A dog’s brain releases endorphins when it nibbles on an item. Your dog nibbles on a blanket because the endorphin release makes them feel happy, safe, and content. Anxious or bored dogs are more likely to seek the endorphin release.
Finally, the workday is done! You snuggle up on the couch with your favorite blanket, ready to stream your show or movie of choice, when you notice the edges of the blanket are… wet. And a bit tattered.
Are there actual tears in the fabric? You wonder if your beloved pup has been chewing your blankets again, and, as you casually glance at the pile of dog toys nearby, you casually wonder: why do dogs nibble on blankets?
3 Common Reasons Dogs Nibble on Blankets
There are three general reasons dogs might prefer the sweet taste of your blanket over any of the carefully chosen, sometimes expensive, toys you’ve bought them.
The first and most common reason dogs chew or nibble on blankets is boredom. Many dog owners have worked from home the last few years and have been able to keep their pets busy and entertained.
The dogs have been conditioned to rely on this extra attention and have lost the ability to accept that mom or dad’s actual job may require them to leave home.
Left alone in the house again, many dogs are stuck looking for a way to keep busy, and hey, why not chew that blanket? That should give them something to do until someone comes home to play!
You can see how your dog makes a pretty quick connection between destruction and entertainment, but it is part of the reason we love them!
Another reason dogs chew is anxiety. They may be genuinely concerned that when you leave, you may never return! Boredom can bring anxiety for dogs who don’t know what to expect when adjusting to a new routine.
No walks at lunch. No belly rubs during zoom meets. Certainly, no one around to say, “Hey! Stop chewing that blanket or you won’t get any treats!” Dogs are the protectors of the home once again, and those blankets are fair game.
Instinct to Chew
Many dogs genuinely need to chew something soft (part of their instincts), and a blanket neatly fits the bill. Blankets are, by definition, cozy. Your dog might like the way the fabric tears or the taste of laundry detergent in its mouth.
Whatever the reason, sometimes dogs just like something enough to do it repeatedly despite the angry glare they get from their owner when they’re doing it.
It’s Cute, Should I Encourage It?
If you are one of the many who adopted during the last few years, you might have an Instagram feed full of cute photos of your puppy playfully teething on a blanket.
While you may cherish these moments because anything a puppy does is adorable at first, you probably want to curb this behavior for two reasons.
1) There is no actual need for your dog or puppy to chew on a blanket when so many products are available to help develop healthy teeth and gums via chewing.
2) Your dog doesn’t know the difference between the special teething blanket you are willing to give up for their habit and the knitted afghan your beloved Nana gifted you before she passed last Spring.
They will destroy both items because they are the same to them. Unless you are willing to hide everything you own that even slightly resembles a blanket, you probably want to put a stop to blanket nibbling whenever you see it happening.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your dog could swallow bits of thread or stuffing. These items can obstruct your dog’s bowels and cost a pretty penny at the vet.
Dogs are pretty resilient, but you don’t want to put them in unnecessary danger by allowing them to chew something that isn’t made for that purpose.
Your dog probably isn’t so bored that they would fancy a trip to the vet just for something to do.
How to Put an End to This Behavior
Since quitting your job to help your dog stop chewing blankets is probably not an option, you might want to look into ways to help your dog readjust to your daily absence if boredom and anxiety are the driving behavior.
This could mean hiring a dog walker. Many people are still working from home and would probably enjoy a little extra income during their lunch break. Or you could try purchasing toys that provide greater mental stimulation.
Depending on the breed, your dog might need to keep busy to keep calm. Puzzle balls, treat dispensers, or toys that provide a satisfying squeak as your dog rips into them are all good ways for them to keep busy.
My dog is an older rescue, and a good chewing bone really keeps him busy while I’m away. He used to be a blanket chewer, but we’ve curtailed that habit, and the blankets are safe again.
Besides keeping the dog entertained, make sure you address any emotional needs that might drive the behavior.
Show plenty of affection when you are home. Belly rubs, ear scratches, and happy voices make the dog happy and replace the need for blanket chewing. Your dog would rather get plenty of love from you than nibble on some old blanket. Your attention wins every time, so feel free to show it whenever you can.
What if My Dog Starts to Nibble on Its Bed?
If your dog is nibbling on its bedding, it might not be so easy to take it away from them. Dogs need a space to call their own and might be very attached to their beds.
The good news is that there are plenty of indestructible beds available online. If you are handy, you can DIY your dog bed using PVC pipes to make the frame and outdoor fabric stretched around the frame like a cot.
Animal shelters prefer this type of bed because they are easy to clean and virtually indestructible. If your dog is heavier and you are concerned about the strength of the PVC, you can skip the frame and use the outdoor fabric with a bit of stuffing in between for comfort.
Obviously, you want to remove any blankets or towels you placed on the bed to make it more comfortable. Your dog might not take to their new bed right away, so make sure you praise them whenever they lay down in it.
You can also place toys in the bed to show them it is their space and reward them with a treat when they chew the toy. If you notice your dog trying to nibble their new indestructible bed, discourage this behavior in the way that works best for your dog.
Some dogs respond excellently to commands. Mine is a treat fanatic. Whatever motivates your dog is what you should use to get them to avoid damaging the new bed. It may be indestructible but remember: you’re trying to break a habit, not chew-proof your house.
Is This Behavior Ever Ok?
Before taking any major steps, take the time to assess the severity of the situation and figure out why your dog is chewing on blankets. Some puppies suck on blankets because it is a leftover impulse from when they breastfed from their mothers. Other dogs suck or nibble on their flanks as a mark of their breed, although that can be harmful if it becomes obsessive.
Nibbling releases endorphins, which is why your dog is doing it. Just make sure they are nibbling, sucking, or chewing on items designed for that purpose and cannot cause them harm. If that blanket on your sofa is the only one they’re interested in, and you’ve considered the risks, it is okay to let them have it.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.