Does your dog look adorable sucking on his favorite blanket? Pet parents that find their dog cuddled up, holding their blanket and sucking on it usually think it’s cute at first, then a bit confused. If you are concerned about your dog sucking on his blanket, even though he’s not a puppy anymore, you are not alone. Generally, owners assume this behavior will stop as their dog becomes an adult. When the behavior continues beyond puppyhood and into adulthood, pet parents run to the veterinarian office for help. Before you rack up an expensive veterinarian bill, continue reading to learn more about this behavior.
The Root of the Behavior
This behavior is normal, natural, and doesn’t harm your dog. This common behavior originates from your dog’s time with their mother during the first several weeks of their life. Puppies nurse on their mother’s milk for nutrition but they also find comfort and safety in the process as well. Most canine mothers allow their pups to nurse until the natural occurrence that her well has gone dry kicks in and she begins refusing them from accessing her milk. During this weaning process, the mother occasionally allows her pups to attempt to nurse. Pups that feel scared with something unusual going on in their environment, such as hearing a vacuum cleaner for the first time, usually attempt to nurse because it makes them feel safe, even though there is no milk.
Canine mothers who don’t allow their pups to seek comfort during times of fear or anxiety often replace their mother with another object. Usually, this object is soft and similar to the feeling of their mother’s fur and skin. Some puppies try to nurse on their siblings as a replacement as well. However, when a pup is separated from their siblings and placed in their forever home with their new families, they often reach for the first soft thing they can find to comfort them.
Pet parents usually provide their new puppy with a dog bed, blanket, and toys to help him feel at home and comfortable. A puppy often emotionally attaches to a blanket because of its softness and flexibility. One of the cutest things you will ever see as a pet parent is your cute little pup sucking on his blanket. These adorable pups often grow up and continue this behavior. This is the point when pet parents get concerned about their adult dog’s needs not being met properly and often blame themselves for not being good pet parents.
Encouraging the Behavior
It’s natural for a pet parent to feel like it’s their fault their dog is still behaving like a puppy wanting his mother’s milk. If this is the case for you, chances are you want to help your dog stop this behavior. As a pet parent to a dog that sucks on his blanket, you don’t want to encourage the behavior but you don’t need to stop it either.
Sucking on blankets is due to a lack of emotional support your dog’s mother refused to give him. It’s similar to humans who experience something in their childhood and continue to comfort themselves with their favorite pillow, blanket, food or another object to fulfill that need. There’s nothing wrong with the human for doing these actions, but it’s most likely a habit that is needed to help them cope with their past. It’s the same for dogs. They are just trying to comfort themselves to help them feel better.
Unfortunately, a mother denying their pup the opportunity to feel safe might spark a lifelong need to suck on blankets. As a pet parent, you can accept this behavior since it doesn’t hurt or harm your dog in any way. The only thing it does is comfort him and make him feel safe. There is no need to encourage this behavior but you should wash the blanket on a regular basis to avoid bacteria build up.
Other Solutions and Considerations
As a pet parent, you might feel helpless just washing the blanket and allowing your dog to continue the behavior, but you shouldn’t view this as a negative issue. You can take a few extra steps to help support your dog's emotional needs. You will never be able to replace your dog’s mother or go back in time to fix the situation, but you can provide comfort and safety for your dog in a variety of ways. Providing a safe, happy, and healthy environment for your dog is essential to his well-being. Learning the triggers that cause him to suck on his blanket such as loud thunderstorms and helping him cope with those issues with training can help lessen his need to suck on his blanket.
This natural and normal behavior is nothing to be concerned about. The only time it should be taken seriously is if your dog is sucking on his own skin or another dogs skin, causing it to bleed or become infected. If the behavior is excessive and causing harm to your dog, you need to consult with a veterinarian for further assistance. If the behavior is harmless, just enjoy your adorable pup and his quirky behavior.
By a Cocker Spaniel lover Shellie Sutera
Published: 03/23/2018, edited: 01/30/2020