Dogs tear up their beds for the simple fact that they are fun to tear up. Just like children enjoy pillow fighting, dogs enjoy tearing up beds. If your dog is prone to destroying his bed, you may want to skip purchasing that expensive designer bed for now, as it would be shred into pieces with no mercy. Understanding this behavior requires taking a step back into the dog's evolutionary history and addressing the root of the behavior.
An Ancestral Instinct
Ever wondered why dogs are prone to destroying stuffed toys, pillows, comforters, couches and beds? Most likely, it's simply because they are fun things to destroy. When dogs destroy these things, it feels highly rewarding to them especially if these items are stuffed. But what ultimately makes these activities so rewarding?
This behavior to a great extent stems back to a dog's past as hunters. Despite being fed in shiny bowls, dogs retain instincts that are reminiscent of their past.
When dogs are shaking stuffed toys, breaking pillows apart and shredding their beds into pieces, they are carrying out instinctive behaviors related to hunting down prey animals.
Ripping these objects apart and "degutting them" depriving them of all their "entrails" (yup, all that stuffing that is so fun for dog owners to pick up!) provides dogs with an exhilarating sensation that must feel similar to a deer hunter who has hunted down a prized buck.
For some dogs, ripping up a bed feels far more rewarding than playing with the average dog toy. Given the choice, these dogs would pick a dog bed anytime over their toys.
This can feel frustrating to dog owners who provide their dogs with ample of dog toys in hopes of helping their dogs make good choices.
A Matter of Wear and Tear
Some dogs don't destroy their beds with the intent of ripping them into pieces, but with time, their beds just get torn from wear and tear. Of course, this is a somewhat different situation, but the gradual destruction, once again, may also stem from those doggy instincts.
Dogs may tear up their beds from repeatedly walking in circles before lying down day after day, or they may scratch or dig at their beds before taking a nap. Again, these are behaviors reminiscent of a dog's evolutionary past.
Before living in comfy homes and being provided with comfy beds, dogs were often sleeping on grass. It was a normal instinctive ritual to walk in circles before lying down for the purpose of scaring off any hidden critters and to flatten the grass.
When it was hot, it wasn't unusual for dogs to dig themselves a cool little place through the dirt. While grass and dirt can sustain this type of damage with nobody getting majority upset, seeing a dog bed get ruined from digging, day after day, can end up being costly and disappointing to the dog owner in the long run.
The Effect of Teething
And then you have teething puppies who instinctively seek things to put their teeth on. On top of having fun, it feels good for puppies to put their teeth through the fabric, providing them a double whammy of pleasure!
A Matter of Boredom
Some dogs when bored and under stimulated may end up chewing as a pastime. Dogs chew sticks, clothing and anything they can get their teeth on, including their beds.
It may start with chewing a small area. Some dogs are particularly attracted to the stitched up areas of beds or zippers.
Day after day, the area gets weaker and then a hole may arise. Dogs are attracted to holes in their beds and will focus on them which may trigger the instinct to "degut" their beds.
A Matter of Stress
Other than boredom, stress can also do a number on dog beds. Many dog owners assume that their dogs must be acting out of spite when they chew up their beds or destroy items when their owners leave them alone at home.
More than spite or a deliberate way to manifest their displeasure, this is sometimes a stress reaction.
Dogs may manifest their stress in different ways. Some dogs may keep their emotions bottled inside, while some others may express their stress outwardly by misbehaving and destroying stuff.
Dog beds are often the victims of doggy emotions in a similar fashion as punch bags. Anxiety, stress and frustration in particular are known to trigger dogs to chew up things and become destructive.
The Build-up of Frustration
Dogs may get frustrated for a variety of causes. Maybe your dog saw you grab the leash, but wasn't taken on a walk, or maybe he has too much energy and no way to disperse it. That built-up energy and frustration must go somewhere!
Chewing things can bring frustrated or stressed dogs relief. According to dog trainer Victoria Stillwell's website, "chewing is a potent stress reliever and releases pleasurable endorphins into the body."
If your dog's bed is nearby or your dog is lying over it, it may therefore be very tempting for your dog tear up his bed
Distress from Separation
More and more dog boarding facilities are recognizing the effect stress plays on dogs when they are away from their owners and in a new place.
If upon dropping your dog to a kennel, you have provided your dog with ample of toys and stuffed beds, don't feel bad if the kennel owner hasn't provided them to your dog during his stay.
While your dog may not normally chew these items up at home, in a stressful environment he may behave in uncharacteristic ways.
By keeping toys and beds that can be easily torn apart away from your dog, the kennel owner is trying to protect those items from being destroyed and your dog from potentially ingesting parts of toys or bedding which could potentially cause issues such as choking or intestinal blockages.
Tearing Beds for Attention
On top of chewing out of stress, some dogs chew just for the attention. Attention-seeking dogs aim to perform behaviors that get you looking at them and talking at them, even if you are upset by their behaviors.
Negative attention is better than no attention for these dogs. If the bed chewing happens when you come home from work and sit down to relax, it could be your dog is simply trying to find a way for you to interact with him and give him attention.
Now That You Know...
As seen, dogs may destroy beds for the simple fun of it, but there can also be several other reasons. It often takes a multifaceted approach to tackle the issue.
