Why Do Dogs Chew Up Squeaky Toys?

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.

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Published July 18, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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5 responses to “Why Do Dogs Chew Up Squeaky Toys?”

  1. Valerie says:

    What are your thoughts on the ‘compatibility’ of Natural Dog Training with Schutzhund training? As the owner of GSDs possessed of ‘strong appetite’ 😉 I am considering the sport, especially since I have the good fortune to live near a first-rate, positive motivational trainer. Some of the training techniques do seem extreme, but the dogs seem so fulfilled and happy (especially the ‘house dogs’ which mine indisputably are!).

  2. kbehan says:

    Nothing can be more natural for a dog than doing the work they were bred to do. So if your dog has a temperament that is suitable for the sport, and you have access to a good program in your area, you and your dog will form a bond that would be hard to equal any other way. Good luck and happy training.

  3. Amanda Miller says:

    Ahhh-making prey. When I adopted Henry, he was the most destructive dog I’d ever seen. I couldn’t let him out of my sight for a second. The cell phone, the rug, leather boots, remote control, flip flops, mouth guard, glasses…you name it. He chewed it.
    Then I started working with Lee. Fetch (biting) and tug (bite and kill) became a part of our everyday routine. The destructive behavior stopped. We never had to address the destructive behavior specifically because satisfying his need to make prey fixed the problem.

  4. […] unlike children, dogs enjoy chewing on and ripping apart their toys. It’s a natural canine behavior that shouldn’t be discouraged. Unlike some, my dog takes a while to tear into her plushies, […]

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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