Dogs like to do things we owners simply cannot comprehend. One such behavior that can result in confusion and questioning is when our dogs nibble on blankets around the home. But why do they do this; what can it mean, and is there any way in which we can stop them? Let’s take a look.
So, why does my dog nibble on blankets? There are several reasons a dog might nibble on a blanket. A young dog, or puppy, could simply be exploring the world around them with their mouth or be teething. Other times a dog may be nervous or bored. A dog may also do so as a result of separation anxiety or tension directly related to being away from its owner.
First things first, this is somewhat normal behavior in dogs.
Many owners often find themselves questioning it at some point.
Besides, dogs just love to explore the world with their mouths!
But let us delve deeper into the specific action of nibbling to fully understand why they may do it and if and when we should respond.
We’ll start with the act of nibbling in general, before moving onto blankets specifically.
So stick around.
It could save a lot of destruction to your home.
And not just now, but in the future!
What Does It Mean When A Dog Nibbles?
A dog that is nibbling could be trying to express a number of things. They may be showing affection, relieving stress, indicating they want to play, or sometimes experiencing tooth and gum discomfort.
We have to remember that our dogs can’t speak to us with words, so their actions are often the only way they can express their needs.
This expression is often done with their mouth!
One way that dogs show affection is through mutual grooming, where they use their physical abilities to help clean, scratch, or care for another animal.
This is expressed by lightly nibbling on each other and sometimes on humans or human belongings.
Nibbling that is related to affection is generally done with a dog’s front teeth and is a gentle motion. Nibbling that is aggressive or harsh is not usually associated with affection.
Relieving Stress or Anxiety
A dog may also nibble as a way to relieve stress and anxiety.
Nibbling is a repetitive action that is easy for a dog to perform. When a dog has tension and anxiety, it feels a need to release this tension with the satisfying motion of nibbling.
Act of Play
Your dog may also nibble as a way of expressing that it feels playful.
This is especially common in puppies.
A word of experienced warning, nibbling to initiate play may be cute in a brand new puppy, but it quickly grows tiresome and sometimes dangerous in older dogs.
Play nibbling is best directed to chew toys or bones instead of people’s hands or clothing.
Another potential meaning for nibbling is tooth or gum discomfort.
A dog that does not have a history of nibbling and has no new stressors may be nibbling as a way to ease irritation in its mouth from teething or injury.
We have all seen human babies chew and drool as their first teeth arrive, and your dog may copy that behavior as its adult teeth arrive.
But now onto blankets specifically!
Why Do Dogs Nibble On Blankets?
Dogs like to nibble on blankets for several reasons. Blankets are often easily accessible to dogs; blankets are soft and rewarding to chew, blankets frequently smell like someone the dog knows well, and chewing on a blanket can bring comfort and relief if there are no other chewing options available.
People often find cuddling into familiar blankets to be comforting.
Naturally, they want their dogs to experience this same level of comfort and relaxation.
With many dog kennels having hard floors and specially made dog beds sometimes being pricey, a blanket is often given to a dog for comfort.
If a dog has a blanket in its kennel or has access to blankets on its owner’s bed, the blanket becomes an easy target for nibbling.
A dog may also take true ownership of a special blanket, and by nibbling on their blanket is expressing that the blanket is their property.
Blankets are very rewarding for dogs to nibble with their soft material that easily tears and rips.
Some dogs may love the way their teeth sink through a blanket’s material or find satisfaction in the sound a blanket makes as it shreds apart.
We mentioned that nibbling is often the result of stress, boredom, and separation anxiety.
When your dog is seeking to nibble on something as a result of these feelings, it may seek out something that smells like its owner.
The smell helps them to feel close to their owner, and the nibbling relieves the pent-up stress the dog is feeling.
If a dog feels the need to nibble and does not have toys or other proper nibbling options, they are more likely to settle for the nearest blanket.
With blankets being available and so rewarding to nibble, even a well-trained dog without another option may grab your favorite cuddly material and nibble away.
How To Stop Your Dog From Nibbling On Blankets
There are a few things you can do to stop your dog from nibbling on blankets. This includes making sure your dog does not have easy access to blankets, providing your dog with other enjoyable nibbling options, careful training, and potential adjustments to your dog’s daily living arrangement to lower stress and anxiety.
Do Not Give Your Dog Access To Blankets
If your dog has been nibbling holes in all of your soft favorites, the first thing that needs to happen is for the blankets to be stored somewhere new.
Even if you are planning to train your dog to not nibble blankets or increase the amount of chewing options available to your dog, some time without access to blankets will be helpful.
You may feel mean if you take away a blanket from your dog’s kennel, but you would rather take away a blanket in the short term than have your dog become ill when it swallows part of a blanket during or after nibbling on it.
Also, removing your dog’s blanket from its kennel or another resting place will help your dog begin to use other objects to relieve its nibbling needs.
Once your dog has been kept away from blankets, and this has allowed you the time to figure out and respond to the cause of the nibbling, you may be able to reintroduce blankets to the dog’s environment.
Some dogs will always be blanket nibblers and may not be able to be left unattended for long periods of time with the temptation of a soft blanket to shred.
Provide Your Dog With Other Enjoyable Nibbling Options
Your dog needs to learn to direct its nibbling to items that are designed to withstand good chewing.
There are a number of dog toys that can handle all levels of nibbling and chewing without shredding or putting a dog at risk for health problems.
Spend time thinking about your dog’s size, nibbling strength (does it nibble gently or quite actively on blankets?), and what other things your dog enjoys such as special treats, squeaky sounds, or certain chew toy shapes.
Try to find objects that your dog will find as satisfying to nibble as their favorite blanket.
Some dogs love to nibble on toys that hold small treats.
These toys can be great not only because they aren’t your blankets but because they mentally engage a dog in a task that can help relieve stress in dogs that are anxious nibblers.
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Just as dogs can be trained to spend time in their crates, use the bathroom outside, and walk on a leash, many dogs can be trained not to nibble on inappropriate objects.
The training of your dog should be guided by someone with experience in respectful and humane training techniques.
Do not try to train your dog by hitting, punishing, or yelling at them when they nibble a blanket.
Your dog will not understand the cause of your response, only that what you do scares them.
This can create a dangerous situation for both the dog and the owner.
Instead, talk with your veterinarian, breeder, or local animal shelter about people with training experience in your area.
They can often guide you in how to safely modify your dog’s nibbling behavior for the long term.
Changes To Your Dog’s Lifestyle or Daily Routine
If you feel that your dog chews as a result of stress and separation anxiety, you may need to make changes to your dog’s day that help lower these feelings.
Increasing the number of walks, keeping a fairly consistent leaving and returning schedule during the day, and not crating your dog alone for extreme lengths of time can all help your dog experience less stress.
Some dogs do well-attending doggy daycares if the owner can afford it!
This allows your dog to socialize with other dogs and play during the day when you can’t be together.
Other times it may simply mean making sure to allow your dog to be with you as much as possible during the day and giving them extra one-on-one interaction.
A dog that nibbles on blankets can be a bizarre nuisance at times.
To some extent, it’s just something that happens.
It’s difficult to understand and comprehend.
At least at first.
But, by remembering that many causes of nibbling are temporary, such as during puppyhood and while teething, and that you can often curb blanket nibbling with changes to your dog’s environment and training, there is no need to worry.
And with a few subtle changes and with time, you can make it past blanket nibbling in no time.
And below, I outline some of my other guides that may be of interest to you:
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.