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Why Do Dogs Nibble on Blankets? 6 Reasons for this Behavior
Many dogs nibble on blankets, leaving their owners baffled as to what’s behind the behavior. It’s not just their blankets they chew on. Any stray blanket is a target. There are several motivations for this behavior; your job is to figure out which one is behind your dog’s behavior.
Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs. Dog breeds that hunt, herd, or guard are more prone to excessive chewing behavior, but any dog breed can exhibit it. Sometimes dogs chew out of frustration, to relieve anxiety, or because they are hungry. Blankets are a favorite object of choice to chew on. Most of the time, blanket chewing is a perfectly natural behavior.
Below we give you the six different reasons dogs nibble on blankets and some ways to redirect the behavior.
Six reasons dogs nibble on blankets
1. It provides entertainment.
Biting, nipping, and nibbling comes naturally to dogs. If you watch a litter of puppies play with each other, you’ll notice that they nibble and bite one another in play. If they bite down too hard during play, the other puppy will yelp to let them know it hurt. This is also the way young puppies learn the concept of bite inhibition, which is an important life skill.
Some dogs outgrow their chewing behavior in puppyhood, while others chew their whole lives. Hunting dogs like dachshunds, pointers, and spaniels are more likely to nibble blankets well into adulthood due to their natural hunting instincts. Large dogs are more prone to destructive chewing than small dogs, but this isn’t because small dogs don’t chew. Owners simply notice the chewing of large dogs more because they can do more damage.
Any dog who nibbles can develop a chewing habit. It’s a self-rewarding behavior. Once your dog learns that chewing on blankets is fun, he will keep doing it.
It can also be a calming and soothing activity that helps them calm down. In fact, many owners harness this quality to teach their dogs to settle, particularly with high-energy breeds like border collies or German shepherds who have difficulty finding an “off switch.” The catch is that your dog has to know what is acceptable to chew on and what isn’t. Otherwise, you may find him nibbling your arm in an effort to calm down.
2. Your dog is hungry.
Sometimes dogs chew on non-food items because they lack calories and nutrients in their diet. Even if it seems like your dog is eating well, it’s possible that his food isn’t meeting all of his needs. Other symptoms of nutritional deficiency include a change in feces, hair loss, and low energy levels.
It’s important to ensure that your dog’s daily caloric requirements are met in order to maintain his energy levels. If you notice your dog is less active, less interested in activities, or lying around a lot, he may not be getting enough calories in his diet.
Carefully choose your dog’s food to make sure it contains all the nutrients necessary for your dog’s health. Checking the ingredient list is an easy way to make sure he’s getting healthy food. An easy guideline is to make sure your dog food adheres to the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. If it does, it meets all the daily nutritional requirements for your dog.
3. Your dog is bored.
Dogs who spend long periods of time alone tend to get bored. Boredom plays a significant factor in unwanted behavior, ranging from chewing on household objects to excessive barking to outright destruction.
A good way to prevent your dog from chewing on blankets out of boredom is to make sure your dog has an adequate amount of exercise and attention before you leave for the day. It’s a good idea, when possible, to get someone to take your dog for a walk midday. If this isn’t an option, make sure to take your dog for a walk or run when you get home to burn off his pent-up energy.
While dogs enjoy consistency in their routine, they also love to explore and experience new things. Sometimes mixing up your routine a bit can take the edge off your dog’s boredom. Try a new dog park, a new walking route, or taking him for a swim. He might enjoy the change of pace.
When your dog is home alone, he will have a hard time discerning what is and isn’t okay to chew on. It’s your job to show him what is acceptable. This means ensuring that your dog has a good selection of toys and chews available. If there are certain objects you want to remain strictly off-limits when you’re not there, try using a chew deterrent spray, like bitter apple, so your dog doesn’t enjoy nibbling on it.
4. Your dog is stressed.
Dogs experience stress just like people. They can be stressed by moving to a new house, new surroundings, loud noises, or being home alone. Some dogs are more prone to experiencing stress and anxiety than others, but all dogs feel stress in certain situations.
Signs that your dog is feeling stressed include pacing, constant yawning or licking, a decreased appetite, howling, whining, or an increase in sleep.
Nibbling on blankets can be a way that your dog relieves his stress. Much like a comfort object used as a toddler, your dog learns that chewing a blanket makes him feel better, so he will resort to this behavior anytime he’s feeling anxious.
If your dog is stressed because of a move or because he’s new to the household, it’s best to be patient with him. Offer him appropriate objects to nibble on and be patient. Most dogs will adapt to their new surroundings after a few weeks and go back to normal. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, consult a trainer on how to help your dog gradually adapt to time alone.
5. Your dog is in pain.
Pain is usually a short-term issue. Puppies who are teething will chew on everything and anything to numb the pain in their mouths. This pain can be eased by offering frozen chew toys or a wet facecloth to chew on.
Some dogs also suffer from allergies and nibble on blankets as a way to relieve their suffering. Similarly, an injury can also cause your dog to seek comfort through blanket nibbling.
Figuring out the source of pain and relieving it will often stop your dog’s nibbling behavior.
6. Premature weaning.
A common reason dogs suck or nibble on blankets is that they were prematurely weaned from their mothers. Puppies should remain with their mothers for at least eight weeks after birth, but this doesn’t always happen for a variety of reasons. It’s not always an owner’s fault that this happens; occasionally, it’s completely out of anyone’s control.
That said, there are certain behavioral problems that can arise in puppies who were prematurely weaned. They’re not harmful to your dog, and with a little extra effort on your part, you can do the teaching that your puppy’s mother couldn’t.
In the case of blanket nibbling, puppies instinctively suckle their mother, so when mom’s not there, they find something else to suckle on. A soft blanket is often the next best thing.
Is blanket nibbling harmful to my dog?
No, blanket nibbling isn’t harmful to your dog. If your dog’s blanket nibbling is bothersome to you, it’s most often best to redirect the behavior to a single blanket that belongs to your dog. Your dog can easily adapt to chewing on “his blanket” only and not on yours.
The exception to this is if it is an anxiety or pain response. If this is the case with your dog, you will have to address the cause before addressing the behavior directly.
How do I stop my dog’s blanket nibbling behavior?
As stated above, chewing behavior is best redirected to an object that’s more appropriate. Giving your dog his own blanket or several chew toys that he’s allowed to chew on will often solve the problem.
Spending some time training your dog on what he can and can’t chew on will stop unwanted chewing. Teach your dog the words “NO” or “STOP.” Issue the command when he is chewing on something he shouldn’t and give him something that is okay for him to chew on. Make sure to give lots of positive reinforcement and praise when your dog chews on his own things.
Dogs nibble on blankets for a variety of reasons, most often as a source of comfort, to satisfy their chewing instincts, or to pass the time. Dogs can also nibble if they are stressed, lonely, or in pain. Now that you know the signs to look for, you can determine the reason your dog is nibbling on blankets and determine whether you need to take extra measures to stop the behavior.
- You may also be interested in: Why Is My Dog Pacing? 11 Potential Reasons and How to Stop It
Featured Image Credit: IAKIMCHUKIAROSLAV, Shutterstock
Oliver (Ollie) Jones – A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master’s degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.