So your dog kneads all the time, huh? You’re not alone. Dogs of all shapes and sizes are known to knead for a variety of reasons, most of which are perfectly normal. But just like with anything else in life, you want to be sure that your dog isn’t doing something because they’re uncomfortable or in pain before you just brush it off as no big deal.
This article lists seven common reasons why dogs knead, as well as what you can do to help them out if they’re experiencing discomfort.
1. They Want To Get Comfortable
One of the most common reasons why dogs knead is because they’re looking for a comfortable spot to rest. They might do this in their bed, on your lap, or anywhere else they feel safe and cozy.
Your dog may likely inherit this behavior from their ancestors, who would knead to soften leaves and grasses before laying down. This was necessary to make sure they got a good night’s sleep while on the run.
2. They Want To Show Happiness or Excitement
Dogs sometimes knead when they’re feeling really happy and excited, for example, when their human comes home from work or they’re about to get a delicious treat.
You may see them wagging their tail wildly, licking your face, or jumping around, and the kneading is just one more part of that jubilant behavior.
3. They’re Marking Their Territory
Dogs also mark their territory by kneading. They may do this with their paws, leaving behind scents from glands in their paw pads. This is one way that dogs let others know that they’re in charge and that this is their territory.
Once again this behavior likely stems from the time when they lived in the wild and had to compete and protect their territory from other animals.
Aside from kneading, there are other ways dogs may mark their territory, such as urinating or defecating in certain areas.
4. Dogs Knead because It’s Instinctual, Leftover from When They Were Nursing
Some dogs knead simply because it’s instinctual; it’s something that they do without thinking. This may be leftover from when they were nursing as puppies and they would knead and suck on their mother’s teat to get milk.
This behavior is sometimes carried over to adulthood, especially if they left their mother too soon or were never properly weaned. You may see them sucking belongings such as their bed and toy while kneading.
This is one reason why it’s so important to make sure that puppies never wean before they’re ready (at around 8-10 weeks old). If they’re taken away from their mother too soon, they may exhibit all sorts of strange behaviors as they try to cope.
5. As a Way to Self-soothe in Times of Anxiety or Fear
Some dogs knead as a way to self-soothe when they’re feeling anxious or scared. This is usually due to prior traumatic experiences, such as being in a shelter or being abandoned by their previous owner.
In this case, kneading is just one way for them to try and calm themselves down. You may also see them panting heavily, shaking, or trying to hide.
If your dog is exhibiting these behaviors, it’s important to get them help from a professional as soon as possible. It’s likely that they’re suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder and need assistance to feel better.
6. A Maternal Instinct to Keep Her Puppies Warm
This behavior is often seen in female dogs who are nursing puppies. As part of their maternal instinct, they will knead to keep their puppies warm.
This is especially important in the early weeks of their life when the puppies are not yet able to regulate their own body temperature. By kneading, the mother dog is creating a warm nest for her little ones.
7. This Could Be a Sign of Flea Allergies or Dry Skin (or Both)
If your dog is excessively kneading, it could be a sign that they’re struggling with flea allergies or dry skin particularly if the kneading behavior is accompanied by incessant licking and chewing on their paws. This could be a sign that they attempt to soothe the itchy sensation.
If you think your dog may have flea allergies or dry skin, take them to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. There may be a simple solution, like a change in diet or more frequent baths, that can help relieve their discomfort.
8. They’re Trying to Control the Temperature of Their Bodies
In the same way that dogs knead to keep their puppies warm, they may also do it as a way to control the temperature of their own bodies. Dogs are unable to sweat as humans do, so they often use other methods to cool themselves down or warm themselves up.
You may see them doing this more often in hot weather or when it’s too cold outside. If you notice your dog is excessively kneading during one of those times, try to provide them with a cool place to rest or put a warm blanket over them.
9. They Could be Struggling with Joint Pain
Some dogs may knead as a way to cope with joint pain. This is especially common in older dogs who are struggling with arthritis. Although this act doesn’t necessarily relieve the pain, it might be comforting for them to do something with their paws.
10. Some Breeds Are More Likely to Knead Than Others
For some inexplicable reason, some breeds of dogs are more likely to knead than others. Breeds like Border Collies, Dachshunds, and Springer Spaniels have been known to be particularly fond of this behavior.
Some experts theorize that this has to do with the fact that these breeds were originally bred for working purposes. They may knead as a way to expend energy or as a way to relieve tension.
Should You Be Concerned If Your Dog Kneads a Lot?
Generally speaking, there’s no need to be concerned if your dog is kneading a lot. The behavior is usually harmless and may even be beneficial in some cases like keeping puppies warm or controlling the temperature of their body.
However, if you notice that your dog is exhibiting other signs of health problems, like the constant licking of their paws or excessive panting, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be treated.
6 Tips To Help Stop Your Dog From Kneading
If your dog’s kneading behavior is prompted by concerning reasons like anxiety or joint pain, there may be things you can do to help them stop. Here are five tips that may help:
1. Find Out the Reason Behind the Behavior
The first thing you need to do is try to determine the reason behind your dog’s kneading. This could be as simple as observing them when they’re doing it and taking note of any other symptoms they may be displaying.
Once you know what’s causing the behavior, you can take steps to help them overcome it.
2. Provide Them with a Variety of Toys and Activities to Keep Them Occupied
Since many dogs knead as a way to release tension or expend energy, keeping them busy with a variety of toys and activities can help prevent them from doing it.
No matter how busy you’re always make sure to set aside enough time for your dog to play and get some exercise.
3. If the Kneading Is Linked to Anxiety, Try to Provide Them with a Calm and Relaxing Environment
If your dog’s kneading is linked to anxiety, try to create a calm and relaxing environment for them. This could mean putting them in a quiet room or trying to reassure them with calm words and petting.
Out of different types of anxiety, separation anxiety is the one most commonly linked to dogs. If you think your dog may be suffering from this, there are several things you can do to help them, like leaving a radio or TV on when you’re not home or working on gradually desensitizing them to being left alone.
4. If the Kneading Is Due to Health Problems like Arthritis, Consult with Your Veterinarian about Treatment Options
If your dog’s kneading is due to health problems like flea bite dermatitis or arthritis, consult with your veterinarian about treatment options. There are many different medications and therapies that can help relieve the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.
As a first-aid measure, you can try applying homemade natural remedies, like spraying essential oils diluted in water on the affected area to repel fleas or using a cold pack to soothe aching joints.
5. Provide Them With a Cool Place to Rest or Put a Warm Blanket Over Them
If your dog is kneading to keep themselves warm, you can help by putting a warm blanket over them. You can also try using something such as a heating pad to help keep their body temperature regulated.
During the hot summer months, you can also help keep them cool by providing them with a cool place to rest. This could mean putting their dog house in a shady spot or filling a kiddy pool with cold water for them to play in.
6. You May Need To Do Behavior Modification Training
In some cases, the kneading behavior may be too ingrained for simple solutions to work. In these instances, you may need to do behavior modification training with your dog.
This involves teaching them alternative behaviors to kneading that can provide them with the same level of relief. Training can be tricky and may take a while. For the best result, I recommend asking for help from a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist.
Dogs knead for various reasons, but generally, the reason is not something we need to worry about. However, there are a few instances where kneading could be a sign of a problem. If you notice your dog is kneading more than usual, or if they are kneading in an unusual way you want to start exploring what might be wrong.