The Root of the Behavior
It is difficult to believe domesticated dogs have ancestry that originates with wolves. Centuries ago, dogs lived in the wild and were born with natural survival instincts. These instincts allowed them to thrive in the wild. Dogs used a specific technique to kill their prey which involved stalking the prey, pouncing on it, grabbing it with their teeth and shaking their head aggressively from side to side to snap the neck and kill the prey. This might sound brutal, but it is how dogs survived and provided themselves with a nutritional diet. Domesticated dogs no longer need this instinct to survive. Pet parents provide a nutritional diet for their dogs and serve them in bowls carefully placed in the kitchen or a special place in the house. Sometimes the food bowls are placed outdoors in a natural environment. Your dog might be served his food like royalty now, but his instincts still remain deep inside his DNA.
This natural instinct is expressed during play time. Stuffed toys are very similar to animals in the wild. They have eyes, heads, bodies, and fur, these are all things that attract dogs to their prey. Your dog might be playing but his natural instincts kick in and he is pretending to kill his prey. This behavior is often startling to pet parents who get caught off guard. Some owners think the behavior is cute since their adorable dog thinks he’s so brave to kill his stuffed animal. As long as your dog is expressing this behavior playfully there is nothing to worry about. However, if your dog is being aggressive on a regular basis for no reason and attacking more than his stuffed animal toys, you need to take action quickly. Discussing the issue with a veterinarian to rule out physical illness is the first step to getting to the root of the issue.
Encouraging the Behavior
There is no need to encourage this instinctive behavior. It will continue to arise naturally throughout moments in your dog’s life. Triggering your dog to tap into this behavior and express it on a frequent basis can cause your dog to become aggressive towards more than toys. They can move on to attacking small children, small animals, wild animals, and other pets in the household. As long as the behavior is innocent and occurs playfully, there is no need for concern. If aggression goes beyond the stuffed toys, immediate action is recommended. Discussing the issue with a professional dog trainer can help your dog with his aggression.
A dog trainer can help pinpoint the cause of the aggressive behavior and help find ways to treat it properly. Sometimes aggression in dogs can originate from stress and anxiety. Common causes of anxiety in dogs are separation anxiety, lack of attention, chaotic environment, dangerous environment, and mistreatment from humans. Treating the cause of stress can help lessen the aggressive behavior in dogs. Trainers can also help you learn techniques to use on your dog that will help him feel like he is in a more controlled environment that has structure, guidance and a leader of the pack.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Creating a routine and sticking to a schedule will help create a safe environment for your dog. He will know when and where he is going to eat, drink, play, and walk on a daily basis. You can also create a safe haven for him by designating an area in your house that he can call his own. Include a dog bed, blanket, toys, food, and water bowls in this area. Dogs are den animals and prefer sleeping or resting in den-like environments. Dog crates create this experience and help soothe anxiety symptoms. Placing a crate in your dog's special area of the house will assure him there is always a safe place to run to if he feels scared.
Hopefully learning more about this natural behavior has prevented you from calling someone to perform an exorcism on your dog. It is his natural instinct that is quite cute at times. As long as he’s expressing this behavior on his toys and not people, there is no need to take action. Remember, if your dog is being unusually aggressive towards people, you need to consult with a veterinarian and dog trainer immediately.