Have you ever seen a puppy or dog with a pacifier? Yes, you read that correctly ... a pacifier. It seems there is a 'trend' with some to giving their pups a pacifier. Whether it is a human baby pacifier with smaller breeds, or actual doggie pacifiers, the fact is it's happening. This may leave you wondering, why in the world would dogs like pacifiers? Is it safe for my Fido to walk around with his own binky? Opinions on this matter are varied, and at times the discussions can get quite heated. So let's take a look at the dog pacifier fad that is a bit controversial.
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The Root of the Behavior
First, you may be wondering what would be the appeal of a pacifier for your dog. Some believe that their first attraction is the fact that the pacifier smells a bit sweet, like milk. The sensitivity for something sweet is quite natural for dogs. This want of something sweet is rooted in the domesticated canine's more primal instincts. In the wild, sweet often equates to something having a higher carb content. Which in turn, means energy. Aside from the smell attraction, there are those who think the fondness of pacifiers is a behavior issue. Think of it like a human infant who sucks their thumb or clutches a blankie. Both are a source of seeking comfort, and the same may hold true for dogs sucking and chewing on a pacifier. But dogs, unlike human children, don't really outgrow this behavior as they get older.
There are others who feel that it is both a behavioral and instinctual attraction. Puppies, as you probably already know, are very oral explorers. Not only with their environment, but also that they continue to attempt to suckle on their mothers after being weaned. This continued attempt at suckling may being looking for comfort for whatever reason. There is a multitude of outlying issues that could be behind a dog's discomfort. And 'comfort suckling' is just one of many outlets by which your pup may seek relief. In some dogs that may have been weaned too early, they could exhibit what is referred to as displaced nursing behavior, manifesting as blanket or pacifier sucking. This could possibly be the case in an orphaned puppy who was raised strictly on a bottle. Despite your best efforts, bottle-feeding simply is not the same as the pup being able to nurse on its own mother, as well-intentioned as it may be.
Encouraging the Behavior
Whether you agree or disagree with pacifiers for dogs, most experts very strongly discourage the practice. If you have an infant or toddler in the house who still takes a pacifier, you should be especially vigilant in making sure they are out of reach of your dog. These smaller human pacifiers pose a greater risk to canines than those marketed specifically for dogs. The latex material that human pacifiers are made from is not digestible and will pose serious health risks to your dog. As a better alternative, softer chew toys are suggested in place of a pacifier. If it seems as if the behavior is due to your dog needing a security blanket, so to speak, finding different cuddle items is important. Equally as important, you should work to find out the issue behind this need. Knowing that will aid in figuring out the best solution for your pooch. One sound bit of advice from the experts is to have a variety of acceptable chew toys available for your dog. Offering them in varying degrees of hardness and made from different materials will allow your pup to find a favorite more easily. This will assist in them being weaned off the unsafe pacifier habit.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Small, human pacifiers are a serious choking hazard for dogs of any size. Since these are not intended for canine teeth they are destroyed by your pup more easily, and the pieces end up inside their bodies. Chewed-up pacifiers can cause issues that range from choking to internal blockages, such as in the bowels. If your dog has possibly ingested a pacifier, or pieces of it, you will want to contact your vet as soon as possible. Larger pieces lodged in their throats can sometimes be removed safely at home, but a call to the vet is the best first step in either case.
While the whole issue concerning allowing your dog to have a pacifier is definitely something to 'pawnder,' safety is always the best course of action. If you have any doubts, consult the experts. Check with your vet or pet trainer. He or she can give you the facts and their expert opinions, or point you in the right direction on where to get answers.