The Curious Behavior of the Dog Pawing At Mouth

The behavior of a dog pawing at mouth can be both perplexing and concerning for dog owners.

We’ve all witnessed it at some point – an adorable furry friend seemingly obsessed with pawing at its mouth. But what prompts this behavior? 

We may wonder whether this behavior is a harmless quirk or a sign of something more serious. Different dogs may have their own habits.

Some may want to touch their mouth, or others for fun. However, it could also signal a medical condition we should address soon.

Why Dog Pawing At Mouth?

dog pawing at mouth

Observing your four-legged friend pawing at its mouth can be unsettling. This behavior can indicate an underlying issue that requires attention and care.

In addition to irritants and allergies, there are many different causes. Understanding the reasons behind this is essential in helping them find relief.


Mouthing and licking objects is a common habit among dogs as they are naturally curious creatures.

However, this habit can expose them to various irritants that can cause severe mouth irritation.

These irritants can range from poison oak leaves to household cleaners. In response to the discomfort and itching, dogs may instinctively paw or itch their mouths.

Keeping potentially harmful substances out of their reach is crucial to prevent such irritations.


Dogs can experience allergic reactions that lead to skin irritation, peeling, and itching. Various factors can trigger these allergies.

They include environmental allergens such as dust mites or pollen. Besides, chemical substances like detergents used to wash bedding can also cause allergies.

Certain dog breeds are sensitive to materials used in their water or food dishes, such as plastic.

Specific food ingredients like beef, eggs, chicken, and dairy can also cause allergies or sensitivity in dogs.

Identifying and managing these allergies is crucial to improving your dog’s well-being. It will help provide relief from symptoms.


Dogs can experience swelling and discomfort in their mouth due to injuries or wounds to the cheeks, tongue, lips, or mouth.

Abrasions and cuts in the mouth can be caused by foreign objects such as twigs. Even chewing on tough bones can cause gum damage.

If these traumas are left untreated, they can lead to abscesses or infections. Mouth tumors can also cause similar reactions and interfere with the dog’s eating habits.

It is of utmost importance to address any oral trauma immediately. Seek veterinary attention to prevent complications and ensure a healthy oral state for your pet.


Mouth tumors can cause discomfort and distress in dogs, affecting their eating and communication abilities.

Dogs with mouth tumors may exhibit similar symptoms to humans. They include pawing at their mouths or experiencing a loss of appetite, especially with dry food.

Bleeding gums, bad breath, and excessive drooling are additional signs of tumors. These tumors are detectable in the form of small lumps in the mouth.

It is important to bring them to the attention of a veterinarian. While prompt testing and treatment plans are crucial, not all tumors are cancerous.

Stress Or Anxiety 

Pawing behavior in dogs can be caused by anxiety or stress, which may lead to itching sensations on their face or muzzle.

In response to feeling upset, dogs may hide their face or dog frantically pawing at mouth.

It is also similar to how humans cover their faces with their hands when embarrassed or stressed.

Monkeys also exhibit similar behavior. Dogs may perceive hiding their face as a protective mechanism from perceived threats.

Dogs covering their faces are to signal their distress. They want to alert their owners that they are upset.


Boredom in dogs can lead to destructive behaviors, similar to small children seeking entertainment.

Dogs seek out activities to alleviate boredom. Thus, it may result in undesired behaviors that owners may not approve of.

Dog scratching at mouth or excessive licking are common signs of boredom in dogs.

Behaviors, such as chewing on furniture, pawing at the mouth, and indoor accidents may also occur.

Bored dogs may also pant when not exercising and bark excessively. Owners can prevent these unwanted behaviors by providing mental stimulation with activities.


Infections in dogs can lead to itching and skin irritations. Various microorganisms, such as fungi, bacteria, parasites, or viruses, can cause them.

Scratching prompted by itching skin irritations is a common symptom in dogs. Mite infestations, such as demodectic or sarcoptic mange, can result in severe itching, hair loss, and scabbing.

Flea infestations, particularly in allergic dogs, can also cause constant scratching. Bacterial infections typically occur in areas of the skin that are damaged by scratching.

Certain breeds and dogs with droopy lips may be prone to perioral dermatitis. It causes an unpleasant odor and itching.

Proper treatment and oral hygiene are crucial to alleviate itching and address these infections in dogs.

Foreign Object

Dogs’ tendency to put things in their mouth can lead to sharp objects getting stuck, causing discomfort and pain.

Dogs may paw at their mouths to alleviate discomfort caused by stuck foreign objects.

Like humans who use their hands to remove something from their teeth, dogs may also use their paws to dislodge the object.

It’s important to monitor what objects your dog can access. Promptly address any foreign objects stuck in their mouth to prevent further discomfort or potential injuries.

Mouth Problems And Gum Disease

Dogs may exhibit certain behaviors when experiencing dental diseases.

Dental pain, periodontal disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and abscesses can lead to dogs pawing at their mouths.

They may rub their muzzles following eating or attempt to reach their ears.

Skin irritation caused by constant pawing and scratching can sometimes be misinterpreted as food allergies.

Dog itchy gums and bad tooth problems can also result in smelly breath, eating habits changes, bleeding gums, and drooling.


Indigestion may cause dogs to paw at their mouths as a result of discomfort in the throat and stomach.

Indigestion isn’t typically associated with itching or pain in the mouth. However, it can still cause discomfort in other areas.

Dogs may paw at their mouths in response to this discomfort. The mouth is the closest accessible area to dogs.

The burning sensation or pain in the throat and stomach can trigger this behavior.

