WHY IS MY DOG KNEADING?
When the word kneading comes up, the first thing that comes to most pet owners’ minds is “cats”. Yes, cats are notorious for kneading nearly anything and everything, but many dogs are known to knead as well. You see dog kneading blanket and sucking them or any other material or object of interest. This kind of behavior is usually exhibited when a dog is trying to sleep or the two extremes of being anxious and calming down.
Why is my dog kneading?
Kneading in dogs is done out of habit or instinct. This habit is triggered by survival needs and may last the whole lifetime of your dog. As young dogs or puppies, this behavior may look cute, but as they grow older, trashing your home, damaging your furniture, shoes or clothing would not look cute again. So the main question is what can trigger this habit in your dog?
The puppy was weaned early from the mum.
Naturally, puppies love suckling on their mother’s teats. If the natural order of things is followed, a young puppy would stay with its mum long enough to suckle and be satisfied with his or her mother’s teats, as time progresses, the mum would in her own wisdom start training the puppy on how to survive without having to depend on her milk, albeit this process is done slowly and naturally to the benefit of the puppy.
It’s worth noting that even when the mom has passed the stage of producing milk for her young dogs, they will still try to suckle on her teats when they are startled by events around them. You see, suckling on their mums’ teats makes them calm and they feel secure and safe no matter what is happening around them.
Now looking at all this, your dog kneading continuously can be attributed to them being removed or weaned early from their mum. They did not learn naturally how to stop kneading or control this impulse hence their exhibition of this character for succor even at their later stages in life.
Most Animal behaviorists will tell you that your dog kneading like a cat on blankets, toys, his bed, or any other household item which they have access to can be attributed to them not suckling on their mum’s teats well early on in their life. As a rule of thumb, it is usually not advisable to wean a puppy from their mum till they are at least eight weeks of age.
There is also a possibility that the puppy’s mum is unwell and may be unable to allow her young puppies to suckle her teats due to her condition. This can lead to your dog kneading. Luckily for us, there are steps to resolve this issue, which we would discuss later on here.
To control their temperature.
Your dog may be kneading especially their paws because he or she is trying to control its temperature. How can this be? why do dogs knead with their paws and what has it got to do with controlling their body temperature?
To better understand why your dog may do this, let’s look at how our dogs control their body temperature naturally. You see, a dog’s body temperature is usually from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This is higher than that of humans which usually range from 97.6 to 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dogs naturally do not have sweat glands on their body. So they try to regulate their temperature by panting if need be. They take in air and moisture through their mouth, this, in turn, circulates through their internal organs and they release the same air through their mouth with the accompanying heat. The faster they pant, the more heat they need to expel from their body. On the flip side, when they need to retain heat, they breathe normally through their noses.
Now the only part of their body where dogs have sweat glands are their ears and paws. Naturally, dogs cannot reach out easily to their ears but they can easily reach their paws hence if the temperature seems too high or too low, they may knead on their paws. Doing this helps to increase or decrease the surface area where they can cool off depending on if they are feeling too hot or too cold.
In a sense it is like when we use blankets to sleep, we cover ourselves when we feel cold and create more space for ventilation when we feel hot.
Marking their territory.
Your dog may be kneading things around them to mark their territory. Like we said earlier, this habit is due to the need to feel safe and maintain some territorial integrity. In ancient times, a dog would form their bed by digging in their dens and gathering grasses and leaves in them.
During the process of digging and gathering grasses and leaves into their beds with their paws, what is happening in addition to all that is the transfer of their scent from the sweat glands in their paws onto the bed area. This scent acts as a marker for that area to other dogs to indicate that the spot is taken and also helps them to be sure that there is no harmful object in this bed area.
In the modern world, your dog may not have to dig and gather leaves to sleep in a den, but they may knead their stuffed animals, toys, blankets, etc to keep around them and mark their territory.
In the real sense, they do not actually place value on the objects they are kneading, this you can deduce when you compare dead leaves and grasses to these objects. They are only doing it to create a sense of territory or place as most of the time, the kneaded objects are placed around places where they often love to stay.
Your dog’s breed.
To be clear, there is no dog breed that does not knead, but as with all living things some breeds are more disposed to kneading than others.
Sweet and sensitive dogs are more likely to knead as they are more prone to anxiety issues, this is especially true for those that suffer from separation anxiety, they tend to cling to their owners more and would follow them around everywhere, and when their owners are not available to them, they would engage in some obsessive behavior, kneading on objects accessible to them is one of these habits.
Working dogs are also known for kneading blankets, toys, or whatever objects are accessible to them. Examples of working dogs that exhibit this behavior are Border Collies, hounds like Dachshunds, gunner breeds like Springer Spaniels, and terriers like Westies.
Crossbreeds like poodles, pugs, chihuahuas, and Labradoodles are also known to knead.
Keep in mind that your dog kneading is mainly an avenue for it to calm itself down from some emotion building up. Most Animal behaviorists would compare this habit to human thumb sucking. The behavior is adorable as a baby but you are expected to grow out of it as you age.
Now we have answered the question why is my dog kneading? The next question will be what can I do or what should I do about my dog kneading. Here are some pointers to managing the situation. Before we continue, you should keep in mind that kneading in dogs is not a major problem. Your dog doing it once in a while is an acceptable situation, but if you have your dog exhibiting this behavior in an obsessive manner, then you really need to start applying the pointers we are going to be listing below.
