It's no surprise that dogs love to rip and shred, but it can be troublesome when your dog decides to take out their love of shredding on your new pair of shoes or on the corner of your suede couch.
While most people try and deter the behavior completely, shredding is considered an innate K9 behavior. As a result, this behavior is not necessarily something that can be "trained out" of a dog. Instead, giving your dog proper outlets and guidance can help deter unwanted chewing, ripping, and shredding while allowing them to partake in these behaviors in a safe and monitored way.
What We'll Talk about In Today's Article:
Why Enrichment Can Help With Shredders
Common Misconceptions with Shredding Enrichment
Differences in Shredding (i.e. Shredding for fun vs. Shredding due to anxiety).
Toys for Dogs Who Love to Shred & De-Stuff
DIY Options for Shredding Enrichment
General Tips and FAQs
Why Does Enrichment Help?
Enrichment activities are activities that allow dogs to partake in natural behaviors, such as: sniffing, foraging, playing, licking, chasing, chewing, and shredding. Essentially, Canine Enrichment is spotlighting species appropriate behaviors and allocating these needs to positive outlets. Here's an example below of a simple shredding and foraging activity using egg cartons and paper products:
Common Misconceptions With Shredding Enrichment
One of the most common misconceptions with shredding and destuffing enrichment is that these activities will provoke or encourage destruction around the house. Contrary to popular belief, multiple studies have shown that this is quite the opposite! By providing positive outlets, you alleviate the need for your dog to seek out their own shredding enrichment by providing them with something safe and fun. I discuss this more in our blog post here, where I debunk common enrichment myths with included studies.
Differences in Shredding
It's important to keep in mind that not all shredding activities are created equal; some dogs shred for different reasons, and it's up to you to find out why.
Shredding for an Outlet
Something we as owners provide in a safe, monitored way with proper cues to alleviate our dog's innate need to shred. Usually given as a puzzle or toy for enjoyment.
Shredding as a Sign of Boredom
Out of nowhere, when your dog suddenly tears apart something they've come across in your home for "no apparent reason". Usually this is your dog telling you, "I'm bored!". A destructive dog is usually one of the first signs of boredom in canines. Read about it more, here.
Shredding as a Sign of Anxiety
An example of this is when your dog shreds a blanket when you leave the house, or bites the drywall at the door entry where they saw you leave for the day. As more people begin to return to the office as COVID protocols lift, dogs can display their separation anxiety through acts of destruction.
Shredding as a Sign of Frustration
This is a super important one when it comes to enrichment. If a puzzle or game is too difficult or your dog doesn't understand, it often leads to frustration. As a result, your dog leans towards what it instinctively knows how to do: Shredding and chewing. Example: You give your dog a Kong Wobbler for the first time and leave the room. You come back to find the entire top of the wobbler chewed. Turns out, your dog couldn't get the last piece of treat out of the Wobbler, leading to frustration. As a result, your dog tried to chew their way into the toy.
Toys for Dogs Who Love to Shred & De-Stuff
Now that you're aware of different types of shredding, let's talk about toys for dogs who love to shred. There are many different items on the market, so here are some of our favorites.
NOTE: With shredders, it's important that these toys and games are monitored accordingly. With any ripping or shredding, it's always possible that something can become ingested, which is why it's so incredibly important that you're there to monitor and remove games and items when needed.
OMG! Surprise ™
Available at: PetSmart
These toys were an absolute hit for our two dogs. Why? Because they're the perfect outlet for dissecting! There are two versions, one where your dog has to rip through the plush to get the second toy (Bacon version, pictured), and also versions where they can pull a smaller toy through a small hole (Whale version, pictured).
BarkBox 2-In-1 Interactive Toys for Chewers
Available through Amazon
Another 2-In-1 dissectible toy option that comes in multiple different themes and cute shapes!
Available at: Homes Alive Pets
Burrow Toys are great because they provide that satisfying de-stuffing sensation dogs love. When your dog pulls the tiny toys through the holes, it mimics the act of de-stuffing (not to mention my dogs go nuts for the little squeakers). Our dogs love these, but to help them last as long as possible I usually store these away after play. Here's a quick video on Burrow Toys:
DIY Options for Shreddable/De-Stuffing Enrichment
1.) JW Hol-ee Roller
I love the JW Hol-ee Roller because it's so versatile! You can use it for so many things, including the "destuffing" aspect that so many dogs enjoy. Here's an entire article on the JW Hol-ee Roller, alongside 3 variations of what you can stuff it with.
2.) Cardboard & Paper
Cardboard and paper work great for shredding and tearing. I personally like using standard boxes and brown packing paper for shredding activities. However, you can also use cereal boxes, paper tubes, egg cartons - you name it! Here's a quick video on how to make a Cereal Snake Shredder.
Note: For dogs who tend to eat shreddables, avoid cardboard and paper. Instead, opt for the next option in this list.
3.) Dog Safe Edible Shreddables
When it comes to shredding, it can be a difficult outlet for those who have what I lovingly call "gulpers". You know the dogs I'm talking about - the ones that love to eat and gulp everything they come across with no remorse! In those cases, owners are a bit stumped when it comes to shredding because we don't want out dogs eating cardboard, paper, strings, stuffing, you name it. Instead, opt for shreddables that are safe to consume in moderate amounts.
Tips & FAQ
"My dog has begun destroying things. What do I do?!
If your dog begins destroying things, take a look at what cues you're giving them as the owner. How you're integrating these games into routines? Are you removing the puzzle once the objective is finished? Is the game too hard? Sometimes, the most simple steps make the biggest difference (i.e. removing a game or puzzle once the goal has been achieved).
"My dog doesn't seem to get shredding enrichment. How do I get my dog into it?"
Sometimes, showing your dog how it's done can cue the lightbulb moment! Get down on their level and tear a piece off of the box with your hands, or crumple up a piece of paper. The sounds and actions of you shredding something can help show your dog how it's done.
Note: It's also important to realize that not every form of enrichment is enjoyable for every dog. If your dog isn't into shredding, that's okay! Opt for something else. For example, try some of these DIY Towel Puzzle ideas that don't involve shredding.