Do Dogs Clean Themselves?

It’s not quite uncommon for people to have pets. When it comes to dogs especially, they are the most regularly adopted pets.  However, we don’t always give our dogs a bath to clean them up. What we forget is that they need personal hygiene as much as humans.

Fortunately, they have their animal instinct routines of cleaning themselves in various ways.

In this article, we are going to discuss the dog’s grooming routines and probable message your dog might be trying to convey by overdoing the same.

Do dogs clean themselves?

The answer is yes. Dogs have their own mechanism of cleaning their bodies. Even though it’s not as effective as taking a bath, it gets the job done.

Cleaning your dog is very important since it gives you a chance to bond with her. There are many ways through which dogs groom themselves;


Licking done by dogs comes as a common way of communication to human beings. Through this, they try to express their moods, show submission, or even affection to their masters. All in all, they also use licking as a way of grooming too.

You might find your dog licking its paws or fur after a long day of play around the park or even after a walk. This is not a cause for alarm or taking your dog to the vet.

Whenever a dog starts to lick itself, it is usually a process that she uses to wipe off the dirt on its body though not as often as a cat.

There are reasons why licking is considered as the most effective means of grooming for a dog. These include:

  • The saliva in dogs has antibacterial enzymes that help the dog to get rid of bacterial infections through licking. This is helpful in preventing infections.
  • Licking of open wounds helps the dog to disinfect them hence preventing further damage. The saliva speeds up the clotting process of the wound hence the healing process takes as shorter period.
  • Sometimes licking helps to get rid of dead skin particles. This allows the dog’s skin to refresh and make sure the fur grows better and healthier.

In addition, when a female dog gives birth she takes up the role of being a good mother by instinct. The mother licks the puppy’s private parts to start excretion since the puppy cannot do it on its own due to underdevelopment. After the puppy defecates, the mother does the same to clean her up.

When the puppy grows into an adult dog, it does this process on its own no matter its body size. The flexible backbone makes it easier to reach their private parts.

Dogs Lick to Clean

In some cases, you can find your dog licking another dog’s private area. They do this as a clean-up mechanism as well as a form of arousal to communicate to each other when it’s mating period.

2. The doggy rinse cycle

We all know that dogs have fur and this can be troublesome for them during the cold and rainy seasons. No one would want to walk around with a heavy soaking wet cloth, right?

As soon as you get to the house you quickly get off your wet clothes and enjoy a cup of coffee to warm up.

The same case applies to dogs. They can’t get off their coats or fur as humans do, so they have initiated an artistic drying up mechanism which involves a strong rhythmical body shake from head to the tail.

To most dog owners who have taken their time interacting with their dogs, this doesn’t come as surprise since it’s a common routine.

Dogs more often than not shake their bodies after a bath to dry up. This method helps them to shake off excess water on their fur to also avoid getting cold.

This is helpful since it prevents them from experiencing hyperthermia in cold and wet seasons.


Dogs scratch as way of cleaning up. It removes dead skin through this process. In extreme cases, when a dog scratches itself it is usually to get rid of parasites like ticks, mites and fleas.

Scratching removes them manually or at least reduces their infestation. In other cases, scratching maybe due to allergies and hence it may help in getting rid of the pathogenic agents.

In addition, dogs scratch their bodies against walls to help themselves out on places they can’t reach with their paws. You may also notice them rolling over on grass and at other times on sand or dust.

Dogs scratch to clean their body

This rolling technique may send mixed signals to the owner which in most scenarios, the owner will imagine it’s the common playful nature of the dog. This is actually a cleaning technique where she will use the grass, sand or floor to dislodge particles stuck on her body or even external parasites.

Scratching relays information to the dog’s body to induce their natural oil glands found on their skin. This keeps the dog’s coat and fur shiny and attractive to the owner as well as any dog lovers.


Most are the times when we are watching over our dogs, we see them make small random bites on their skin. This is a way in which the dog tries to get rid of external parasites and external objects on its fur.

The dog is capable of nibbling off tiny mites of ticks on its fur using it canines. This isn’t as effective as licking but it’s very common among dogs.

5.Body shake

This may sound like the doggy rinse cycle but it is quite different. You’ve probably seen a dog sleeping on grass and the moment she wakes up; she does a rhythmic body shake from the head to the rest of the body systematically.

You may wonder why she always does that. You need not worry because this is a common clean up technique.At the ending of the hair follicles of the dog, there are nerve endings which are very sensitive to any slight pressure applied to them.