So now that we know what can drive dogs to destroy their beds, the next question is: what can be done about it? How can you stop a dog from destroying his bed? Here are some tips.
How to Stop Your Dog From Destroying His Bed
To stop your dog from destroying his bed will often require a multi-faceted approach tackling the issue from different angles.
- Play it Safe. Destroying beds and consuming their stuffing can cause dogs to get sick and even develop an intestinal obstruction which can require surgery. Consider that even beds claimed to be chew-proof may be taken apart by determined dogs.
- See Your Vet. Any time an odd or new behavior pops up, it's a good idea to see the vet to exclude medical problems. For instance, excessive licking may be seen in dogs with GI issues or pain and repeated licking of the bed may lead to chewing and then eventually destroying the bed.
- Invest in a raised dog bed or an indestructible dog bed. There are several makes and models of indestructible dog beds available nowadays. Need some examples? Kuranda makes an all-Aluminum chew-proof bed and K9 Ballistics has a variety of chew-resistant and scratch-resistant dog beds and crate pads. Some are made of material that resembles bulletproof vests and come with a warranty.
- Try Primo Pads. Some dog owners have had success using Primo Pads, special pads made of a special material that is scratch-resistant and not much appealing for dogs to chew and destroy.
- Skip the Bed. Many dog owners of pups who chew beds and mats have more success using towels or non-stuffed blankets as soft surfaces. Dogs who like to build a "nest" before going to sleep may enjoy blankets as they can "shape" them as they want.
- Go with Fleece. Buying fleece by the yard at stores that sell fabric may be another alternate option to dog beds. Dogs may not enjoy much chewing on fleece.
- Stick to the Tray. When left in a crate home alone, dogs who chew mats/beds are better off left without anything other than the tray.
- Wait it Out. Consider that many young dogs who chew up their beds outgrow the behavior as they mature. It might be just a chewing phase worthy of waiting out. After a while, once the bed is presented again, these dogs might no longer be interested in destroying it.
- Work on Training. Train your dog to go to his bed and distract him from chewing it by offering him a stuffed Kong or something else to chew on or stay busy while he is on it (Lickimats are popular nowadays). Once he is done licking/chewing, call your dog and remove the bed. Make it a routine every day to offer the bed, provide the Kong or chew toy and then remove the bed once done. You can do this during mealtimes (keeping the mat nearby so you can keep an eye on your dog) so that your dog learns to lie on his mat when you eat. The goal is to prevent your dog from rehearsing the chewing-the bed- behavior and offering an alternate behavior to focus on.
- Keep Your Eyes Open. Always supervise your dog when given a bed. This is to prevent him from ingesting parts, but also to quickly redirect your dog to chewing a more appropriate item such as a safe chew toy that you always keep handy.
- Provide Outlets. Providing small boxes with a treat hidden inside may provide dogs with an legitimate outlet for their destructive behavior. Make sure to put the behavior on cue. So for instance, if you place the box on the floor say something along the lines of "have fun!" or "shred it!" as you point at the box. With enough repetitions this should cause your dog to wait for your command rather than go on to chewing any random box found around the home. Of course, this option is not good for dogs who swallow parts and should therefore be avoided.
- Supply a vast assortment of toys. Rotate the toys to keep your dog's interest alive. Interactive toys are particularly appealing to most dogs. Puppies who are teething may get relief by chewing on a clean wash rag that is wet, twisted and then placed in the freezer. Always supervise to ensure your puppy doesn't ingest any parts.
- Up the Enrichment. Consider providing your dog with more exercise, training and mental stimulation. In particular, provide activities that satisfy his instincts such as finding hidden kibble, digging in a spot where his toys are buried, putting his nose to work, getting kibble out of a bottle etc.
- Watch for Tiredness. Consider that some dogs may misbehave when they receive too much stimulation and get cranky. Provide them with a quiet sleeping area and a chew toy to chill down and relax.
- Tackle the Anxiety. For dogs anxious when left alone, consider using calming aids such as DAP diffusers, calming music, calming supplements etc. See a professional for severe cases of anxiety.
- Provide Attention. If your dog is chewing the bed for attention upon coming home from work, dedicate some time for your dog before he has a chance for misbehaving. Walk your dog, play with your dog and provide mental stimulation. Also, make it a habit of giving your dog ample of praise (attention!) when he chooses to chew a bone or other legitimate chewing item.
As seen, there are several options to stop your dog from destroying the bed. You may find that what works best is investing time in training not to destroy the bed when you are around and able to actively monitor, while removing access to the bed when you cannot supervise.
Preventing rehearsal of the problem behavior (destroying the bed) is important as dogs tend to repeat behaviors that they find reinforcing, and destroying beds is highly reinforcing. At the same time you want to provide other alternate, yet highly reinforcing behaviors to encourage (chewing toys, providing interactive games etc) so that these will compete against the bed destroying habit and ideally surpass it.
When dogs choose these alternate activities over the bed destruction habit, these new habits become ingrained so that the bed starts losing its saliency. Relapses are not uncommon, but if we offer dogs clear rules and consistency, reminding them and redirecting them at a moment's notice, they'll soon catch on and get the idea.