Grind down or Trim your dog’s nails
This here is mainly for health reasons, you see dogs knead objects using both mouth and paws. The same paws are used to move around in unsightly places. This leads to their nail tips being long, unsightly and can harbor germs and bacteria that can be harmful to your dog when ingested.
Grinding down or trimming your dog’s nails would make them less prone to accidentally hurting themselves when kneading on their paws or an object.
There is also the added advantage of preventing injuries that can occur from the pressure of walking with long unkept nails, like the nails being stuck in a carpet or the discomfort of the nails as they hit the floor while running, or even the disfiguring joint alignment with the nails.
Click here to learn more about dog nail grinders WHAT’S THE BEST DOG NAIL GRINDER?
Look out for triggers.
We said earlier that this behavior is borne out of that habitual instinct to survive and thrive. Anything that threatens your dog’s feeling of safety can lead him or her to start kneading. This is more evident especially in dogs who are prone to separation anxiety issues.
Thunderstorms, loud vehicle noises, visitors, you leaving the house, some other animal or pet, the list goes on and on. All these can trigger your dog and make them start kneading. You need to be observant of your dog to deduce these triggers so that you can start formulating ways to manage them.
Spend quality time with your dog.
Doing any form of activity with your dog will not only build your bond with him or her, but it will also help to make them a more confident dog, leading to less need for them to knead on your blankets, their toys, or any household item.
Getting to spend quality time with your dog is not as daunting as many people would present it. Here are a few ways in which you can get to spend quality time with your dog.
i. Exercise together: This is easy for those who already have a workout routine, instead of going on that early morning jog alone, go along with your dog. Are you doing a ten minutes cardio? Why not have your dog beside you! Doing push-ups in the house. Let your dog be with you.
This way, you not only get the benefits of the exercise, and you also get to build up your dog’s confidence.
ii. Go on walks together: That period of the day when you always go around your compound or step into the neighborhood to get some fresh air, why not take your dog along. Your dog would get the benefits of socialization and also know its way around the neighborhood in one fell swoop.
iii. Teach them some tricks and commands: This could have easily been the first point. Training your dog on different tricks and commands will help them to understand what is expected of them and help them to be more relaxed in the environment.
iv. Do chores together with them: Are you doing the laundry? Washing the car? Doing some gardening? You get the picture. You can try to do this together with your dog. People are always surprised when their dogs act in ways as if helping out in the household chores. This should not be. The more a dog interacts positively with you the calmer and more confident that dog becomes.
v. Go on that hike with your dog: Hiking maybe just for fun for you, but your dog sees it as a long adventure with you and is often a big deal to most dog breeds.
vi. Take them to sporting events: If you have a dog sporting event in your area, why not go along with your dog. Seeing other dogs performing complex tasks with their owners is enough motivation for your dog to want to do better by you.
vii. Relax with your dog: Yes, you can watch that Netflix series you always wanted to watch with your dog by your side. Granted, they may not understand what is going on, they would certainly enjoy the idea of spending more time with you doing anything.
The list can go on and on, the main point is that spending quality time with your dog involves actually interacting with your dog properly any time you spend with them. This lets them understand what is expected of them, leading to a calmer and more confident dog which also leads to them not having any need to knead on things.
Limit your dog’s access and time to the thing which they might knead on.
Basically, if your dog doesn’t have access to that blanket, cloth, stuffed animal, sofa, shoes, etc. He or she would have little to no chance of kneading on them. So how do you go about limiting your dog’s access and time to things they might knead on.
i. Start an Obedience training program with them: The earlier you start this with your dog the better, this way, your dog starts learning quickly what is acceptable in the house and what is not. Obedience training should actually be the basic foundation of how you communicate with your dog.
ii. Use deterrents for dogs: This works well on stubborn dogs, using scent deterrents for the dog in places or things you don’t want your dog kneading on works like magic. Pepper, Citrus, mothballs and more can be used as natural deterrents as most dogs do not like the scent of these things nor want to be close by any of them.
iii. Invest in dog fences: Fences are a great way to keep your dog out of restricted spaces. This is because they provide an actual boundary that your dog knows should not be crossed. They can be placed anywhere in the house but you need to make sure that they are properly sized depending on the space you want to protect and the size of your dog.
Provide Interactive toys for your dog
What most dog parents don’t realize about dogs and toys is that dogs don’t see toys as a luxury, they see them as a necessity. Toys are important for a dog’s well-being. It is your dog’s only source of solace for all that time you leave them alone at home. There comfort when they feel afraid. In fact, toys have been known to help prevent behavioral problems in dogs.
So for dogs that are kneading, toys can come in handy in managing the situation, especially toys that are interactive. These toys would keep your dog busy and help reduce the urge to knead on things.
Do not wean your puppy early from their mum.
Ok, we should have made this first on the list of things to do to stop your dog from kneading. But we wrote with the assumption that your dog is kneading and you needed to find out why. For those that don’t have a dog yet and are planning on adopting one. Keep in mind that a puppy should stay with his or her mum for at least eight weeks before being adopted.
One of the reasons for this is that a puppy who stays with her mum for this long would have learned from her how not to knead excessively.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.