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Categories: Behavioral Problems

Q. My dog can sit for hours constantly mouthing a stuffed animal toy. Can you shine some light on what we might be seeing? Is this a nervous tic or a precursor to guarding?
Hello Cindy.

I am hoping you can help shed some light on a particular chewing behavior our dog has. He's a 7-month-old male Malinois who has grown up the Leerburg way and he's a great dog with no real problems. However, he can sit for hours constantly mouthing a stuffed animal toy. If there's no stuffed animal, he will do this with his dog bed. By mouthing, I mean he chews on the toys. He's not tearing it or trying to destroy it, just repetitively "mouthing" it and he looks like he's zoned out. He is not possessive of, but it's like his pacifier.

Can you shine a light on what we might be seeing? Is this a nervous tic or a precursor to guarding? Is this the dog's version of a horse "cribbing" or is it natural behavior to not worry about? I don't want to encourage an obsessive behavior or one that may lead to some other unwanted behavior.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

A. It's a "nursing" behavior so your pacifier reference is correct. You are fortunate he isn't doing this to himself, some dogs engage in what is called "flank sucking" where they do this to their own side and it's almost impossible to stop.

There are different theories about it but I've noticed it runs in families, I know Malinois, Dobermans and German Shepherds that do this. Some of them are big tough working dogs, so it really is just a quirk within the dog and it doesn't seem to compromise working ability. :)

Cindy Rhodes
  
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