Fed up with spending money on expensive dog toys, only to see them destroyed in minutes? Read on to discover why your dog destroys their toys, and what you can do to prevent it!
Table of contents
- Why does my dog destroy every toy?
- At what age do dogs stop destroying toys?
- How do I stop my dog ripping up their toys?
Why does my dog destroy every toy?
Chewing is a natural and important behaviour for dogs. Puppies, and even adult dogs, explore their environment with their mouths. Chewing provides mental stimulation through play, exercises the jaw muscles, and can help to keep teeth clean. Toys can also provide a great bonding tool for you and your pet.
Some dogs will play ‘nicely’ with toys, while others prefer to destroy them! Let’s look at some reasons that dogs might chew and destroy their toys:
Satisfying an innate behaviour to chew
Dogs naturally enjoy chewing on things, which may be nature’s way of helping to ensure their teeth and gums stay healthy.
Most dogs love to play! Ripping a toy to pieces, or finding a way to pull out the stuffing, can provide mental stimulation.
Puppies often chew on (and destroy!) things when they are teething, as it soothes their gums.
Boredom or separation anxiety
Dogs who are bored or who struggle with being left alone may turn to destructive chewing as an outlet for their emotions.
A strong prey drive
Some breeds in particular have a very strong innate prey drive, so catching and destroying their prey is an inbuilt behaviour. This tends to be true for dogs who like to chase wildlife.
Some dogs may have learnt that destroying things gains them attention. Remember, even negative attention is a form of attention, so from their perspective, it’s better than none at all!
You may well be asking…
At what age do dogs stop destroying toys?
The answer is that it varies! Some dogs will grow out of the behaviour after adolescence, around 12-18 months of age. However, some dogs simply never grow out of it!
So, now we understand some of the reasons that dogs might destroy their toys, let’s look at what we can do about it.
How do I stop my dog ripping up their toys?
First things first, you need to understand why your dog is destroying their toys. There is no ‘one fix’ for all situations, so unless you understand the behaviour behind the destruction, you may actually make things worse.
If your dog is teething, playing or displaying natural chewing behaviour
Investing in some good quality toys which are ‘indestructible’ may satisfy the urge. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no toy is truly indestructible, so you will need to remove the toy as soon as there are any signs of it breaking, splintering or any sharp edges.
If you’ve tried all the good quality brands and your dog still manages to destroy them, you have a few options:
- Try food based toys or puzzle games, since dogs tend to then focus on getting the high value treat, rather than simply destroying the toy. It can focus the mind!
- Offer safe, edible chew toys, so it doesn’t matter if they destroy them.
- Only use toys for set, supervised periods of play a couple of times a day, removing the toys in between times.
Remember to always make sure that any chews or toys are the right size and hardness for your dog’s age and size.
If your dog has a strong prey drive
Sadly, they are likely to destroy most toys – they are enjoying it! It’s OK to still offer your dog a soft toy to destroy, as long as you closely supervise them at all times and are sure that you can prevent them from swallowing any of it. You should remove the toy as soon as it has been destroyed and either re-stuff it and stitch it up for the next play time, or dispose of it carefully. If you think your dog has a tendency to swallow as they chew, then you should only offer them safe, edible chews.
Or if your dog is bored or suffering from separation anxiety
Then your approach needs to be a bit different, or you run the risk of them starting to destroy your belongings too! Here are some top tips:
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise
- Make sure the exercise includes some mental stimulation too: allowing your dog to explore new walks, sniff new areas, or playing games with them can all help
- Puzzle feeders or toys can help with boredom when you aren’t paying them attention.
- Seek advice about separation anxiety from a qualified behaviourist. Separation anxiety is a complex condition, which takes time and patience to fix.
Remember, you should never punish a dog for inappropriate chewing. This will not only encourage attention seeking chewing, but may also cause anxiety, which is guaranteed to make the behaviour worse. Simply remove the object in silence.
Understanding your dog’s behaviour and their needs is always the best way to tackle any unwanted behaviour. This allows you to redirect their behaviour to a more appropriate place, so their needs are still being met, but in a way that is acceptable to you. If you aren’t sure why your dog is behaving a certain way, seek advice from your vet, who can refer you to a suitable behaviourist if needed.