Why Dogs Eat Paper

Common
Normal

Introduction

Coming home each day to the aftermath of a paper tornado can be extremely frustrating. Dogs go after tissues, toilet paper, important documents, and it can happen so often that it occurs every time you leave the house. It's understandable that you don't want to confine your dog to a small space to isolate them from the paper in the house. This can be unhealthy for your dog, even criminally neglectful under some circumstances. Yet you need to do something about the behavior. What causes them to behave like this? What options do you have and how can you correct something like this?

The Root of the Behavior

These behaviors can come from a lot of different places. Often it is a compulsive behavior. Canines often have compulsive behaviors in response to stress or anxiety, excess energy, or attention seeking behavior. Finding the root cause of the behavior is important in adjusting the behavior in the future. Pay particular attention to when they tear up the paper. Is it only when you leave the home? If so, separation anxiety may be a likely cause. Separation anxiety is very common in canines. Separation anxiety typically has two contributing factors. Some combination of stress and boredom are usually where this is coming from. Your dog may be tearing up paper simply because they have nothing better to do. Other times compulsive chewing is an effective way for them to reduce stress and anxiety.

Excess energy does not typically apply to separation anxiety but it does often contribute to paper chewing and other ways they attempt to relieve boredom. The obvious key here is to increase the amount of exercise they are receiving. This is extremely helpful toward your goals here but it is not the only measure you can take. Make sure your dog has some toys they can play with while you are not around. Supplying them an area of the house with those toys, their favorite blanket, and a place for them to lay their head down will help to reduce both their anxiety and boredom. Many dog owners simply use their kennel for this area, and often dogs respond well to it. Yet there are some dogs that chew paper, not out of boredom or anxiety, but simply as a bad habit. Compulsive chewing is common in canines and can often be observed in puppies that are teething. Puppies that chew to reduce the pain of teething will often grow compulsive chewing habits that you need to break at a later date.

Encouraging the Behavior

Breaking a canine of compulsive chewing can be difficult. Originally a good move would be a chew toy. In this case, they are at least replacing the paper they have been chewing with a toy. This might not be the best final step as they are still chewing compulsively and if so, they are having that behavior reinforced. That being said, initially moving the chewing over to a chew toy can provide some short-term relief. In the long term, after they have transitioned to using a chew toy, slowly reduce their exposure to the toy. Take it away from them when you are home and can monitor their behavior and make sure they are not chewing on paper instead. 

Leave them with the chew toy while you are gone so in case they need to chew on something for one reason or another, then they will have the toy during that time. The goal here is to reduce their compulsive chewing and eventually put the toy away for good. This slower process combined with toys they can play with and other measures to reduce anxiety should work in most cases. Unfortunately, while they are puppies, supplying them with something to chew on is sometimes necessary for the teething process. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

If those steps do not correct the behavior, then contacting a professional trainer or behavioral specialist might be your next best step. They can use a variety of training methods to correct nearly all types of behaviors and the response can come rather quickly. They will also let you know what adjustments you and your family should make around the house to encourage the best behavior from your four legged friend going forward.

Chewing on something from time to time can be good for your dogs health, so removing the compulsive chewing should not be done entirely. Supplying them with a bone from time to time helps keep their teeth clean and healthy.

Conclusion

Compulsive chewing can be frustrating and especially so when they are destroying important documents or strewing used tissues around the house. Fortunately you can correct this behavior with just a bit of time and patience. Whether or not you use a trainer or some of the potential steps in this guide, correcting these behaviors should be fairly simple and do not typically mean there are any underlying medical concerns.