My little guy, Jaxx, now almost 9 months, has a very strange behavior of biting his own feet and then yelping like someone bit his foot off.  Well, he did!  The only time he does this is when he is in his crate at night, sometime between 1 am and 5 am.   He does not do it every night, but a few nights out of the week.  And its not like he just does it once.  He keeps biting at his feet and yelping until I take him out of the crate and rescue him from the big meanie that was biting his feet!  When he comes out of the crate his feet and chest are sopping wet from his biting activities.  I'm not sure if he is seriously drooling on himself, or licking, or just biting. 

I thought maybe he was doing this in his sleep, and I still kind of think that. But, its hard for me to get a clear read on it because I'm sound asleep when it starts and not in a mood to get down on the floor and observe him in his crate.

I asked the vet about it, thinking it may be allergy related.  It could be, but I think he would do it more than just in his crate at night.  I haven't been able to identify any food related connection, or environmental connection that corrolates with the nights that he does it.   But just in case, I wash his feet and chest down with an sensitive skin wet wipe after he goes outside now.  He still tends to pee on himself - hasn't got the leg lift completely figured out yet.  I thought maybe that could be causing it.  Unfortunately, I'm not seeing a difference in the behavior after using the wet wipes.   

I also thought maybe it was a teething thing, so would put other chew toys in his crate with him so that if he woke up in the middle of the night, he could chew on those instead of his own feet.  Didn't help.

Now I may be inadvertantly rewarding him when he does it by taking him out of the crate and putting him in bed with me.  I tie a bathrobe belt to his collar and then to my wrist to make sure he doesn't leave the bed to have a party.  He usually just goes right to sleep. 

Do any of you have any idea what this is and how to deal with it?  The vet gave me something called "thieves" to mix with an aloe gel to put on his feet at night.  It is suppose to taste bad, but the aloe is good for his feet.  I haven't done it yet.  I'd really like to find the underlying problem if possible.  Any help from the community would be much appreciated! 

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I don't think it has to do with the peeing, nor with teething.  I would  try putting something for him to sleep on by the side of my bed and tying a leash to the foot of the headboard or bed frame (so he is not loose in the night, but can still move around some and be close where you can easily monitor him) to see if he still does that.  The combination of chewing the feet and drooling is unusual.  You are right about the unintentional reward, so having him by the side of the bed to begin with, rather than moving him when the incident occurs, may help with that and will tell you if the behavior is tied to being crated, or independent of it. I feel this is like an onion and you'll have to peel off one layer at a time to get to the solution.  Hopefully not too many layers.... Thieves is a combination of essential oils I have used myself for colds, flu, coughs and the like, so I'm not sure what it would do in the case of your pup.  It has a very strong scent and I wonder if it may bother your pup further.....Aloe Vera is soothing to the skin and can also be taken internally.  Anyhow, it's hard to treat something when you don't understand the cause of it. 

That's an interesting neurosis.

I had a German shepherd who enjoyed chewing on her feet until she created fine sores on her pads. But this sounds like something altogether different.

[Gershep, as it developed, was allergic to bermudagrass, which grows in gay abundance around here. In other parts of the country it's called devilgrass, but in most parts of North America humans don't deliberately cultivate the stuff for lawns. If you live in an area where we do, though, it's something to consider.]

I'm inclined to agree with Anna: this is something that needs to be soothed. Somehow...aloe vera is a good thought. Except if this dog behaves like a German shepherd, he'll enjoy licking the stuff off.

Here's a thought: completely out of left field, so take it for what you're paying for it: How about sewing a ticking clock inside a well-stuffed, soft pillowcase? Put that in the crate with the dog. Sometimes a ticking clock soothes babies, for whom it apparently elicits a mother's heartbeat. Could it work on a dog?

{sigh} That's about the best I can come up with. Other than call the vet; call a behavioral trainer.

As best I can in the wee hours, I'm trying to be more observant of his behavior.  He did it the last three nights in a row.  Friday at 1:30 a.m., Saturday at 4:30 a.m. and Sunday at around 2:30 a.m.  On Friday, he was facing the back of his crate when I blundered down to see what was going on.  It clearly did not look like he was doing it as a tactic to get out of his crate.  Saturday, I don't really remember.  Sunday, he was facing the front, but he did not come out when I opened the crate.  He just stayed laying there, looking at me.  I coaxed him out, and he just rolled over for a tummy rub.  He usually does this when I take him out.  As I have been doing, I put him on the bed with me and he snuggles into me for a bit, grateful that I rescued him from the monster that bites his feet.  Then he goes to the foot of the bed and falls soundly to sleep.  This morning he didn't want to get up. 

