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Old 01-08-2013, 11:43 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Wrist Licking & Fur "clipping" behavior

(Not sure if this should be in the health forum. A moderator can feel free to move the thread, if so.)

Anyone else have experience with a dog that can't seem to stop licking her/his wrists? Or scissoring the fur short with their front teeth?

Willow has had this habit since she was rescued, but it's gotten progressively worse. She's not damaging the skin at all; there's no redness or bumps or any indication that there is irritation. I showed two different vets the area she's been worrying at and neither of them felt it was a physical problem. They said it's either anxiety or boredom compelling her to do it (sort of like a human biting their nails), and much of what I have read corroborates this.

Here are some pictures (sorry for the blurriness -- I am using a really old camera):







Now, assuming it's boredom: I can only dedicate so much time during the day to keeping her busy. She gets her walks (one in the morning, one in the evening -- about 30 minutes each) and I will stop whatever I am doing periodically during the day to play with her or do some training for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, but what can I do to keep her occupied when I am not available?

Anyone have any recommendations on keeping her entertained without regular input from me?

How about methods of protecting her wrists? I thought about wrapping them and spritzing with sour apple, but it turns out she doesn't really mind the flavor. My concern is that, without something to compel her leave them alone, she'll just tear off the wraps.
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:50 AM   #2 (permalink)
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have you tried stuffing Kong toys with treats and peanut butter?
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:00 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You know, I think I would find a dog chiropractor and see if an adjustment might help. Just in case a pinched nerve might be causing that. Then if an adjustment doesn't work you could move on to behavioural causes.

Maybe stuff and freeze a kong for her to kill time on.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I would consult the vet. If this is (and it seems like it is) IN FACT behavioral, maybe if keeping her mind occupied doesn't work they can steer you in the direction of a medication. Hopefully this will only be in the worst case scenario.

Otherwise, Kongs work great and even hiding treats around the house. A good run in the woods once or twice a week does my boy SO much good!
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Old 01-08-2013, 02:44 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I have tried kong stuffing, but that only keeps her busy for 10 or 15 minutes, tops, even if the filling is frozen (I do peanut butter and yogurt stuffed kongs, with small cookies or other treats frozen inside).

I did have two vets look at it, but neither seemed concerned that it was an issue with the skin, and manipulating her wrists does not cause her any discomfort. The way she goes flying around the house during play time, and the lack of hesitancy while I am walking her, doesn't suggest she's got pinched nerves either.

Well, both dogs will soon have their park permits, so I will have them out to run freely for a couple hours on the weekends, but I need more ideas for ways to keep Willow engaged while at home. One thing I'll try is scattering her kibble around the living room at meal times rather than serving it up in a bowl like I usually do. That might keep her busy for a few additional minutes at least.

Oh, I meant to mention: I did buy my dogs a flirt pole in the hopes I could exercise them some more that way, but Willow is frightened of the pole. She runs away as soon as I pick it up, and won't come near if I am engaging my other dog with it. (The beagle is fine, and definitely seems to enjoy taking off after the lure).
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Old 01-08-2013, 02:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
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hmm...maybe this is an OCD-related habit.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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It could be OCD, or just a plain nervous habit. Griffin licks his feet sometimes. He also licks his butt like it's his job. I swear, it's his version of smoking a cigarette.

His vet checked everything possible, and determined that it's just a hobby of his. Not stress related, not nervousness, he just enjoys licking his butt and that's that. I do draw the line at that particular hobby being done on the couch, though!
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:22 PM   #8 (permalink)
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One of the vets mentioned it might be OC behavior because she is also a licker. She licks whatever is nearby when she's in a relaxed (or relaxing) state. She can't seem to stop licking my hands, either, if they are within reach (e.g., if I am sitting on the couch with her and watching a movie, or if I am in bed reading with her laying next to me).
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Roman Groom: Yeah. Friend of mine, she made her domestic robot look like a dog.
The Doctor: Ah, well, dogs. That's different.

