.
It seems that many dogs in New Zealand that have itchy paws are itchy all over. So I wanted to share this  chock-filled list of all natural remedies you can make or do at home to soothe your dog’s itchy skin! To create this list I looked over 7 years of articles our veterinarians  have written and curated the best of the best to share with you. Enjoy!
Expensive clinic visits and high vet bills – not to mention all those costly allergy medications your vet can prescribe – may be the reason why you put off taking your itchy, allergic pooch to the doctor. The constant itching and scratching can lead to hair loss, trauma, and skin infections…and, as loving pet parents, we don’t want to see our fur babies suffer.

Here are 16 all-natural, inexpensive (or free)  remedies available to you, some of them as close as your pantry or refrigerator.

Vitamin E will work on your dog’s dry skin just like it works on your wrinkles. I like to break open a capsule and rub the oil directly on my dog’s dry, itchy areas. Not only does the oil feel good to her, but also the massage action warms her muscles and helps the Vitamin E penetrate faster to problem areas.

Yogurt Feeding your dog plain, low-fat yogurt keeps the good bacteria in your dog’s intestines in balance and helps keep yeast infections at bay. A little bit of yogurt in your pet’s diet is not only a healthy treat, but can boost the immune system so that skin and ear yeast infections can’t take hold. When my itchy dog was a puppy, I would give her a teaspoon of yogurt daily to help build immunity and prevent diarrhea. Alternative- Feed your dog a grain-free food with probiotics. We recommend the one from DOG for DOG.

Chamomile tea & Herbal Tea soaks, chilled in the refrigerator, can alleviate any minor skin irritations when sprayed on sensitive, itchy spots. The chilled tea kills yeast and bacteria on the skin and relieves inflammation. When  my itchy dog starts gnawing on her paws, I like to either spray them with the chamomile or just have her soak her paws in a small tub of the cold tea. Warm chamomile tea bags can soothe itchy, irritated eyes for both you and your dog. You can also try green tea and calendula. Read more about preparing foot baths

Ground oatmeal poured into a bath or a shampoo, is an age-old remedy for itching, inflamed skin. You can either use the baby oatmeal cereal found at your local grocery store or grind it yourself in your food processor or coffee grinder. Your dog will love sitting in a warm bath containing oatmeal because it brings immediate relief to irritated area. Alternative- buy colloidal oatmeal shampoo and conditioner all ready mixed and ready to go.

Epsom salt soaks and heat packs can reduce the swelling of itchy paws and inflamed sores. A bath of warm water and Epsom salt also speeds up the healing time for any small, open sores, particularly when combined with veterinary antibiotics.

Evening primrose oil, an essential oil,has active anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties. You can apply primrose oil directly to your dog’s skin to treat dry or itchy skin issues. Likewise, giving your dog evening primrose oil by mouth helps calm allergies and boosts the immune system – and it only takes a few drops on her food or in her water to do the trick.

