Why Do Dogs Pull on Their Dew Claws?

Dogs pull on their dew claws for various reasons, ranging from natural instincts to medical issues. Understanding the underlying causes for this behavior can help dog owners address and manage it effectively.

1. Natural Instincts

One reason why dogs may pull on their dew claws is due to their natural instincts. Dew claws are the remnants of ancestral dog’s thumbs, and some dogs have them on their front and/or hind legs. These claws are not in contact with the ground like the other claws, making them less worn down. Dogs may pull on their dew claws to keep them clean, groom them, or satisfy a natural instinct to manipulate objects with their paws.

2. Boredom or Excess Energy

In some cases, dogs may pull on their dew claws as a form of entertainment or to release excess energy. Dogs that do not receive enough mental or physical stimulation may resort to self-soothing behaviors, such as pawing at their dew claws. Engaging in interactive play, providing stimulating toys, and ensuring regular exercise can help redirect their energy and curb this behavior.

3. Anxiety or Stress

Dogs may also pull on their dew claws when experiencing anxiety or stress. This behavior can be a self-soothing mechanism, similar to how humans might bite their nails or twirl their hair when feeling anxious. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause of their anxiety, such as separation anxiety or fear of specific triggers, can help reduce the pawing behavior.

4. Injury or Discomfort

If a dog suddenly starts pulling on their dew claws persistently, it could indicate an injury or discomfort in that area. Dogs may instinctively try to alleviate pain or discomfort by focusing on the affected area, resulting in excessive pawing. It is essential to examine the dew claws for any signs of injury, infection, or abnormality. Consulting a veterinarian is recommended for proper diagnosis and treatment.

5. Allergies or Skin Irritation

Some dogs may pull on their dew claws due to allergies or skin irritation. Itchy or irritated skin can cause dogs to scratch or paw at the affected area, including their dew claws. Allergies to environmental factors, food, or certain materials can lead to skin irritation. A veterinarian can help identify the allergen or underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment or dietary adjustments.


While dogs pulling on their dew claws can be a normal behavior influenced by ancestral instincts, it is crucial to pay attention to any changes or excessive pawing. Understanding the underlying reasons, such as natural instincts, boredom, anxiety, injury, or allergies, can aid in addressing the behavior appropriately. Regular health check-ups with a veterinarian can help ensure the dew claws remain healthy and free from any discomfort or complications.