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The Root of the Behavior
Your dog might have a habit of nursing on his toys which probably has caused you to be concerned for his well being. Before you go running to the veterinarian you should know this is a natural behavior that just happened to follow your dog into the next phase of his life. Some dogs will exhibit this behavior throughout their entire life. Dogs begin their life nursing on their mother to survive. Puppies often find themselves battling against their siblings for the perfect position and place to drink their mother’s milk. Some puppies are aggressively pushed aside by their siblings and often yearn for the attention of their mother. Nursing from their mother is not only for survival and nutritional needs, it's also emotional. Some puppies who were completely done nursing on their mother often feel comforted and safe pretending to nurse in highly stressed situations. It’s similar to human children that have a favorite toy, pacifier, or blanket they carry with them everywhere. Some humans often keep that favorite item throughout their lifetime as well.
The nursing action is deeply rooted in your dog’s DNA. They need this natural instinct to survive and feed off their mom during the first several weeks of their life. If your dog suckles on his toys he is probably seeking comfort from his surroundings. Perhaps the house is too noisy and chaotic or maybe a loud thunderstorm has made him feel frightened. This type of situation often encourages dogs to self-medicate by nursing on their toys. Dogs who were taken from their mother at an early age often continue this behavior throughout their lifetime. Sometimes mother’s die while giving birth or have health issues that prevent them from carrying for their puppies. If your dog was deprived of his mother’s attention for any reason, he might always desire to feel comforted and close to her. This yearning often results in nursing on toys.
Encouraging the Behavior
Some pet parents don’t mind seeing their dog nurse on their toys. Generally, this natural and harmless behavior is adorable and sweet. It also encourages dog owners to show kindness and comfort to their dog on a regular basis. Pet parents that find the act of sucking on toys unattractive often do their best to prevent their dog from continuing the behavior. Dogs that have high levels of anxiety and stress nurse on their toys for comfort and to help them remain calm. If your dog is sucking on toys due to stress, you can help minimize the situation by finding the cause behind the behavior.
Observe your dog and keep a journal of his behavior to pinpoint the reason for his actions. If your dog tends to nurse on his toys every time company visits the house or when there is harsh weather outdoors, chances are a stressful environment is causing him to seek comfort with his toys. Dogs that excessively continue this behavior are usually giving their pet parents a clear sign that something is balanced in their life and they need help. Nursing on toys is linked to emotional issues such as missing their mother, feeling scared and seeking comfort. If you are concerned about your dog's excessive behavior there is something you can do about it.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Discouraging your dog from nursing on toys requires understanding and patience. If your dog does it on occasion, you most likely don’t need to prevent or stop him from repeating the behavior. Every dog needs a little comfort sometimes. However, if your dog excessively nurses on toys and refuses to eat his dog food or drink water, there is a serious issue hidden behind the action that needs to be addressed. Discussing the excessive behavior with a veterinarian is recommended. A professional is usually able to pinpoint the behavior and treat the issue properly. Your dog could have a deep emotional attachment to their mother or an issue they experienced during puppyhood that has caused the behavior to continue. While you most likely won’t be able to reunite your dog with his mother, you can take extra measures to help your dog feel loved and safe.