Eucalyptus Conditioner – Steep 1 teaspoon dried eucalyptus  (or 2 tablespoons of fresh eucalyptus) in a pint of boiling water for 10 minutes, covered. Allow the eucalyptus water to cool to body temperature and pour it over your dog after her final rinse. Rub the mixture in and towel her dry without further rinsing. The eucalyptus in the conditioner repels fleas while promoting a soft, glossy coat. Alternative: Buy a an all natural eucalyptus shampoo and conditioner that’s already mixed and ready to go. Hint- make sure that it’s real eucalyptus essential oil, and not a fragrance.
Dry Shampoo – If your pooch hates getting into the water, an all-natural dry shampoo can keep her skin healthy and coat smelling good. Spread ½-cup to 1-cup of whole bran, uncooked oatmeal, or cornmeal on a cookie sheet and warm in the oven on low heat for 5 minutes to bring out the natural oils in the grain. Grab a handful of the grain (leaving the rest in the oven to stay warm) and rub it into your dog’s fur and skin with a towel, concentrating on the greasy, dirty areas. Then thoroughly brush the areas to remove all the grain. This dry shampoo exfoliates the skin while removing any nasty residue from your dog’s coat. Alternative: Buy an in between grooming spray that’s already mixed and ready to go.
Essential Oil Shampoo – Add a few drops of eucalyptus or pennyroyal essential oil to natural shampoo or castile soap. Rinse your dog with clear water. Rinse again with vinegar-water (1 tbsp. to 1 pint warm water). This easy-to-make shampoo and rinse removes soap residue and prevents the dandruff that can result in itchy skin. Alternative: Buy a an all natural eucalyptus shampoo and conditioner that’s already mixed and ready to go. Hint- make sure that it’s real eucalyptus essential oil, and not a fragrance.
Herbal Flea Powder – Combine one part each of as many of these dried and powdered herbs as you can find: rosemary, fennel, eucalyptus, rue, yellow dock, and wormwood. Put this mixture in a clean, dry shaker-type jar, like one used for parsley flakes or Parmesan cheese. Apply the flea powder sparingly to the base of your dog’s coat by brushing back the hair first, then sprinkling in small amounts around the neck, belly, and back. You’ll need to use the powder several times a week for a severe flea infestation, and place your pooch outside in they yard so the repelled fleas don’t end up in your home. Remember, this powder only repels the pests…it does not kill them. Alternative: Buy all natural off-the-shelf sprays. We like Flea the Scene and Dirty’s & Hairy’s Citronella OUTDOOR spray.

Natural Skin Tonic – This lemon-based tonic not only repels fleas, it works as a general skin toner for itchy pets. Thinly slice a whole lemon, including the rind, and steep it overnight in a pot of boiling water. The cooling water draws out d-limonene, vitamin C, and other healing ingredients found in the whole lemon. The next day, sponge it on your dog’s skin and let the solution air-dry. You can use the lemon tonic daily for cases of heavy flea infestation. Alternative: targeted anti-itch sprays made with essential oils and herbs that can focus on specific itchy spots on your dog and bring immediate relief to irritation and inflammation.

Baking Soda– Prepare a thick paste by using a 50/50 mix of baking soda and water. Apply to affected areas of your dog’s skin, leave for 20 minutes, and then rinse off. Alternatively add one cup of baking soda to your dog’s bath water if he is itching all over.
Apple Cider Vinegar– Prepare a 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar with water, and use a spray bottle to apply it to affected areas.

Aspirin Mix- Crush two aspirin tablets and mix with a small amount of rubbing alcohol (do not administer by mouth). This mixture can be applied directly to affected areas of skin using cotton wool or cotton swabs. For maximum effect, apply in conjunction with one of the previously listed remedies.
Give your dog a bath – There is a common misconception that you shouldn’t bathe your dogs very often and that doing so can make skin conditions worse. Most veterinarians treat skin disease through a combination of steroids and antibiotics. But if you’re like me, you want to stay away from harsh drugs and try all natural courses of action first. The use of ’shampoo therapy’ to treat skin conditions may be the most overlooked natural therapy for dogs with skin disease. Read more about how bathing your dog can prevent itchiness.

Brush your dog every day – Who knew that something so simple and basic as brushing your dog’s coat could help to control and eliminate itchy and irritated skin. When his skin is itchy, inflammatory blood cells and chemical compounds such as histamine and prostaglandins accumulate in the affected area. These are all responsible for the reddening and inflammation that causes the itch. Read more about how brushing your dog can prevent itchiness.

I hope that you’ll find something that will help you itchy dog. If you know of another natural remedy we should add to this list, PLEASE list it in the comments section below!

Your Dog’s Leash Could be Causing that Constant Paw Licking

dog walking on retractable leash in New Zealand
It never would have occurred to me to that the type of leash I used to walk my dog could be the culprit of her constant paw licking.


Something so simple as changing my dog’s leash stopped the paw licking. We went through tons of tests, elimination diets and antibiotics and it turns out that a $20 retractable leash was the issue. Many New Zealand dog owners use these types of leashes. But a quick trip to the pet store and problem solved!

Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if retractable leashes could be causing your dog’s paw licking:

1. Does your dog use a collar attached to a retractable leash?
2. Does your dog tend to pull on the leash?
3. Does your dog lick his/her front paws?If the answers is yes, then the leash could be the issue.

According to the Integrative Veterinary Care Journal “the spring of the retractable leash causes a continuous pull that generates a degree of stress in the cervical region… And, when the dog gets to the end of the retractable leash, the sudden stop and jerk causes additional force… This causes spasms and inflammation in the inter-scapular region and nerve and energy meridian pathways are affected or impinged by tight muscles.”

The good news is that the solution is fast, cheap and easy.
1. Use a harness and a traditional leash.
2. Do not attach the leash directly onto the collar.

18 Ways to Stop your Dog’s Paw Licking for Good!

bull dog licking paws

Proven tips, ticks and strategies to bring relief to your canine companion!

Before we can tackle how to solve your dog’s paw licking, first we must understand WHY your dog is licking his/her paws. Here’s a handy checklist to help you narrow down the reasons behind your dog’s compulsive paw chewing and licking. If you can figure out the why, it’ll be a lot easier to come up with a solution.
1. How long has your dog been chewing her paws? Did the chewing start in puppyhood…or is this behavior a more recent development? 
If you noticed her chewing and licking on her paws as a puppy, it is quite likely that the problem has a genetic component, such as particularly sensitive skin, or that it can be attributed to a lack of nutrients, most likely Omega fatty acids. It may also be a predisposed condition according to her breed. English bulldogs, the Maltese, and the Chinese Shar-pei are just some of the breeds likely to have itchy, sensitive skin. If the chewing is a more recent problem, your pup may have developed a food allergy or atopy, an inflammatory reaction to airborne allergens such as plant pollens.
2. Is there a certain paw that she licks or chews more than the others…or does your pooch pay the same kind of attention to all 4 paws? 
If it’s just one paw, check out her nails, paw pads, and between her toes for dirt, embedded pebbles or grass, or even small injuries that may be causing her discomfort. Chewing on all four paws indicates some type of allergic reaction or compulsive-obsessive behavior.
3. Does she chew or lick at the same time every day…or is the behavior something that occurs throughout the day and night?
Continuing behavior is indicative of some kind of allergy. Chewing or licking that occurs around the same time daily shows that your pup may be stressed for some reason and this may be her only way of expressing her discomfort. Keep a daily log of the times of day and the duration of each chewing episode to help you look for patterns of behavior and devise a strategy for coping with it.
4. Have you picked up on any apparent circumstances that trigger the paw chewing? Does your dog chew her paws when she is alone, when she is crated, or when there are new people or other new animals in the house? 
If you’ve noticed the licking and chewing happening after she’s in a particular situation, she may be reacting to stress, boredom, or some other emotion that she can express no other way. The best way to handle this type of reactive behavior is to give her something else to think about…a treat or her favorite toy may distract her. You may even try exercise or play to get her mind off her feet and on to other pursuits.
5. Is your dog in any particular location before the chewing starts — outside in the grass, walking on ice or hot concrete? If so, she may be experiencing an allergic reaction to yard chemicals (weed killer, fertilizers, bug killers) or chemical de-icers. In hot weather, concrete and asphalt can cause burns and blisters on sensitive paw pads. Check her feet whenever she comes in from outside and, if necessary, use a baby wipe infused with aloe vera to clean her paws, between her toes, under her belly, and around her ears, nose, and muzzle.
6. Have you noticed any areas of alopecia (hair loss), redness or inflammation, any open oozing sores, or unexplained lumps and bumps on her paws or under her feet on her paw pads?
Small sores or abrasions are easily infected and can become big problems if not seen and treated by your veterinarian. Additionally, your dog may be licking and chewing because of discomfort from an injury and/or pain from arthritis in her joints. Have her checked by your vet who can prescribe antibiotics and pain meds if needed.
7. Have you noticed any thing unusual in the areas between her toes or paw pads and around her nail beds?
The sensitive skin between your dog’s paw pads and toes is often ripe for yeast and bacterial infections because of all the extra hair that keep those areas covered. Looking closely at the skin under the hair may reveal some sores or lumps and bumps that need veterinary treatment. Checking her nails may show that some are overly long and digging into her paw pads or even that she may have broken a nail that is creating some discomfort.
8. Is your dog on any kind of new medication or flea treatment? Have you changed her shampoo or moved her onto a different diet?
The paw licking may be a reaction to any new medications she may be taking for unrelated health issues — for example, corticosteroids often result in itchy skin. Particularly sensitive dogs may notice a change in shampoos or flea treatments with skin inflammation. Food allergies, particularly to certain proteins (beef and chicken) and grains (soy, wheat gluten, and corn), often show up as itchy skin, ear infections, and compulsive paw chewing. Consulting your veterinarian and switching to an organic grain-free food with unusual proteins (salmon, duck, kangaroo) may be your answer to your pup’s licking behaviors.
Hopefully this provides some insight as to what your dog’s trigger is for paw licking. Now you can determine the cause it’s a lot easier to come up with a solution.


