Watching your puppy running down the hall with a toilet roll streaming out behind him may be funny the first time. Watching your fully-grown dog destroying a toilet roll or pulling dirty tissues out of the wastepaper basket is not much fun at all! What is the fascination with dirty tissues and tissue paper you wonder and why do some dogs love to tear up a tissue? Then there are others that are not really interested unless it was the napkin you used after that finger licking good family supper! Dogs are drawn to certain items because of their smell and in some cases, dogs love soft fluffy things that remind them of the fur and feather items they used to catch in the wild as part of their genetic behavior. Puppies explore the world through play activities and dogs bred to retrieve may get some pleasure from running off with your soft socks or just enjoy tearing a tissue apart.
The Root of the Behavior
While the root of the behavior for some dogs could be the Retriever's instinctive need to feel and tear something soft the real reason for pulling tissues apart could just be boredom. Dogs need stimulation and interaction with their human families. The adorable puppy you brought home was the center of attention for a while and then when the novelty wore off, the games and interaction became less, and boredom set in. Pulling the toilet paper out of the bathroom and having you chase after your dog is a great game to play and guarantees attention. Negative attention can be better than no attention at all so if you watch yet another toilet roll disappears down the hall, think twice before you punish your dog. He could just be asking for some playtime. Pulling tissues out of the wastepaper basket has other connotations and the action is just as annoying for you. A dirty tissue being chewed by your dog is really disgusting. However, your dog likes the taste and the smell of this dirty tissue. Added to that the tissue is a reminder of a soft furry creature your dog may have been tempted to hunt for back in his wild days long ago when he had to fend for himself. Tearing up a tissue resembles the tearing action associated with hunting and eating small animals and birds. There could be a possibility that your dog has found eating and tearing tissues a compulsive eating and tearing experience. His diet could play a part but generally, it could just be part of a behavior he enjoys. If you feel the behavior is compulsive and you have tried to put an end to it by keeping tissues out of range and giving plenty of play activities, then seek the help of a behavior specialist or consult your vet and look at a change of diet. Eating paper is not going to encourage healthy digestion even though the smell and taste of the tissues appeal to two of the strongest sensory instincts of your dog.
Encouraging the Behavior
Tearing up tissues is not something you want to encourage your dog to do. It is a messy business. Perhaps it gives your canine friend a feel-good emotion of small furry creatures from hunting days of old, but it is not a healthy snack for a dog’s digestive system. Some dogs are prone to a condition known as Pica, which is an eating disorder of persistent craving and compulsive of eating non-food substances. Tissues fit into this category and your Pica driven hound may just feel compelled to eat tissues and other strange substances. It will be difficult to change this behavior but with diligent obedience training and a respect for the ‘leave’ command, the compulsive behavior could change. Your dog may need a distraction and other treats as a reward for leaving the offensive tissue. Pica behavior leads to the compulsive eating of all sorts of other undesirable items that your dog may scavenge while out on a walk. Go out on your walks with positive treats to reward leaving an undesirable item and coming to your call. At home keep tissues and toilet paper out of range behind closed doors until you can be sure the habit is dealt with. Always work on the positive to change a behavior and look for root causes to be able to make changes in routine. Tearing tissues could also be a form of separation anxiety. Do you leave your dog alone inside for long periods of time and could this be his way of displaying his anxious state? Dogs are emotional animals, and this could be the only way of telling you he is bored and lonely.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dog behavior is different to understand sometimes and some of their actions may not be endearing. Tearing up tissues, especially the ones you were disposing of while you lay in bed with flu, is a case in point. This is not going to make you commend your dog for good behavior. However, if you rant and rave, Fido is going to see this as a great new game. When puppy behavior is over and your dog should be maturing, you will want to discourage this seemingly illogical activity. A trip to your local pet shop could help with the purchase of a soft dog-friendly toy and if you spend some time with Fido showing him the power of positive play then there is the answer to this unpleasant behavior. Then there is a possibility that your dog just likes to try out all kinds of weird tastes and textures. There is always going to be something to alert a dog’s sensitive nose. Walking on a lead will inhibit random Pica behavior but will put an end to your dog’s love of free-range running. If this behavior has become excessive then try to get some help with behavior modification.
Hopefully eating tissues is the least of the weird and wonderful choices your dog may make as he tries to enjoy something different on his canine menu. Dogs have been known to eat some strange things but tissues, apart from their soft sensation, bring interaction with you and a possible play activity. Generally, you could take this behavior with a grain of salt and not make a meal of it! Your dog’s enjoying a taste sensation. Did you hear about the dog that ate garlic? Well, his bark was worse than his bite!