Let's face it: behind a dog who shreds pee pads there is often a frustrated dog owner who is scratching his head wondering what to do about it. The behavior certainly ranks high among those annoying things puppies and dogs do, but why do dogs shred pee pads? Are they on a mission to drive their owners insane?
Turns out, dogs have their own personal reasons for shredding pee pads. Until the day dogs can talk, we can only make some assumptions. One strong assumption that prevails is that dogs do it just because it's fun.
Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun!
Puppies are notorious for finding toilet paper, ordinary tissue paper and pee pads attractive and have fun shredding them into pieces. Shredding seems to be irresistible, just as a child cannot resist kicking a ball or playing with random objects using their imagination.
B.F. Skinner, the father of operant conditioning once claimed that behavior which is reinforced tends to be repeated (i.e., strengthened), whereas; behavior which is not reinforced tends to die out-or be extinguished (i.e., weakened).
Because the mere texture of the pee pads is pleasant in the mouth, combined with the fact that the pee pads can be easily ripped apart (which mimics what dogs did in the wild to prey), certainly leads to an entertaining, highly reinforcing experience.
It's not surprising, therefore, that when it comes shredding pee pads to pieces, this behavior can quickly and potentially become habit-forming (as the behavior tends to strengthen and repeat).
While shredding pee pads to pieces can be entertaining to many puppies, puppy owners aren't delighted. Those pee pads are expensive, not to mention it's quite a chore picking up all those minute pieces. On top of that, shredded pee pads defeat their main purpose which is to collect and absorb the puppys' or dogs' waste.
An Issue of Unmet Needs
Puppies and dogs have a lot of needs and dog owners leading busy lifestyles may struggle to meet these needs. In order to thrive, dogs need daily walks (for young puppies who haven't finished their vaccinations or just finished them, dog owners should check with their vets for when it's safe to walk them), opportunities for socialization, play time (with their owners/other dogs), training and mental stimulation.
Fail to provide puppies and dogs with enough exercise and mental stimulation, and they will soon find their own ways to entertain themselves. "Idle paws are a devil's workshop" goes the doggy version of this old saying.
If the puppy or dog feels lonely or is frustrated due to unmet needs, he will find shredding the pee pads as a great outlet for his pent-up energy.
Some puppies or dogs who feel neglected by their owners, may even decide to start shredding their wee wee pads if they notice that this is the only way they can get their owner's attention. Even if they end up being scolded, these dogs may feel that negative attention is better than no attention at all!
On top of shredding paper when dogs feel lonely, frustrated or bored, dogs can also engage in this behavior if they are feeling stressed or anxious.
Lack of Legit Items to Chew
If your puppy or dog doesn't have access to enough toys or if the toys are particularly boring (always the same day after day), you can almost bet he'll discover that the pee pads offer by far more entertainment value.
It's almost a no-brainer for them, but let's put ourselves in their shoes for once. If you were a child left in a room with no appealing toys to entertain yourself all day, rest assured, you would have a strong urge to find some playful use of the objects you'll find around you. Perhaps you may grab a pencil and pretend it's an airplane or you may start playing hopscotch on the tiles.
Puppies and dogs are often left with nothing to do and all they need is to find a way to pass their time. If there are no interesting toys around that satisfy their senses, they will seek other venues such as chewing furniture or grabbing and shredding those pee pads to pieces.
Risks With Puppies and Dogs Ingesting Pee Pads
Some puppies and dogs aren't only happy with shredding the pads to pieces, but may also manage to chew them up and even swallow them.
"The main concern with pee pads is that they are designed to be absorbent, so they can absorb fluids from the gastrointestinal tract and grow in size, making them a risk for getting stuck in the intestines," explains veterinarian Dr. Paul.
Signs of trouble to watch for are loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble defecating, lethargy and abdominal pain.
If any of these signs are seen, they certainly warrant a veterinary visit for an exam and possible x-rays to rule out a blockage of the intestinal tract. Blockages can be problematic and costly affairs. You want to avoid this possibility as much as possible.
Now That You Know...
Puppies and dogs shred pee pads mainly because it's a fun, rewarding activity. In order to curb this behavior, you may have to tackle the issue on various fronts.
A good starting point is to make the activity of shredding the pee pads a more difficult task. This can be done by taping the pee pads down to the floor or by placing a heavy object on them so that the puppy cannot remove them. However, some puppies enjoy the "resistance" created and will tug on one side and pull the and shred the pee pads even more.
A better option may be investing in a special pee pad holder (shaped sort of like tray) to help keep the pad in place. The pad tray acts as holder, considering that it has latches purposely designed to lock the pad securely in place and ensuring it stays flat. There are mixed reviews on these trays tough with some owners reporting success and others still reporting the shredding.
Alternatively, dog and puppy owners dealing with this problem can try to invest in washable, reusable housebreaking pads. These are made of fabric and many like their ease of use since they help save money in the long run.
For very stubborn cases, the use of those "grass-like doggy litter boxes" may provide a suitable replacement. It may just take a bit of an adjustment period to transfer dogs to their use. As a plus though, these work great if dog owners ever decide to potty train their dog to go potty outside one day on grass.
For puppy and dog owners who are often at home and can supervise the puppy throughout the day, training the puppy the leave it and drop it command can be helpful and even potentially life saving that day the puppy or dog grabs something potentially harmful.
Last but not least, ensure your puppy has access to plenty of toys (rotate them every now and then to keep his interest alive and invest in interactive food-dispensing toys that provide a mental workout) and ensure that he is provided sufficient training, socialization and mental stimulation so that he has less opportunity to think about ripping those pee pads apart.
Often, tackling destructive behaviors, such as dogs ripping up pee pads, requires a multi-faceted approach, using the combination of several solutions. With the pee pad kept securely in place, access to novel, entertaining toys and with those needs for exercise, play and mental stimulations met, puppies and dogs should feel less compelled to tear those pee pads apart.