What Should You Do For Your Dog Pawing At Mouth?

pawing at the mouth dog

It could be a sign of discomfort if you notice your dog pawing at its mouth. Dogs may exhibit this behavior for various reasons, such as dental problems, allergies, or irritants.

Providing appropriate dental care to address your dog’s pawing at the mouth is essential.


Conducting a thorough investigation is crucial when your dog is pawing at their mouth.

Begin by doing a physical exam for signs of trauma, swelling, bleeding, wounds, red areas, tumors, foreign objects, or rashes.

It may be helpful to have someone hold their mouth open to get a better look.

Take note of when the pawing occurs and any changes in their diet or routine around that time.

Observing their symptoms and behavior is essential to understanding their condition. Documenting these observations can aid in discussing them with your vet visit.

It will ensure a comprehensive understanding of your dog’s health. By taking these steps, you can help your furry friend feel better and maintain optimal health.

Veterinary Care

Seeking a vet’s attention is also important in case it happens frequently. A veterinarian will perform a thorough examination, including a dental checkup, to accurately identify the underlying cause.

During the examination, the veterinarian may ask about symptoms.

You should prepare information about changes in eating, exposure to infected animals, or ingesting inappropriate items.

Additional tests may be conducted, such as fecal analysis, urine, X-rays, blood, skin scrapings, ultrasounds, allergy testing, or swab cultures.

Based on the diagnosis, the veterinarian will recommend appropriate treatment. Regular follow-up visits and monitoring are important for your dog’s recovery and well-being.


The cone, also known as an e-collar or Elizabethan collar, serves as a preventive measure to stop your dog from pawing at its face. It is a cone-shaped device that fits over the head.

The item is primarily used to prevent dogs from licking or biting injured areas or surgical sites. Yet, it can also act as a barrier to deter them from pawing at their face.

The cone restricts their access to the face and mouth. This device allows the affected area to heal without further irritation or damage caused by their paws.


When dogs dislike wearing cones, opting for distraction can be a more compassionate approach.

Instead of relying solely on the cone, redirect your dog’s attention to something else. Engage them in activities like going for a walk or playing together to shift their focus.

While treats may seem like a suitable distraction, it’s important to be cautious as it may inadvertently reinforce the pawing behavior.

To avoid unintentional positive reinforcement. They may form classical conditioning. Distraction should be used sparingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my dog keep scratching his teeth

How Do I Get My Dog To Stop Pawing On My Face?

You can employ various techniques to discourage your dog from pawing at your face. Redirect their attention to other activities like playtime or going for a walk.

Teaching them the touch command can be helpful. Reward them when they touch your open palm instead of pawing.

Avoid reinforcing the pawing behavior by not rewarding it and using distraction sparingly.

Ignoring the behavior or freezing in place until your dog stops pawing can also be effective.

It’s essential to understand the underlying reasons for the pawing, such as anxiety or seeking comfort, and address those issues.

Furthermore, keep your face away from their paw area. Sometimes, dogs pawing your face may signal a health problem. If it happens often, taking them to a vet is still better.

Why Does My Dog Grab My Hand With His Mouth?

One common reason is dogs’ playful behavior. They often engage in mouthing behavior during play, especially when excited.

It is their way of interacting and exploring their environment. They may grab your hand as part of a playful gesture or to initiate a game.

Another possible reason is attention-seeking. Some dogs may use their mouth to grab your hand as a way to seek attention or initiate interaction.

They may have learned that this behavior elicits your response, such as petting or engaging in play.

For certain breeds, such as herding dogs, grabbing your hand with their mouth may stem from their natural herding instincts.

These dogs have a predisposition to nip or grab moving objects, including hands.

In some cases, grabbing your hand may result from insufficient bite inhibition, particularly in puppies. Small puppies are still learning to control the strength of their bite.

They may grab your hand as part of their exploration and teething process.

It’s worth noting that pawing at the mouth dog can also be learned behavior.

If you or others have unintentionally rewarded this behavior with attention or play, the dog may continue to repeat it.

What Does It Mean When Dogs Paw Their Face? 

One possible reason is discomfort or irritation. Dogs may paw at their face if they are experiencing discomfort or irritation in their eyes, ears, mouth, or skin.

It could be a sign of an infection, injury, allergies, or the presence of a foreign object.

For example, if a dog has an ear infection, it may paw at the face to relieve the itching or pain.

Similarly, if they have a dental issue or a mouth sore, they may paw at their face in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort.

Itching or allergies can also be a common cause. Dogs, like humans, can experience allergies to certain foods and environmental factors.

They include pollen, dust mites, or even certain grooming products. The itching sensation can lead them to paw at their face as they try to relieve the itchiness.

In some cases, behavioral factors may contribute to face-pawing.

Your adorable puppy may paw at the face as a self-soothing behavior during separation anxiety, stress, or boredom.

It can serve as a coping mechanism or a way to seek attention or comfort from their owners.

Assessing the overall context and considering any potential underlying factors is essential.

If your dog is constantly pawing at their face, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian.

They can conduct a thorough examination to identify any underlying medical issues.


A dog pawing at mouth can be because of various reasons. They can be irritants, allergies, trauma, oral diseases, tooth pain, or anxiety.

It’s important to investigate the cause and seek veterinary care if necessary.

Using a cone to prevent further pawing or providing distractions can help address the issue.

Additionally, understanding the core reasons can contribute to a better understanding of canine behavior.


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Hi I am Mitchell. Dog Growth is a blog about dog caring and training where I share my experiences to my community. Hope you enjoy it!

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