Tips & Tricks

Why Do Dogs Destroy Toys?

cute dog biting flip flop home

You just got your furry friend the most epic squeaky toy for their birthday. Within minutes of giving it to them, that brand-new plush prize is already a pile of fluff and fabric shreds. As a pet parent, it’s frustrating to watch – not to mention concerning if your pup starts ingesting the stuffing or plastic pieces.

But before you scold your destructor doggo, let’s explore why dogs destroy their toys in the first place.

1. It’s Just Fun and Games

For many dogs, destroying soft toys is simply an entertaining activity. All that pouncing, shaking, and ripping triggers their natural prey-drive instincts. The squeakers mimic the sounds of small prey animals, driving your pup’s inner hunter into overdrive as they tear into the toy.

Some dog breeds, like retrievers, beagles, terriers, and spaniels, were originally bred for hunting. This means their natural instincts often translate into playful behaviors that mimic hunting actions, like chasing, grabbing, and shaking toys.

So if your Lab can’t resist taking down every plush toy that crosses their path, just remember – it’s in their DNA!

high angle dogs making mess with paper rolls

2. Boredom and Anxiety Play a Role

However, sometimes, a demolished doggy toy signals a deeper issue like separation anxiety or lack of enrichment. If the destruction happens most often when you’re away from home, your pup may be acting out due to distress over your absence.

Similarly, dogs left alone for long stretches with nothing to do may start chewing objects (including toys) out of sheer boredom and lack of mental stimulation. Creating an enriching environment with food puzzles, rotating new toys, and plenty of daily playtime can help curb this behavior.

dog playing dirty home

3. When Chewing Gets Aggressive

Some dog breeds and individuals are simply more aggressive chewers than others. Tough chewers like pit bulls may make quick work of standard plush toys that can’t stand up to their powerful jaws. For these pups, you’ll need to seek out exceptionally durable rubber, rope, or hard plastic options.

It’s also possible that giving puppies too much praise or attention when they chew can reinforce the undesirable behavior. While it’s adorable when they’re tiny, you don’t want to inadvertently teach them that destroying toys gets them what they want.

close up beautiful dachshund dog with chewing toys

4. Is It Ever Okay to Let Them Destroy?

While supervised gentle chewing and play is fine, veterinary experts agree you should never let your dog’s toy destruction go too far. Swallowing large chunks of stuffing, fabric, or plastic squeakers can cause a partial or full intestinal blockage – a potentially life-threatening situation.

Signs of an obstruction include lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, a hunched back, and distressed whimpering or whining. If you notice these symptoms, it’s crucial to get your pup to the emergency vet right away.

dog vet consultation

How to Stop Destructive Chewing

If your dog’s toy-killing sprees have become problematic, there are steps you can take to nip this behavior in the bud:

1. Increase Physical and Mental Exercise

This is arguably the most effective long-term solution for destructive chewing. A dog who gets sufficient physical and mental exercise daily is much less likely to act out. Aim for at least two decent walks per day, plus plenty of playtime and games like frisbee, fetch, or tug-of-war.


Engage Your Dog’s Mind

Exercise is important, but it’s not the whole picture. Mental stimulation is just as crucial in preventing destructive chewing. Here’s where puzzle toys come in!

Start with something easy, like a treat-dispensing ball or wobbler that rewards them for figuring out how to get the yummy snacks.

As they get the hang of it, move on to tougher puzzles that really challenge their problem-solving skills. These brain teasers keep them mentally occupied and give them a healthy outlet for chewing.


Variety is the Spice of Life (For Dogs Too!)

Don’t stop at just toys! Here are some other fun enrichment activities to keep your pup’s mind sharp and away from your furniture:

  • Trick Training: Teach your furry friend cool new tricks like “shake,” “roll over,” or “high five.”
  • Dog Sports: Ever heard of agility courses, flyball, or nose work? These activities combine physical and mental exercise and can be a blast for both you and your pup.


