They are seeking release but are only getting relief.
Every so often when I’m walking around my property and step into high grass or some leaves, I hear a little squeak underfoot. For a second I wonder if I’m crushing some small critter, but it always turns out to be nothing more than a plastic air bladder from a squeaky toy, torn apart by a dog after a play session.
I’ve lived with a number of cats and have taken care of thousands in a commercial boarding kennel, not to mention knowing hundreds of cat owners, and yet I don’t believe I’ve ever seen or heard of a cat having chewed up one of their toys. Cats stalk their toys, pounce and bat them around with great enthusiasm, but even when two cats are playing tag-team/take-down on a stuffed, furry animal surrogate, the toy always seems to live to fight another day. But this isn’t so with dogs. Beyond toys, I’ve known dogs that have eaten plywood dog houses, roof and all; steel belted radial tires, steel wire and all; galvanized metal buckets and things you might only expect to find in the belly of a Great White Shark. There are dogs without teeth because they’ve pierced, chewed and masticated stuff that enameled ivory isn’t meant to gnosh on. So why do dogs eviscerate toys and set their squeakers free?
The basic feature of the canine temperament, the rock bottom kernel of canine consciousness from which everything about the dog’s nature arises, is that dogs are endowed with an emotional appetite that far outstrips their physical capacity to consummate it. This has many behavioral implications, the most important one being that they are attracted to each other with a force that can’t be consummated by simple social contact and companionship. This also means that dogs end up being attracted to large, dangerous animals or some other type of challenge (these various challenges come through all manner of endeavor, otherwise known of as breed traits) that when overcome does indeed consummate the chronic state of internal pressure that the canine emotional appetite induces. But one of the lesser manifestations of the canine emotional makeup is that dogs can’t just play with a toy, they must make prey on a toy with an intensity commensurate with their constitutional state of frustration and this leads them to shake, rip and tear it into oblivion. Unlike a cat that hunts by instinct, dogs hunt by appetite (emotional hunger) and setting that squeaker free is as close as the dog can get to feeling free when all it has is a fluffy toy to make prey on.