18 Ways to stop your dogs paw licking for good.

If your dog refuses to stop licking his paws, you are not alone! This is a very common complaint from New Zealand dog owners, and if left untreated it can lead to serious skin problems due to the damage caused by self-trauma.

The first thing you’ll want to do is Identify and eliminate the primary cause where possible: This is often the most difficult task! Some causes may be immediately evident, such as a grass awn stuck between the toes. Others, however, may require the help of your veterinarian. Allergic conditions, for instance, may require an extensive diagnostic work.

Here are the 18 different tactics you can try to eliminate your dog’s paw licking, but don’t try them all at once or you won’t know which one worked. Use a systematic approach and keep good notes so you know what was effective and what didn’t.

Due to the large number of possible causes, it can be difficult to immediately recognize why your dog is licking his paws all the time; however, as a general guide:

If he is licking just one of his paws, or just both front paws, check for evidence of damaged skin or an embedded foreign body. If neither is present, the cause is likely psychological.

If he is licking all of his paws, likely there is some environmental reason for this.

1. PESTY FLEAS! If fleas are the issue You’ll need to begin a flea control regimen for your pooch, your house, and your yard.  Since these are a very common cause of paw licking, especially in the New Zealand summer, you may want to institute a flea control regime, even if you don’t see any actual fleas.

2. Stop the itchiness: If his paw licking is due to environmental causes like allergies, breaking the “itch-scratch” cycle can go a long way to resolving the problem. Although there are various prescription medications that your veterinarian can prescribe for this, you may wish to try a more natural, chemical-free approach. There are numerous products that can help. One excellent remedy is Itchin’ For Relief which has a unique blend of ingredients to soothe itchy skin, and reduce inflammation.

3. Boot Up Covering your dog’s paws with dog booties might be a solution to the problem, and at the very least it will give irritation or lesions a chance to heal which you get to the core problem. Using a shea butter Paw Rub underneath the booties can protect, heal, and soothe the heat of itching.

4. Is your dog’s discomfort all in his mind? Canine behavior modification therapy with a trained dog behaviorist may be an option if your pup’s licking problems are diagnosed to be psychological. While this treatment takes time, patience, and consistency to work, behavior therapy alone has been shown to be effective in some dogs. Additionally, your paw licking pooch may need more exercise, extra training, or another dog for companionship to keep her mind active. Your behaviorist may suggest adding anti-anxiety medications to the treatment plan however, an all-natural dog relaxer administered orally twice a day, can calm and relax your dog and keep her mind off the itching without any of the side effects of drugs. See below for more information on Psychological Scratching

5. Distract your dog Many dogs forget about their discomfort when they are playing, eating or chewing. Distraction is an excellent method. So give your dog a full schedule of bone chewing, game playing and toys to occupy their time.  We have had success putting all natural peanut butter into a hollow toy (like a Kong). And if you freeze it it lasts even longer!

6. Ditch the collar and get a harness instead. Dogs that pull on the leash could get nerve damage. The neck supplies nerves to the extremities and if impinged, cause discomfort or pain.  Also, don’t use a retractable leash, as the jerk back of the leash could cause tension.

