It’s a tail as old as time. You pick out the perfect plushie for your pooch, and within minutes they’re tearing it limb from limb trying to get the squeaker out.
Before you know it, there’s so much white fluff on the floor that it looks like a blizzard blew through your house!
Should you be concerned? Is it normal? Have you ever wondered why your dog takes so much pleasure in disemboweling their toys?
It’s Just Doggy Nature
Don’t worry, your pooch isn’t a serial killer. They’re just doing what dogs do!
Dogs need to chew in order to maintain good oral health1. For many canines, chewing soft, noisy toys awakens their inner wolf. For others, it comes down to boredom or learned behavior. Pinpointing your pup’s destructive motivations will help you choose toys that can withstand their savage play style.
They Still Have A Prey Drive
Many dogs seem to retain traces of their wild ancestors’ instincts to hunt, capture, and kill weaker prey. While scientists and animal behaviorists differ on just how similar our domesticated dogs are to their canid cousins, it makes sense that certain innate impulses remain.
Those who support the prey drive theory say it is the high-pitched sound of a squeaky toy – eerily similar to the cry of a frightened or injured rodent – that sparks the instinct to hunt and kill. They rip and tear at the “flesh” of the toy in an attempt to destroy the squeaker and render the toy “dead.”
Without adequate exercise and mental stimulation, dogs are bound to get into mischief. Some bark incessently or gnaw on your furniture. Others take their frustrations out on their toys.
Alleviating boredom is as simple as spending more time with your pup. Instead of putting them out in the yard alone, head out back with them and throw the ball. Or snap on his leash and take a walk around the block.
If your dog only destroys toys when left home alone, they may be suffering from separation anxiety. Left untreated, this problem can escalate into more dangerous behaviors. Set up a consulation with your veterinarian and consider altering your routine to better meet your dog’s needs.
You have to admit, it’s pretty adorable when dogs vigorously tug and shake their toys – especially when they’re puppies. However, every time you giggle and engage in rough play with your pup, you reinforce their behavior.
Interactive play with their favorite human is pure bliss for your dog, so don’t stop the fun. However, you may want to stash your dog’s more vulnerable toys before leaving the house. Shredded bits of fabric can pose a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage. Instead, give your dog a fresh chew or a stuffable treat toy to keep them occupied.
Chewing As A Tool
Growing research suggests that chewing acts as a form of tool use2. Whether they’re chewing a stick to dull a tooth pain or a toy or to quell restless energy, chewing showcases how the gears are always turning in dogs’ brains. They like tasks, and they’ll look for solutions wherever they can find them.
Even the act of positioning a toy between their two paws suggests intention and forethought, which fits the definition of “tool use.” While your dog isn’t going to wake up as Bob the Builder anytime soon, the fact that they can use an object for a specific purpose can help illuminate the complex character of canines.
Dogs Love A Challenge
Exercise is just as important for your dog’s mind as it is for his body. Whether it’s puzzle toys, brain games, or nose work, dogs love to meet challenges and solve problems. For some, dismantling their toys until they reach the squeaker is just another way to test their mental acuity.
You May Be Choosing The Wrong Toys
No matter the reason for your dog’s destructive tendencies, if they are consistently making minced meat of their toys, it is time to invest in some tougher play-things!
Dogs with high prey drives belong in Bark’s exclusive Super Chewer Club. These toys are designed with ruff and tuff pups in mind. Some are built to last, while others give your hunter just what they wants, shredding to bits in his powerful jaws.
Puzzle Toys may be just the thing to keep bored or brainy dogs occupied. They challenge your dog to use his body and mind to earn treats. And if toy-shredding is a learned behavior for your pooch, try something the two of you can play with together. Tuggable and tossable toys allow you to spend quality time while also providing the exercise and mental stimulation they needs to thrive.
Of course, if you’re okay with your dog destroying their toys, you might want to consider buying a BarkBox subscription to replenish their wares and keep the destruction going month after month. A classic box contains 2 large bags of treats, 1 long-lasting chew, and two sturdy but definitely destructible toys for as little as $21 a month.
On the flip side, if you’d rather the toys stick around a little longer (i.e., basically forever), you can upgrade to the Super Chewer BarkBox. The toys in this version are made to withstand even the strongest of canine teeth for as little as $29 a month.
1E.I. Logan. Dietary influences on periodontal health in dogs and cats. Vet. Clin. N. Am. Small Anim. Pract., 36 (2006), pp. 1385-1401 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159121001593#bbib0150
2J. Brooks, S. Yamamoto. Dog stick-chewing: an overlooked instance of tool use? Front. Psychol., 11 (2021), p. 3753 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.577100/full