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Old 01-08-2013, 03:35 PM   #9 (permalink)
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This could also be physical. I had two unrelated dogs begin gnawing at their wrists after supper when I added barley grass powder as a supplement. I stopped it and added it back several times and there was an absolute correlation. I have never heard of this reaction to this substance, not to mention two dogs under my roof with nothing in common... how unlikely is that? But, there ya go...

My last girl either was weird or had had her dewclaws improperly removed as a baby puppy. She licked her wrists for three or four years, and then lumps blew up on both wrists... she had tiny tendrils of nail tissue curling around in there making her nuts. This ended up being surgically addressed. I really wasn't aware of how much she had been licking at her wrists until suddenly she stopped. She was kind of OCD around the edges, and it had never occurred to me that this wasn't psychological.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:43 PM   #10 (permalink)
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If you think it's anxiety/OCD, just be really careful that it doesn't escalate to lick granulomas. We struggled with that with Simon. I had a long thread on the topic, if it's helpful to you: Need some help/resources for lick sores
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:50 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MeadowCat View Post
If you think it's anxiety/OCD, just be really careful that it doesn't escalate to lick granulomas. We struggled with that with Simon. I had a long thread on the topic, if it's helpful to you: Need some help/resources for lick sores
Thanks. I bookmarked the link for future reference.

If her skin starts showing sign of redness and/or sores, I will definitely be returning to the vet for a reevaluation.

ETA: Looking at the thread now, and there are some recommendations there on preventing access to the lick site, including some no-lick bandages. I might have to try those...
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Roman Groom: Yeah. Friend of mine, she made her domestic robot look like a dog.
The Doctor: Ah, well, dogs. That's different.

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Last edited by Desy; 01-08-2013 at 03:53 PM..
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Old 01-08-2013, 05:05 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Her doing a lot of licking makes me think she is reacting to a physical cause. I've only had two dogs, that I can remember, that licked like you are describing and both had food allergies that caused it.

Exactly what all, including treats, are you feeding her? I would especially avoid wheat, corn, soy and any glutens.
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Old 01-08-2013, 05:37 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Please note that Willow had started licking and trimming her ankles even before she arrived in the house. She had pale marks on her ankles when we picked her up from the rescue, which at the time I thought was caused by scarring underneath the fur. Turns out it was just the beginning stage of her little obsession.

Anyway, the first three months we had her she was on a grain-free Salmon and Sweet Potato dog food (Nature's Domain). I switched the two dogs over to Kirkland Signature Chicken and Rice last month, which they love. Other than the wrist thing, I've seen no evidence of skin problems on either of them, and their coats are nice and shiny.

For treats they get protein scraps, including cooked chicken and eggs. They also have some grain-free and gluten-free dog treats. In addition, they occasionally get Kirkland dog biscuits, peanut butter, and plain yogurt. Very rarely they get cheddar cheese (if I am making omelets or sandwiches).
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The Doctor: I hate robots. Did I say?
Roman Groom: Yeah, and he's not too fond of you. What's wrong with robots?
The Doctor: It's not the robots, it's the people. Dressing them up and giving them silly voices. You're reducing them.
Roman Groom: Yeah. Friend of mine, she made her domestic robot look like a dog.
The Doctor: Ah, well, dogs. That's different.

- Doctor Who, The Waters of Mars
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:49 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I believe (and I freely admit I am no expert) that is is just habit, that and it makes her feel nice.

My old Mastif would religeously lick her legs each and every night for going on 20 minutes a piece. Lick, lick, lick. It drove me mad, but it was her way of settling down for the night so as long as she didnt make herself sore we left her to it.

Apparently licking releases endorphins which make a dog feel good, (or so my vet told me) so I guess it was her version of a hot chocolate or a small glass of wine before bed.

But it wasnt restricted to her, my old Boxer did it, she came to us from a crappy situation and kind of copied my old Mastif in a great many things because I don't think she knew what being a dog was.
Sasha in turn taught Toby. He licks his wrists each night, nibbles them and then if given half a chance will nibble and lick us humans too.

Granted my dogs have never (touch wood) licked the fur off their legs. So your girl is perhaps doing it either harder than my dogs ever did or she is thinner coated or the like.