7. Treat skin damage: Excessive licking can lead to skin damage. This in itself is enough of a problem, but additionally it can continue the cycle of itching and licking, so it’s important to do whatever possible to allow the skin to heal. Often this involves antibiotic therapy, although some minor cases may resolve themselves once the itchiness is treated.

8. Health check: If your dog’s constant licking persists, or if open wounds develop, your veterinarian should rule out underlying health problems, such as skin infections or entrapped foreign material.

9. Exercise your pet more- Dogs love to go out for walks. Exercise will get your pets mind off the itch. Your pet’s body will release endorphins when he/she exercise. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body and act as analgesics which means they diminish the perception of pain.

10. Change your pet’s diet. Cut out the carbohydrates and try a grain free food based on a higher protein, simple carbohydrate diet.

11 Supplements most dogs don’t get enough fatty acids in their food and it can affect their mood, their blood chemistry and skin health.Try fish oil capsules – 1000 mg, once a day for an average sized dog.


12. Baking Soda. Keep a bucket of water and baking soda by the door. When your dog comes in from a walk, put his paws, one at a time, in the bucket and swish them around. This helps to remove allergens and helps to soothe irritated skin. One or two tablespoons per gallon should suffice.

13. Chamomile—Break out the tea bags! Chamomile is very soothing and Just make a cup of tea, let it cool and swish your dog’s feet in it.

14. Epsom salt will help to disinfect the itchy area. It contains sodium chloride, potassium and nitrates that can aid in restoring the natural balance of bacteria on a dog’s skin. Salt can also raise the pH level of your dog’s skin, which may help regulate normal bacterial ratios.

**Don’t rinse your dog’s feet after any of these footbaths.

15. Antihistamines don’t normally work in discouraging paw licking. However, they may help to calm or make your dog sleepy. This is useful if your dog has worked himself into a frenzy. Be sure to ask your veterinarian for the appropriate dose and frequency.

16. Oatmeal Shampoos are very useful if the problem is itch related. Make sure it is a colloidal oatmeal shampoo. Oat extracts won’t help.

17. Wipe away the itch- anti-bacterial wipes that contain colloidal silver may help keep down chances of infection — particularly during the wetter months when your dog’s feet get wet outside creating an environment where bacteria can thrive.

18. Antidepressants if you think your dog has an obsessive compulsive behavior your vet might prescribe an antidepreesant. The most commons ones approved for dogs are clomipramine and Fluoxetine.


It can be difficult to manage these cases of apparent psychological scratching. If, after a thorough investigation, you feel that your dog’s itch is in fact psychological, you will need to relieve anything that’s bothering your dog while you redirect his self mutilating behavior. There are several things you can do to help him.

  1. Every time he licks his paws, interrupt him and divert his attention. Watch him constantly so as soon as he does lick, you can give him an alternative behavior, such as chewing a peanut butterfilled Kong.
  2. Mental stimulation and some exercise has been shown to reduce the likelihood of these behaviors developing. Also, early obedience training will give him a good repertoire of acceptable behaviors, so he’s less likely to develop compulsive behaviors.
  3. If your vet feels your dog has an anxiety problem, she may prescribe a course of antianxiety treatment. This can make it easier for him to learn new behaviors without the added burden of feeling stressed. However, we recommend a natural solution first.  You can purchase an all-natural herbal product like  Sleepytime Tonic without a prescription and it works wonders. Helps to calm your dog so you can both get some rest.
  4. Treat any irritation in the skin that has developed from his constant scratching. Wash him in an oatmeal shampoo like Comfy Dog; its colloidal oatmeal will ease his itch and reduce inflammation. You can, if you wish, follow it up with Deep Conditioning Treatmentso the skin doesn’t become dry. If he has small patches where he constantly itches, a spray with will soothe his irritated skin.

Psychological scratching can be difficult to diagnose, and difficult to manage. It’s important that it’s diagnosed early; the sooner you start treatment, the better the chance for a happy outcome for you and your dog.