Last winter, you gave your dog a blanket to keep his bed warm and cozy on cold nights. It served its purpose, but now he hides under it and only sticks his nose out. He’ll sometimes pick it up and chew it. Other times he’ll suck on it. He might even knead it. When he’s in attack mode, he jumps on it, scratching and ripping it. This blanket has done more than keep him warm, it’s become his new play toy. You don’t mind that the blanket is full of holes, misshapen, and has begun to fall apart in the washing machine, but why is your dog playing with it so much when he has other toys?
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs play with blankets for a few reasons and it’s perfectly normal. Dogs are denning animals, which means they like to feel safe and secure in their space. That’s part of the reason some dogs enjoy sleeping in their crate, the sense of security. If your dog is starting to burrow under his blanket, he’s probably doing it to feel safe and comfortable in his makeshift den. Dog breeds that are hunters or cold weather dogs are known for burrowing, but any breed can enjoy burrowing under a blanket.
While cats are more known for kneading and sucking on blankets than dogs, some dogs still do it. Kneading a blanket and sucking on the blanket are behaviors that stem from early life. Dogs find comfort in their mother’s nursing and these two behaviors are what dogs do when they want their mother's milk. If your dog is grown and kneading or sucking, he might be doing this for comfort and it relaxes him. Typically, dogs who did not have access to their mother when they were little, were weaned too early, or fed by bottles will demonstrate this behavior. Some breeds who demonstrate this behavior more than others are Doberman Pinschers and Dachshunds.
Younger dogs are more likely to attack their blanket, but it’s more a way to play with their bed linens than an actual attack. Puppies who pounce or attack their blanket do not think of it as an enemy or evil; it’s just fun. He might be letting out some energy and using it as a toy. He could also be teething, which is painful and the blanket provides some relief. Puppies also like to explore the word by chewing because it allows them to taste and feel different things in their mouths. Or it might just release some anxiety. As a puppy, everything is new and this blanket is an excellent thing to explore and play with.
Encouraging the Behavior
Unless the behavior becomes destructive or unhealthy, like ingesting pieces of fabric, it should not be a problem. To your dog, this blanket is another toy and he is loving it. However, if he stole a handmade blanket from your great Nana off the couch, you might have a problem. If you don’t want your dog playing with a blanket, give him an alternative. Put out a toy, perhaps a stuffed toy or a rope so it has a similar texture. You could also give your dog his own blanket and show him that this is his. Firmly say no when he goes after great Nana’s blanket, but praise him when he uses his.
If you notice strips of fabric around your house or large holes in the blanket, it might be time to replace the blanket. You don’t want your dog ingesting fabric or even thread as it can cause problems with his digestive system. A dog with anxiety might be prone to chew or burrow if he is feeling anxious. Monitor him when he does these behaviors and look out for any patterns. Maybe he has separation anxiety when you aren’t around or the introduction of another animal or human has left him feeling insecure.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you notice your dog’s play with a blanket is obsessive or connected to a specific activity, make a note of it. He might be experiencing some negative emotions or health problems and you should take him to a vet. If your dog is insistent on playing with a blanket, regardless of where he finds it, it is best to get him his own so you don’t end up frustrated that your chenille blanket is destroyed. Praise your dog when he does good and do not yell when he breaks the rules. Yelling will only harm your relationship and won’t be helpful when training him.
As a child, you may have had a security blanket. As an adult, you might have something similar that brings you comfort and a sense of security. Your dog does too, and in some cases, it is an actual blanket. Let him have a grand ole time playing with his blanket, and just make sure he doesn’t eat any pieces of it.