Whether to destroy, cuddle or carry around, dogs go crazy for stuffed animals. What is it that makes them enjoy playing with them so much? Could it be the soft textures, the inborn instinct to catch certain prey, or the need to nurture that makes them carry their plushy around with them wherever they go? Many dogs like to play with stuffed animals; shaking, chewing, and loving them. Others like to retrieve them or chase them.
No matter what category your dog fits in, there are several explanations for why he loves to play with stuffed animals so much. Let’s figure them out.
The Root of the Behavior
Some of the most important things that need to be considered are your pup’s age, gender, and breed. Male and female dogs have different reactions to social interaction, so for example, an unspayed female will play with her stuffed animals because she is exhibiting the first signs of a false pregnancy. This means that her mothering behavior will remain active even after going through heat. You must have seen those sadly adorable videos of a mother caring for her beloved plushies, after having lost her own puppies at birth.
It is a natural way of showing her attachment to the toys, as she carries them around looking for a place to nest. To our dogs, stuffed animals fulfill a variety of roles, from prey to sibling and plaything to squirrel-substitute, we could easily say dogs live vicariously through their beloved plushies.
But before going down the imagination lane any further, we should shift to something a little less… emotional such as the love for the kill. This theory suggests that dogs look at toys the way wolves look at prey. Sometimes dogs just like to practice their killing instincts on stuffed toys. It is especially the case for squeakers, as they can imitate prey sounds, just like an animal in the wild would sound. If your dog is biting, chewing, and disemboweling the toys while shaking their heads with the toy in their mouths, he is the destroyer type.
On the other hand, if your pup loves to play fetch and gently picks up toys to bring them back to you, he is most likely the carrier one. Breeds that are more prone to exhibit this type of behavior are retrievers. By carrying their toys around, they are expressing their desire to play with you. Dogs are always interested in new things and become even more interested when you participate.
Encouraging the Behavior
One of the reasons you should allow your pup to play with their stuffed animals is to relieve their gum and toothache. As they get older, they will more likely experience a weakening of the teeth and wearing of the gums. By chewing on soft stuffed toys, dogs have a slight bounce, allowing them to bite down without hurting their teeth or gums. Our advice is to look for toys that are dog-age appropriate and surprise your furry companion when they are done shredding their old playmates to pieces.
In the case of young pups, look for durable ones and for those that have replaceable squeakers. In this way, you will be able to rotate toys regularly so that they don’t get a chance to be bored. Also, be careful to watch for pieces like plastic eyes, noses, and styrofoam stuffing that can be chewed off and eaten. There are a lot of good options you can find both online and offline, so make sure you choose only the best products for your furry friend.
Try to invest in toys that are more interactive such as Kongs, as you can fill them up with goodies and encourage your dog to actively seek out its contents.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your pup is out of control with tearing up anything he gets his paws on and your training techniques have gotten you nowhere so far, consider the fact that it’s never too late for crate training. Whether done by a professional or someone in the family who knows what they’re doing, crate training is essential to keeping your pup’s life, and yours as well, in order. You shouldn’t think about using the crate as a form of punishment, but rather as a welcome sanctuary, a place where he can relax and unwind. Be sure to provide him with all the entertainment he needs and give your dog a well-deserved break during the day.
There are no absolute answers for each individual case, however, we can certainly agree that dogs love their stuffed animals…to pieces. Feel free to watch your dog and come up with the most reasonable answer for why they love to play with their stuffed animals so much, based on their basic reactions. Cuddling, carrying, or destroying… whatever the case may be, each dog has a unique personality and energy level, so watch out for yours!