Does your dog have a favorite blanket it sucks on? Has your puppy recently started blanket-sucking?
The behavior may seem weird to you, but sucking and kneading are common in the canine world. For example, puppies are born with an instinctive trait to suck on their mother’s teat. That is how they survive and seek comfort.
Or your dog kneads its bed and would prefer a soft blanket or plushie around, so it can sleep in a comfortable position.
Another reason may include stress or anxiety. The soft texture of the blanket and the repetitive sucking motion may help your dog calm down.
The behavior, in general, is not destructive, but you should know the reason behind the dog’s blanket sucking. Because if the underlying cause is stress, it would be best to discuss the situation with the vet. In some cases, if the behavior is left unchecked, it can soon become destructive.
The article will explore the possible answers to the question, why does my dog suck on blankets? We will also consider if the behavior can get harmful and tips that may help the dog from blanket sucking.
- Why Does My Dog Suck on Blankets
- Is Sucking and Kneading on Blankets a Harmful Behavior?
- What Should I Do to Stop My Dog from Sucking on Blankets?
Why Does My Dog Suck on Blankets
Sucking is a habit that most dogs pick as puppies and it follows them well into their adulthoods. Here are six possible reasons why your dog sucks and kneads blankets.
1. It is a Behavior Learnt During Puppyhood
You do not have to train puppies to suck on their mother’s teats. It is a behavior that comes naturally to them. The mother will also lick and guide the dog to her teats, so all puppies are well-fed. Apart from nutrition, mothers’ will nurse their puppies to develop a bond with them and keep them comfortable.
The mother may continue to produce milk until the puppies are around ten weeks old. But, most puppies start weaning off from the mother’s milk when they are around 6 to 7 weeks old.
According to AKC, the mother may use her wisdom and start rebuffing the puppies’ attempts at sucking around the same time.
In some cases, the mother may start feeding the puppies but may not be able to continue for long. For example, canine mastitis is a bacterial infection that can make feeding painful for the dog.
In other cases, the puppy may have been separated from the mother too early. The puppy may miss its mother and start sucking on soft objects like blankets to mimic the act of sucking on its mother’s teats.
Sucking is one of the early habits puppies form with their mother. The primary reason can be nutrition, but the act provides them with warmth, security, and comfort. So, it may be a habit they turn to when they seek comfort.
2. The Dog is Seeking Comfort
Like we humans, dogs can also develop stress and anxiety. When faced with a triggering event, the dog may turn to an activity that brings it comfort. This could very well be sucking and kneading a blanket.
Dogs can get scared of loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms. If the dogs are not well-socialized, they can get startled at doorbells or the loud crinkling of plastic bags.
Some dogs may get anxious in the presence of a group of people or other animals in the house.
It is natural for your dog to get away from the trigger and indulge in behaviors that bring it comfort. Sucking on a blanket may be calming for the dog. The behavior might remind the dog of sucking on its mother’s teats and how it felt protected. The soft fabric and repetitive motion also help calm the dog.
Separation anxiety can be another reason for such behavior. Such dogs get anxious when they are left alone. They will develop habits to counter the anxiousness they feel. If you leave the dog alone for longer periods, the dog can get obsessed with the behavior.
So, the next time the dog sucks on a blanket, consider what it was doing before and what changed in the environment. This will help you identify the trigger event and take appropriate action.
3. It is Trying to Relieve Teething Pain
Teething is one of the uncomfortable and painful parts of growing up. You might have seen human babies fret, chew, and cry when they start teething. It is the same for puppies as well.
When puppies start teething, their gums will swell and are typically tender before the tooth breaks out. The puppies may show other signs like:
- Increased saliva production
- Loss of appetite
They do not understand what exactly is happening to them. But as the experience is painful, they will try to relieve the pain by sucking on soft objects like blankets.
If the puppy has suddenly taken to blanket sucking, the reason could be teething.
Around six months, most puppies will lose their deciduous teeth, and the permanent ones will have erupted and taken their place. So, the blanket-sucking behavior should also stop around this point.
If you do not want the puppy to suck all your blankets, you can make the teething experience less discomforting by giving it puppy-safe chew toys.
4. Instinctive Territorial and Safety Behavior
The need for dogs to mark their territory and feel safe is instinctive. For example, wild dogs did not have the comfort of sleeping in plush dog beds inside the protection of a home.
Wild dogs would dig the ground and use leaves and grass to make a comfortable sleeping area. They would also use the den to protect their offspring and resources like food.
Now, the wild dogs do not want other dogs coming into their territory, so they would knead the ground to mark their territory. Dog paws contain scent glands. So, when they knead a surface, they are transferring their scent. This could be accompanied by urine marking as well.
Today, there is no need for domesticated dogs to knead their beds and blankets, but it is a behavior that has survived through the ages.
If you have a multi-dog household, there are chances the dog kneads blankets to keep other dogs away. The behavior is not harmful, but if the dog shows other signs of resource guarding, it would be best to speak to the vet.
5. The Dog Likes the Blanket’s Taste
Does your dog specifically suck a single blanket? Especially when it is in use? This may sound gross, but your dog may like the taste of a dirty blanket.
If the blanket contains traces of your sweat, the dog will enjoy sucking on it. When you sweat, it is not water but also salts that are released from your pores. So your salty sweat may actually be a tasty treat for your dog.
Another reason could be that your dog misses you. For example, your dog recognizes you by the smell and taste of your sweat. So, if the dog has been left home alone or you have been out of the house for a few days, the dog may hang on to things that remind it of you.
In such cases, it may suck on your blanket, towel, or even the dirty laundry you left behind.
You may notice, though, that when you are around or when the blanket is washed, the dog may stop sucking on the fabric.