I can try what you suggested Anna, but based on this weekend, I really don't think he is doing it to get out of his crate.  Not yet anyway.  With more unintentional reinforcement, that may happen.  I was thinking of just starting out with him on the bed with me, rather than any crate time, and see if he does it then.  My only worry in having him out of the crate is he likes to chew on fabric.  Fabric of any kind.  So far he has not tried to chew on the bedspread, but I wouldn't put it past him.  He has chewed the corners of many wash cloths and towels.  I can't put anything in his crate with him that could be chewed up and swallowed.  The ticking clock idea in a stuffed pillow case would get eaten.  I have to watch him like a hawk with stuffing.  With the pillowcase as well. Also, I think that is intended to replicate a heartbeat, like you would do for a new puppy when you first take them away from their litter mates.  In his case, he didn't start out with this issue.  He was absolutely fine in the crate for several months, so I don't think it is a separation thing.  If he had separation issues, I think he would just wine or cry.  Why chew his own feet?  Its very baffling.  Also, he is in his crate during the day when I'm at work.  There is no sign that he does it during the day.  Of course I'm not there to witness it, but he isn't sopping wet when I get home, so I don't think he is doing it. 

My understanding of the thieves is that it smells good but tastes awful.  So you mix it with aloe and put it on his feet to discouraged the licking.   I'm not sure why I'm hesitant, but I still haven't done that yet either.

Last night I started off with Jaxx in the bed and he slept through the night and so did I!  Fingers crossed this may be the solution!  


This is a longshot, but could you have spiders?  They will typically come out at night.....or maybe some other insect problem? That could account for the salivating.  Being on the floor may make him more vulnerable than up high on the bed. Just a thought.

Wow! What a stroke of Insight! You might also want to check for other tiny insects, such as mite, some varieties of which live under the bed.. They're practically invisible to humans but...why not? If they get into paws and nibble, they surely could cause itching.

Its possible I suppose, although I haven't seen any.  Living in Florida, insects abound.  We do get the house treated, but I asked them not to treat the rooms that the dogs are typically in, which includes my bedroom.    I'm going to vacuum and clean out the crates tonight to see if that helps.  I vacuume all the time, but not under the bed, and the crates are close to the bed.  Its possible some critters could be hiding under there. 


Jaxx did his feet biting at 4:30 this morning, so I brought him in bed with me.  While petting him, I noticed some crusty spots on his back.  He has been biting at his back a bit lately, and so has Jeli.  I have looked them over for fleas but do not see any signs of them.  They are on Nexguard, but I know these loose their effectiveness after a while and you need to switch.  But maybe mites or spiders?  hmmm.    I'll look into it.  Thanks for the tip.  :)

How frustrating!! Check these out:

Dust mites, maybe?

Humans harbor microscopic mites that dwell in our skin and hair. We shed them all the time, but they tend particularly to gather under beds, because it's hard to vacuum thoroughly without moving the bed...which is no fun if you have carpets. I can't find a site that says these little critters can infest a dog -- enter a search that has the words mites, human, dog and you get the ones that talk about the bugs going from dog to human. That doesn't appear to be the case, since apparently you're not getting bitten up.

Some humans are allergic to our variety of mite. That's why keeping the area under a bed well vacuumed will often help allergy symptoms. I wonder if dogs could also develop allergies to the tiny creatures that naturally co-inhabit our space? You could try Demodex shampoo on the dog (looks like woo-woo, but nothing ventured...), but if the issue is that he's allergic to critters living and dying under the bed, then the reasonable response is to try to vacuum up the little roommates.

I've had the carpets cleaned, wiped out the crates, gave everybody baths and treated the yard for fleas and mites and other such pesties.  He is still biting his feet.  He only does it at night, and only while in his crate.  Since I've ruled out, as best I can, other causes, I'm pretty sure that it is behavioral.  So, now I'll try the icky tasting stuff on his feet and see if we get anywhere with that.  Getting woken up at 3:00 in the morning is wearing thin!  

Hmmmm.... Do you have a toy in the crate with him? Something he can chew on? Sounds like he's waking up at 3 (my dogs wake up at 3 or 4...evidently they can feel the electromagnetic waves emanating from the sun before the thing starts to brighten the eastern horizon...) and he's bored. If he doesn't have anything to chew on, he'll chew on himself.

Yes, he has several safe chew toys in his crate.  He is not allowed any plushies or any fabrics of any kind- he eats them. 

I wanted to also clarify that during the day he stays in a crate downstairs that is on tile.  At night he stays in a crate upstairs that is on carpet.  This makes me wonder about the mite thing again.  He started biting himself last night, so I brought him into bed with me.  He was very itchy and scratchy, and I notice he might have the beginnings of a hot spot. 

Ugh... this is no fun for either of us!  Maybe I need to bug spray the bedroom.  I hate to expose the dogs and humans to the chemicals, but maybe I have to.  :(

Update... because Jaxx developed a hot spot, we took him to the vet to seek treatment, and brought up the issue of the feet chewing again.  They tested him for mites and found that is not an issue, however they did find a bacteria infection, and are culturing the scraping sample for fungal infection.  They prescribed an antihistamine, a spray for the hotspot, and gave us some shampoo that we are to wash his feet in every three or so days to see if that helps with the biting behavior.  Fingers crossed that this helps!


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