Why? How to solve the problem?

Some dogs have a tendency to self-mutilate, that is, to scratch, lick or chew themselves excessively and repeatedly, to the point of injury. This type of behavior manifests itself to express a malaise, which can be physical or psychological. In any case, it is necessary to act in order not to allow the animal to be placed in this vicious circle that can have serious consequences. In this file, discover the signs of self-harm that you should watch out for, the most frequent reasons for explaining this phenomenon, as well as our advice to follow to solve it, without forgetting the mistakes that cannot be made !

Self-mutilation in dogs: what are we talking about?

When we talk about self-harm in dogs, it refers to a whole range of behaviors that all hide discomfort. Self-harm allows the dog to find a response to its suffering, which may be physical pain, an emotion, a feeling or something else, by seeking immediate relief or by transforming the emotional pain into in pain.

We can observe several behaviors in this case, more or less serious at first glance, such as excessive licking, biting paws, intense scratching, hair pulling, tireless tail wagging , and so on. These behaviors injure the animal, causing wounds, infections and significant physical consequences, some wounds can reach the bone.

To understand this phenomenon, it is necessary to know its origin. However, the reasons can be many. Let’s look at the most common and what to do in this case.

Self-mutilation in dogs: why this behavior? What to do?

pest control

Your dog may seek to eliminate external parasites that attack him by self-mutilation. In fact, intestinal worms and external parasites, such as fleas or lice, can disturb and itch the dog so much that it no longer knows how to deal with it. Licking, biting, scratching, the animal hurts itself while trying to hunt them.

Start by carefully observing your pooch’s coat to look for parasites. Do not hesitate to give external and internal parasiticides to eliminate the risk of invasion. If the latter is confirmed, approach your veterinarian so that he can prescribe you, if necessary, more effective and curative products, because the products of free access usually have a preventive range above all.

Of course, it is necessary to clean its environment to prevent its proliferation. Baskets, stuffed animals, rugs, bowls… put everything in the washer or directly in the washing machine if you can! Also remember to vacuum regularly to eliminate many parasites from its environment.

Pathological or physiological disorders

If the parasites are absent or if the phenomenon continues despite the treatment, do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian. Your dog may be suffering from a physiological or pathological disorder. In fact, some diseases or conditions can promote self-mutilation in dogs.

A sick or suffering animal can thus seek relief by licking, scratching or biting the affected area, but sometimes also just concentrates on another physical pain that is easier to “control”.

Consult the veterinarian without delay, because your doggie needs care and this type of behavior can continue over time and become a habit.

Behavioral disorders

If there is no physical source involved, it may be wise to look for a behavioral source. In fact, the animal may suffer from behavioral disorders and seek to transform a psychic illness into physical suffering or simply want to express it physically.

In this case, it is necessary to act immediately by consulting the veterinarian and/or a behavioral veterinarian to put an appropriate solution, in the form of drug treatment and/or behavioral therapy. Know, however, that it is important to understand the origin of this behavior and this discomfort, its cause, otherwise the solutions given will have little chance of being followed by real and lasting effects.

Do not underestimate depression in dogs, which can lead to the death of the dog. In fact, the animal sometimes reaches a point where it kills itself without its master being able to move.


Boredom is a dog’s enemy not to be underestimated. In fact, if a dog does not exert himself as much as he would like or if he often finds himself alone and trapped, he may try to compensate for his excess energy and his lack of activity. by self-mutilation, a habit that occupied him, for want of anything better.

Remember that it is necessary to take an animal for at least 30 minutes a day on a real walk. It’s not just a walk in the garden, but an outing outside that allows him to relax his feet, stimulate his sense of smell and sight, but also to evacuate his overflow in a healthy way. This important, daily need must be accompanied by play sessions and activities that allow the animal to blossom fully.

When you are away, make sure that your little friend always has toys or a chewable bone within reach, which will occupy him and motivate him to help him wait better until you return.

Stress, anxiety

Stress and anxiety are common ailments in our doggie friends. This can happen in the case of fear, separation anxiety or hyperattachment to the master, after a trauma, in the case of too early separation with the mother, lack of education, poor management of frustration, etc. There are many reasons and they can push the dog to find that it can be implemented with physical cuts, which will keep him away from his mental illness.

In this context, it is necessary to put healthy rules of life, or even teach the dog to manage his frustration and to support the loneliness and the loss of his master more easily.

attention seeking

Some doggies want to get their master’s attention and they are willing to do anything for it! If your dog notices that you respond when he bites his foot or tears his coat, he will not hesitate to change this behavior, even if it annoys you. When you react, the animal understands that this action allows him to get your attention.

In this case, the best thing to do is to ignore it. When he turns away, don’t talk to him, don’t touch or look at him. He will get tired of his plan. However, he will transfer his behavior to something else, so it is important that you impose yourself as the dominant master and your dog learns to be patient, to manage his frustration and to accept that you are the source. in contact, food, games, etc.

Self-harm in dogs: the right actions and the mistakes that should not be made!

If your pet is self-harming, it’s important that you take action.

Consult your veterinarian

Talk to your vet. He can rule out pathological disorders that may be serious, treat any injury to avoid the risk of infection or even identify psychological discomfort and provide an appropriate response.

However, do not hesitate to ask for help from your practitioner. He can help you identify the cause of this disease and find solutions, especially by guiding you to the right specialists.

Identify triggers

It is important to understand the origins of self-harm. In fact by identifying the cause you will find a suitable and effective solution to help your animal.

Observe your little companion and recognize when these behaviors occur. Do they follow an event? Did it happen in your absence? Are they triggered by the presence of a person, a stranger, another animal, a noise? By understanding the causes of this phenomenon you can comfort your doggie.

Be careful not to reinforce this behavior unintentionally.

We’ve discussed this in the context of attention seeking, but it’s important to remember that you don’t need to reinforce your self-destructive behavior in spite of yourself. If you approach him to reassure, argue with him or offer him a pleasant activity to entertain him, the animal will repeat his behavior to get your attention or what he wants again.

Remember that dogs are opportunistic animals that learn by socializing. When you respond to his need for attention or respond to his self-harm with a positive activity, the pooch thinks that this behavior is associated with a positive element and he repeats it. In fact, for him, cutting himself – or rather biting, scratching, licking or pulling his hair – allows him to perform a pleasurable activity with his master, so he repeats this behavior to get this.

Criticizing him has the same effect. If your dog is looking for your attention, even your anger will satisfy him. Of course, your reaction may cause a tension in him that reinforces his self-harm.

Securing the animal’s environment

If your dog is self-harming, he may be expressing mental discomfort. It is up to you to help him by establishing a more peaceful and reassuring climate of security and trust for him. Limits, clearly defined rules, a consistent attitude, strict organization throughout the day for meals, outings, activities … so many solutions to help calm your dog and help him feel better about himself.

Daily physical and mental stimulation

It seems important to us to reiterate that your dog needs to be stimulated both physically and intellectually every day. To feel good, to evacuate your energy and not be bored, he should walk at least 30 minutes a day outside (outside the garden), play stimulating games with their master and/or alone (treasure hunt, etc.), but also often interact with their peers during social activities or outing.

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