6. The Dog is Bored
Dog breeds have varying physical and mental stimulation and attention needs. Some dog breeds like Basset Hounds, Pugs, Chow Chows, and Bull Terriers do well if left alone when you are out for work.
On the other hand, highly energetic dog breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, and Siberian Huskies require a ton of attention and then some more. These dogs also need a good amount of exercise and dedicated playtime.
When such dogs are left alone for a longer period of time, or they do not get enough exercise or attention, they can get bored. They are bound with energy and have no outlets to spend it on.
So, dogs may develop some undesirable habits to keep themselves entertained. Sucking or kneading a blanket may be one such undesirable behavior. Other such behaviors may include:
- Excessive chewing
- Excessive licking
- Running in circles
If you want to avoid such behaviors, it is essential you research the breed beforehand and decide if you can commit to taking care of and tending to the pet’s needs.
Is Sucking and Kneading on Blankets a Harmful Behavior?
No, in general, sucking and kneading blankets is not a harmful behavior in canines. As long as the blanket sucking is occasional and the dog does not spend hours doing it, you need not be worried.
According to AKC, dogs that suck on blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys are not trying to be destructive but are using the behavior as a relaxation mechanism.
The act of sucking can release endorphins which can have a soothing and calming effect on the dog. So, letting the dogs indulge in the behavior occasionally is ok.
The behavior may become a cause for concern when the dog gets obsessed with it. For example, if you find that the dog remains focused on sucking the blanket, does not listen to your commands to stop, or continues to stick to the blanket ignoring its toys, the behavior has turned destructive.
If the dog gets stressed about the slightest changes in its environment and resorts to sucking, it is a problem. The blanket sucking in itself is not the problem, but the dog not being well-socialized is. So, unless you help the dog deal with its fears, it may jump from one destructive behavior to another.
What Should I Do to Stop My Dog from Sucking on Blankets?
If the answer to the question, why does my dog suck on blankets, is worrying, the below tips may help stop the behavior.
1. Do Not Separate Puppies Early On
This may not entirely be in your hands, but a tip for breeders or pet parents who give up the puppies for adoption.
As we have seen above, if the puppies are weaned from the mother’s milk too early, they will start suckling on other soft objects. So, the puppies should be left with their mother for as long as possible.
It would be best to let the mother wean the puppies off herself around the age of 7 to 10 weeks. Puppies may still resort to blanket sucking once in a while for comfort, but such behavior should be manageable.
2. Address Underlying Problem
If you notice the dog sucks on a blanket only on certain occasions, you need to address the trigger events.
For example, if the dog gets scared in the presence of other animals or loud noises, it may never be able to get out of the house.
You will have to start socializing the dog. This could involve desensitizing triggers, using distractions, obedience training, and positive reinforcements.
In such cases, you have to be patient. Your dog is trying to overcome its fear, which can be challenging. Thus, keep with consistent training and cheer your dog on.
3. Keep the Dog Physically and Mentally Stimulated
One of the best ways to keep the dog from developing destructive behaviors is to fulfill its physical and mental stimulation needs.
If the dog needs a 30-minute walk or two hours of exercise, ensure it gets its quota of exercise. Invest in toys and puzzles to keep the dog engaged productively. This way, the dog’s energy is directed toward healthy activities.
If you have to stay away from work, consider leaving the pet with a sitter or enrolling it in a doggy daycare.
4. Use Distractions
If you feel the dog’s blanket sucking may get out of hand, start interrupting the behavior.
For example, the next time you see the dog trying to suck on a blanket, call out its name and command it to ‘leave it.’ Then, redirect the pet’s attention to another toy, trick, or activity and when the dog obeys, reward it with a treat. You can also use this time to teach it new tricks.
Be careful to reward the dog only when it completes the task you use for distraction. If not, the dog may learn that sucking on a blanket is the way to get treats from you.
5. Spend Quality Time
Dogs enjoy the company of their human family. Your dog may not like it when you are away for a long time or if you do not spend time with it.
Some dogs can be ok for a long period when left alone but even they need some amount of attention.
Dogs that feel ignored may develop blanket sucking as a mechanism to relax or cope with their feelings of missing you. Your blankets may smell like you, which may be the dog’s only way of getting close to you.
Thus, it is important you spend quality time with your pet. Taking the dog for a walk alone does not count. Instead, play a game of fetch or tug of war with the pet.
Or you could snuggle on the sofa when watching a tv show. Or you could occasionally give the dog belly rubs and tell it what a good boy it has been.
6. See a Professional
If tips like distractions, training, or a healthy routine do not work, it would be time to see the vet or a behaviorist.
The vet may prescribe medications and recommend therapies if the dog gets severely stressed or anxious.
If the dog does not obey your commands or the behavior has already gotten out of hand, a professional behaviorist can help.
Some dogs require consistent training and undivided attention. It is understandable that all pet parents may not have so much time to devote. So booking a one-on-one session with a behaviorist may help the dog overcome its fears and encourage it to leave destructive habits behind.
Why does my dog suck on blankets? Sucking is a behavior that dogs pick up as newborns. They would suck on their mother’s teats, and the whole experience would make them feel comfortable, secure, and protected.
So, sometimes, the dog may suck on soft objects like a blanket or a plushie when it wants to be comforted.
Other reasons for such behavior may include instinctive territorial marking, teething, boredom, stress, and anxiety.
If the dog displays this behavior occasionally, there is no need to be worried. Blanket sucking is a relaxation mechanism, and it is ok to let the dogs indulge in it once in a while.
If you feel the behavior may turn destructive, you can use distractions and train the dog with other productive activities. If all else fails, please see a vet.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.