A Matter of Instincts
When dogs play, they often borrow many hunting and scavenging behaviors reminiscent of their ancestral past. Balls, Frisbee and squeaky toys all stimulate a dog's predatory drive to chase, and possibly kill, prey animals.
Many dogs are attracted to toilet paper rolls because dogs who love to play tug can tug at them with their mouths (when they're secured to the toilet paper holder). Once released from the holder, dogs can then chase the roll around, shred it into pieces and some dogs may even manage to eat the paper.
For dogs, this whole sequence feels very rewarding and nothing beats the satisfied look on the face of dogs who have managed to unravel this ever-growing roll which expands to ribbons of paper everywhere.
Involving All Senses
A toilet paper roll satisfies a dog's instincts and playing with it involves a lot of their senses. Dogs love the feel of the paper in their mouths, they love to watch the roll flip and flutter around in unpredictable ways and they love the sound of the roll when moved around with their paws.
Paper products are also appealing considering that they derive from trees. We all know that dogs love to chew stick or the barks of trees, so they must find the scent of paper somewhat appealing as well
And yes, (I know, yuck!) if the toilet paper was used and placed in a waste basket, the dog will love the associated smells as they remind them of you.
The Role of Attention
Toilet paper rolls may stimulate a dog's instinctive, inner reward zone, but if you laugh or smile or give any form of attention to your dog while he is engaged in playing with the toilet paper roll, you will likely further add external reinforcement. It's as if you are participating with your dog and praising him for doing what he's doing.
Behaviors that are reinforced, tend put roots and establish, so your dog will likely want to grab that toilet paper roll again and again given the opportunity.
Even if you aren't happy about your dog's toilet paper roll chasing, and you make an unhappy remark or groan, that may still qualify as attention to an attention-seeking dog.
Dogs who are particularly eager to receive attention (even of the negative type!) are often dogs who are bored, left alone for a good part of the day and under stimulated.
Now That You Know...
As seen, toilet paper rolls are sure fun to unravel and dogs may prefer them even more than the average dog toy. However, dog owners may often find the behavior of stealing toilet paper annoying so what can be done to stop dogs from playing or eating toilet paper? Here are a few tips.
- Provide your dog with mental stimulation. Dogs are more prone to get into mischief when they are bored and under stimulated. Exercise your dog, let him sniff on walks, train your dog, play brain games, offer interactive toys.
- Try to put the roll on in a way that dispenses under, rather than over. This may work for a while or for mild cases. Some dogs may still try to grab the roll and will enjoy the extra challenge.
- Use a toilet paper holder that you can place on the counter next to the toilet rather than the classic type.
- Shop for some dog proof toilet paper holders.
- For small dogs, a raised toilet paper holder may solve the problem.
- The easiest fix? Simply remember to always shut the bathroom door or install a baby gate.
- Keep an eye on your dog if your dog eats toilet paper. Your dog may start vomiting or having diarrhea. While toilet paper is designed to break up when moist, ingesting excessive amounts especially in a smaller dog may cause a clogged intestinal tract and dog intestinal blockage.
- While most dogs who eat toilet paper are just playing, dogs who eat toilet paper in large amounts and seem addicted to it may be manifesting a health or nutritional problem. Please have your dog see the vet.