Have you tried giving her those puzzle games, where she has to work at getting a treat out of a toy. Whenever you are aware of her licking/nibbling you could perhaps give her one of them and see if it distracts her.

Regards the flirt pole. Because she is a rescue and you don't know what has happened to her in the past perhaps a pole is not a great idea. (I had a rescue dog that had been hit with a walking stick and was terrified of them because of). Whilst not ideal, have you just used the toy on the end of a rope. Ditch the stick, just use the rope and toy. She may take to this better. I would start dragging it around and let her pounce on it, then swing it about a couple of inches from the floor and then work up to it being swung around so the dog has to jump for it. Be extra careful that your dog doesnt jump into you, but I am sure you can work out how to get the max play from her without too many bumps and lumps being the result.

to your girl from Toby
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Old 01-09-2013, 11:20 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I think I need to clarify something: She's not licking the fur off her ankles. She does lick them in the same way she licks my hands, but it's pretty slow and gentle. From what I have seen, she's actually nibbling the fur down with her front teeth.

She does the same thing to my fingernails (or my S.O's) on occasion if she has access to my fingers...And she's very gentle and delicate about it.
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Roman Groom: Yeah. Friend of mine, she made her domestic robot look like a dog.
The Doctor: Ah, well, dogs. That's different.

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Old 01-09-2013, 11:23 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Toby'shuman View Post
...Regards the flirt pole. Because she is a rescue and you don't know what has happened to her in the past perhaps a pole is not a great idea. (I had a rescue dog that had been hit with a walking stick and was terrified of them because of). Whilst not ideal, have you just used the toy on the end of a rope. Ditch the stick, just use the rope and toy. She may take to this better. I would start dragging it around and let her pounce on it, then swing it about a couple of inches from the floor and then work up to it being swung around so the dog has to jump for it. Be extra careful that your dog doesnt jump into you, but I am sure you can work out how to get the max play from her without too many bumps and lumps being the result.

to your girl from Toby
Yeah, there's really no telling what she went through before we got her. I'll try the toy on a rope idea and see if she warms up to it.
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Old 01-09-2013, 12:20 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I think I need to clarify something: She's not licking the fur off her ankles. She does lick them in the same way she licks my hands, but it's pretty slow and gentle. From what I have seen, she's actually nibbling the fur down with her front teeth.

She does the same thing to my fingernails (or my S.O's) on occasion if she has access to my fingers...And she's very gentle and delicate about it.
I think she is Toby's twin, he does the exact same thing.
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:15 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I think she is Toby's twin, he does the exact same thing.
I've never had a dog that was interested in giving manicures before... It's amusing to say the least.

So, anyone else have any recommendations on indoor activities for bored dogs? I suppose I could just google for options, but sometimes people on this forum make suggestions that I don't see anywhere else.
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The Doctor: I hate robots. Did I say?
Roman Groom: Yeah, and he's not too fond of you. What's wrong with robots?
The Doctor: It's not the robots, it's the people. Dressing them up and giving them silly voices. You're reducing them.
Roman Groom: Yeah. Friend of mine, she made her domestic robot look like a dog.
The Doctor: Ah, well, dogs. That's different.

- Doctor Who, The Waters of Mars
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Old 05-10-2013, 04:15 PM   #19 (permalink)
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4 month update on Willow's wrist licking/scissoring:

I am happy to report that this behavior has subsided. I noticed a change around the time I started letting her sleep with my S.O and I at night, rather than crating her downstairs. My supposition is that being separated from us all night was causing her some anxiety, which resulted in the wrist chewing.

There was a slight uptick in activity for her during that time period as well, which may have contributed. (I am sure there were other factors involved, but I can't really account for everything.)
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.
The Doctor: I hate robots. Did I say?
Roman Groom: Yeah, and he's not too fond of you. What's wrong with robots?
The Doctor: It's not the robots, it's the people. Dressing them up and giving them silly voices. You're reducing them.
Roman Groom: Yeah. Friend of mine, she made her domestic robot look like a dog.
The Doctor: Ah, well, dogs. That's different.

- Doctor Who, The Waters of Mars

Last edited by Desy; 05-10-2013 at 04:24 PM.. Reason: typos
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