Dogs Shake to Clean Themselves

This is important in detecting any foreign particles especially dry leaves that may have remained stuck on the fur of the dog. As a result, the dog responds by vigorously shaking its body to get rid of them.

6.Is it dog’s manicure or pedicure?

We humans constantly have to trim our nails to their appropriate size since its hygienic and easily to keep clean. Dogs also need the same level of hygienic routines and cleanliness.

They usually trim their paw nails through constantly chewing on them.

This reduces overgrown paw nails that may cause unnecessary scratches when playing with it.

7.Help from a friend or family member

Communication between dogs is a fascinating thing and dog owners always have a front row seat to such experiences. Sometimes you can find your neighbour’s dog scratching the back of your dog and you wonder how did they communicate?

How did Rex (your neighbour’s dog) know that your dog needed scratching? Questions like these may drive you insane.

All in all, this is a routine that closely related dogs use to clean their bodies. It is always two-way as they must return the favour to their doggy friends.

This is known as social grooming and is very common in the animal kingdom.

8. ‘The face towel’

This is a borrowed cleaning technique from the kitties. It especially happens with dogs that have been reared in the same environment as cats. Usually it’s appropriate to clean up our faces in the morning to look fresh and neat.

Dogs too have their special and cute way of doing it.

They lick their paws repeatedly then pass those wet paws on and around their faces in short circular motions reaching every corner until they feel satisfied with their grooming.

However, if your dog is overdoing on grooming this might be a point of concern. There are various reasons that are associated with this kind of behaviour.

Consider a case where you are on a walk in the park with your dog and as soon as you give her a dog biscuit she starts licking your face and hands while making weird sounds.

At first, this may seem as a usual show of affection so you don’t pay so much attention to it and you actually enjoy the love. With time this starts getting to your nerves since it becomes too much and might be embarrassing in public.

For most dog owners, this is quite a big issue and some consider it as unhygienic. When a dog licks your face excessively she might be trying to reach out to you. She might be undergoing some emotional stress or pain and needs your attention.

Trying to decide why your dog is excessively licking itself might be an uphill task especially when you consider doing it without consulting the vet. In most cases you are supposed to pay close attention to the parts involved.

May it be the fur, paws, or the anal area. Most are the times dogs lick particular places especially if they have wounds or are experiencing any other kind of physical discomfort.

Dogs get attacked by arthritis too which causes irritation to their skin around the paws. If it licks the area under the tail more often there might be chances of urinary tract infections.

These kind of infections may be collected during a visit to the veterinarian, during short walks in the neighbourhood or during friendly encounters with puppies carried to your home by your neighbours and friends.

In other cases, you might find thorns or small pebbles stuck up in their foot pad.

To stop this kind of behaviour you should help them out by removing these foreign objects on their bodies. At times you can take them for a quick disinfectant bath after a long day of play or encounters with foreign dogs. This will always make sure that your dog stays safe from infections.

scratching dogs fur due to pollen

Too much scratching of dog’s fur may mean skin irritation due to food allergies or pollen. This is known as contact dermatitis.

When this kind of behaviour is persistent you might consider diet change or you may consult the vet to give you a healthy food plan suitable for your dog.

In extreme cases, you may consider addition of fatty acid supplements to the dog’s regular dish to curb occurrence of dry skin to keep your dog’s fur healthy and shiny.

Dogs especially those kept indoors without friends or mates are more likely to be attacked by this kind of irritating behavioural patterns of excessive grooming. This may be caused by anxiety, stress, or even lack of attention and affection.

Dogs too like involving activities like walks and exercise that keep their muscles active. Therefore, if your dog has a habit of too much grooming they might be experiencing the above mentioned probabilities.

You can curb this by training them to play with toys or adopting another dog in your household. This way you can direct their concentration elsewhere.

Dogs still need a helping hand!

Just because dogs have their ingenious ways of maintaining cleanliness like licking their paws, chewing on their nails or scratching their fur doesn’t mean it can do it spin and span. At times its necessary to help them out.

Actually most are the times when a dog self-grooms, she does it to communicate that she needs a little help. This way we get a chance to interrelate and bond with them.

Dogs will always appreciate this kind of affectionate gestures and will be submissive to their masters whatsoever. During these baths, we also get chance to inspect them for any chances of parasites infections or infectious wounds that may need a veterinarian’s attention.


PetMD – Why Dogs Lick and When to Worry

VCA Hospitals – Why Dogs Lick Their “Privates”

AKC – Why Do Dogs Lick?

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