  • DIY Soothing Lick Mat: Freeze some yummy treats or peanut butter on special feeding mats or interactive toys. This keeps them busy for ages as they lick and work to get to the tasty rewards.
  • Scent Games: Hide treats around the house or yard and let them use their sniffing skills to find the hidden treasures. It’s a fun, low-impact activity that mentally stimulates your pup.
dog snuffle mat

Filling your dog’s day with engaging activities that exhaust them both physically and mentally means less trouble for you, such as unwanted chewing on furniture. After all, a tired dog is a happy dog! Plus, a happy pup means their toys stay safe and sound (and you get a break from cleaning up chewed-up fluff).

2. Monitor Their Habits

Setting up a pet camera can provide valuable insight into your dog’s destructive chewing habits when you’re not around to supervise. Position the camera in a room where your pup tends to play with toys so you can observe when the chewing frenzies typically start and how intensely they go at it.

Watching this footage may reveal patterns, like if your dog only starts shredding toys after you’ve been gone for a couple of hours, suggesting boredom is the trigger. Or if they immediately start massacring their plush friends the second you walk out the door, it could indicate separation anxiety. Intense, aggressive chewing right after a high-energy playdate might mean they’re over-stimulated and unsatisfied.

Getting to the root cause through this candid monitoring can help determine if environmental changes, more exercise, or other solutions are needed to address the problem.

high angle view dog resting floor

3. Interrupt Calmly

When you catch your dog red-pawed in the middle of destroying a toy, it’s important to interrupt them in a calm, non-startling way. A sharp whistle, hand clap, or firmly raised voice saying “Enough!” can be enough to break their hyper-focused chewing trance without scaring or stressing them further.

Avoid scolding or punishing, as any attention (even negative) can inadvertently reinforce the behavior you’re trying to stop – especially for impressionable puppies who may see it as a fun game. The goal is to disrupt the action in a neutral way, not escalate the situation.

people adult woman lifestyle dog

4. Treat Swap

If your dog has already done significant damage to a toy and ingestion of the stuffing or parts is a risk, you’ll need to take it away. But simply ripping a prized possession out of their jaws can trigger resource-guarding aggression.

Instead, have a high-value, motivating treat ready, like a small piece of cooked chicken or their absolute favorite crunchy treat. The second your pup loses interest in the mangled toy to turn towards you, use a cue like “Drop it” and immediately replace the toy with the treat in your other hand.

This switcheroo avoids any aggression by voluntarily trading them something better than the thing you had to take away. It also redirects that intense chewing energy towards the treat in a positive way.

view adorable chihuahua dog getting some treats home

5. Rotate New Toys

No matter how durable, dogs can get bored of the same old toys. Keep them engaged by frequently rotating in different textures and types so they stay challenged at the appropriate chew intensity level.

interior dogs room decoration with toys

For heavy, energetic chewers, look for tough rubber chew bones, thick braided ropes, and durable bamboo food puzzle toys that have to be demolished to get the kibble out. More gentle chewers may prefer softer plush toys and noisy crinkle toys. Alternate between the various options to keep things novel and exciting for your pup when it’s toy time.


Final Words

While witnessing the aftermath of another annihilated plush pal is never fun, understanding the root reasons can at least make the situation more manageable. With some adjustments to your dog’s environment, exercise routine, and toy selections, you can redirect their instinctual need to chew into more positive outlets.

Who knows, you may even eventually find that sweet spot of durable toys tough enough to survive regular sessions of predatory play. Just don’t get your hopes too high on those squeaky birthday gifts!


About Zelda D.Nelson

As a lifelong dog lover and proud mom to two energetic rescue pups, I know firsthand how important puzzle toys are for providing dogs with much-needed mental and physical stimulation. After over a decade of experience raising well-adjusted, happy dogs, I joined the Loobani Pet team to help other pet parents discover the joy and benefits of dog puzzles. Through my work at Loobani Pet, I've become an expert on the ins and outs of various interactive dog toys. My goal is to simplify the selection process so you can easily pinpoint the perfect puzzles to match your pup's needs and lifestyle. Whether you need a toy to challenge your brainy breed, keep your power chewer occupied, or simply provide some rainy day fun, I've got you covered.