Why do dogs rip up their beds, plush toys, couch cushions, magazines and everything else fabric or paper? I ponder that as I stand inside my living room that looks like a parade just went through it. A large parade.
I had only left the house a few minutes but that was plenty of time for my terrier mix, PJ, to locate a big package of toilet paper and have the time of her life. Toilet paper drapes the couch and flutters from the dining room table. Half-chewed rolls lay scattered like beer bottles after a frat party.
She is standing in the middle of the mess grinning delightedly.
I make a note to myself: for a young terrier, a few minutes is a long time.
The short answer to why dogs rip things up is it is fun or the dog is bored. But ask the question one more time, why is that the answer to fun or boredom? And now you get to the crux of it – because they are predators descended from predators. This is watered down hunting/eating behavior.
That vigorous head shake that PJ no doubt employed on the rolls of Charmin or that the pup above used to create that room of fluff art is a killing move. I’ve watched dogs hunting use that shake to deftly break the back/neck of their prey.
It is a deeply primitive, hard-wired behavior in many dogs from Yorkies to Great Danes and it is one I try hard not to trigger during puppyhood, if I can avoid it.
That means no soft, plush toys in puppy crates (and I put toys away when pups start to make these moves as part of teaching appropriate toy play), and no beds in puppy crates. Some thin-skinned, lean-bodied dogs like Italian greyhounds and Dobermans need a soft spot to settle but for them I use artificial fleece which is a fairly safe option and does not give them the thrill of “gutting” the fluff out of the bed.
Now you know.