Does your doggie have a favorite blanket he loves to suck on? While this sucking behavior is most likely not a cause for concern, it's important to be aware of why this happens.
Is blanket sucking a medical condition? The American Kennel Club explains that this behavior starts as a puppy. It's often associated with behavior that is thought to be associated with the dog's experience as a puppy. My doxie, Walter, is eight and does this from time to time. He's also done this since he was a puppy!
Do pet parents (like me) need to worry about this behavior?
It's also thought this behavior helps your dog relax if they're stressed out!
Why Does My Dog Suck on Blankets?
The American Kennel Club explains that even when the milk supply from the mother dog has virtually dried up. Some pups will return to the "well" for an occasional comfort suckle if they become unnerved by surrounding events.
"Dogs provided with such opportunities are unlikely to go on to become blanket suckers; actually, it's the ones who have this biological drive denied who divert their nursing behavior inappropriately."
Experts also say that dogs with emotional issues such as separation anxiety or high levels of fear can adopt this self-calming behavior, in the form of sucking or nibbles on blankets.
What Should You Do?
How compulsive is the behavior is where you should start? Does this go on all day long? If you think it's destructive, you should consult your vet.
According to The Nest, your dog isn't hurting anything by indulging in this self-soothing habit. Are the times predictable? Our dog typically does this after dinner and sometimes before bed. I don't think it's hurting anything so we let Walter chew on one designated blanket for a little bit.
"It's a way for him to blow off steam and release stress, and afterward he's ready for play or sleep. If, however, all he wants to do is lay around and suck his toy or blanket, and you have a hard time getting him to leave it behind, you've got a problem."
What Dog Breeds Typically Do This?
While a wide variety of breeds, like Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, and Chihuahuas, will do this, The AKC tells us that the breeds most well-known for this behavior are Doberman Pinschers and Dachshunds!
"Dobermans will nurse on blankets and also on themselves. In the latter instance, the behavior is termed "flank sucking." Perhaps the breed propensity derives from a more powerful nursing drive that is less easily satisfied and more likely to displace."
How Do You Break This Habit?
You can always distract and redirect. Just like any trainer would tell you, if your dog is doing something they shouldn't do like chew on the bottom of your coffee table then you need to show him what you'd like him to do. Try a stuffed Kong or interactive puzzle toy.
Take him for a walk when he starts doing this and he'll forget all about it!
Like teething, suckling behavior is very common with puppies but you hope an adult dog will grow out of this behavior! This compulsive behavior may occur throughout puppyhood and continue to adulthood.
Dog behavior can often be complicated! If your dog sucks on blankets like a pacifier, it's not the end of the world. Think of this like thumb-sucking. Perhaps this happens during bedtime or after dinner, just watch to ensure it's not compulsive. You can always distract with dog training skills and introduce soft toys or a stuffed animal as an alternative. Walter has one special comforter we let him do this with and certain dog breeds may be predisposed.
Do you ever see your dog blanket 'soothing'? Let us know on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!
This article was originally published April 20, 2020.