Why Do Dogs Destroy Toys?

By: Lauren KatimsUpdated:

5 Reasons Your Dog Destroys His Toys

Why Do Dogs Destroy Toys?

You give the perfect birthday present to your dog: a plush toy with an all-star squeaker, but within minutes, they rip it to shreds. How rude! Toy destruction is a frustrating (and puzzling) behavior, and it’s also not safe. As with any attempt at behavior management, understanding the reasons behind the action is the first step to success.

Two veterinary behaviorists dissect the top reasons for why dogs destroy toys, how to prevent this behavior from becoming life threatening and what materials to seek out when shopping for the toughest dog toys.

Why Do Dogs Destroy Toys?

There are five common reasons why a dog destroys their toys. Let’s explore them!

It’s Fun

“In most cases, it’s entertainment,” says Dr. Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, director of Westwood Animal Hospital’s Animal Behavior Consultations in Westwood, Kansas. But, this doesn’t mean it’s a safe form of enrichment. Don’t worry—we’ll fill you in below on how to curb this behavior and replace it with a safer option.

It Fulfills an Instinctual Prey Drive

The squeakers in dog toys mimic the sound of prey. And although it’s not pleasant to think about your sweet dog as a predator, all that pouncing, shaking, tearing and removing the fluff-filled insides is mimicking attacking prey, says Dr. Ana Clara Muñoz, DVM, a behavioral veterinarian with the San Francisco SPCA Behavior Speciality Service.

This instinct is particularly strong for hunting breeds, such as:

It’s a Sign of Separation Anxiety or Boredom

If the destruction occurs only when you leave the house or are separated from your dog, the root cause of the behavior may be driven by separation anxiety, especially if the chewing is widespread on furniture and other household items. Alternatively, dogs left home alone for many hours could be chewing from boredom.

Your Dog Needs a Heavier-Duty Toy

Some dog breeds, such as the American Pit Bull Terrier and mixed breeds with feisty personalities, can be aggressive chewers. They thrive gnawing on the most durable chew toys or playing with a challenging interactive toy.

The Behavior Is Reinforced

Puppies are cute when they do… anything—even if it’s roughhousing and destroying their toys. Giving young dogs attention or praise for ripping toys apart tells them to keep going.

Should I Let My Dog Destroy Their Toys?

No, you should not let your dog destroy toys because swallowing large chunks of the toy’s insides or the plastic squeaker can cause a partial or complete intestinal blockage. However, if your dog’s prey drive is high as is the case in some dog breeds, or they are living their best lives taking a stuffed toy or squeaky toy down, stopping the behavior is easier said than done.

“It’s not practical to teach the dog to chew softer,” says Dr. Hunthausen. “It’s really a management challenge.”

Supervise playtime with new toys before the fun creeps into the danger zone with a choking hazard or gastrointestinal blockage, which can require surgery, says Dr. Muñoz.

Symptoms of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

A blockage from eating objects that are not food (in this case, squeakers) is common and in severe cases life-threatening.

Common symptoms of intestinal blockage include:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unable to keep food or water down
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hunched back
  • Distressed vocalizations (whimpering or whining)

If you suspect your dog has a blockage, take your dog to the emergency vet.

How to Stop Destructive Behavior in Dogs

If your dog regularly destroys their toys and it’s causing them harm or making you anxious, it’s time to stop the destructive chewing behavior.

Punishment doesn’t work, although it’s often the go-to for pet parents, who are eager to protect their pups (and their belongings), says Dr. Hunthausen. Scolding your dog causes more anxiety, which increases the negative behaviors.

Instead, follow these steps from our two veterinarians to stop your dog from destructive chewing:

1. Spy on Your Dog

Set up an indoor camera, such as the Wyze Cam v3 Pet Camera, to get a grasp on your pup’s tendencies. If they start chewing aggressively and destroying not only toys, but also other items in the house, this may be a sign of anxiety. Read more about toys designed for anxious dogs and follow up with your veterinarian or a certified dog trainer.

2. Interrupt the Behavior

Make a relatively loud or unusual noise to break up the behavior. It doesn’t have to be complicated; simply a noise that doesn’t scare them but redirects their focus off the toy and onto you, like a whistle, will work. This is good practice for pet parents with young dogs or new puppies, who are inadvertently encouraged to get rough with their toys.

3. Replace the Plush Toy With a High-Value Treat

If you need to take the toy away because your dog is in danger of swallowing a large piece or if it’s an off-limits stuffed animal, offer a high value treat (something ranked a 10 out of 10 on their scale of favorite snacks) and remove the toy. Replacing something high value (the toy) with something else high value (the treat) prevents resource guarding of the toy, which often leads to aggression.

4. Try Various Types of Toys

Experiment with different intensity levels of chew toys (from soft and crinkly to harder bones) and materials, like rubber toys and ropes, to see what’s sustainable and what your dog prefers.

“If they really like to rip toys apart, give them something to substitute,” says Dr. Muñoz. “Prepare a bag with Cheerios in it and let them rip it apart to get the treat out.” (Monitor them and ensure they don’t eat the bag!)

3. Increase Physical and Mental Enrichment

Spending time with your dog is a win-win: It increases your bond and tires them out, which naturally leads to less destructive chewing. Physical and mental exercises stimulate dogs in different ways, but both enrich and help promote routine and good manners. Aside from at least two walks a day, try these physically engaging activities:

Bored dogs equal trouble. If you don’t find something for your dog to do, then they will find something to do on their own. No time to burn some energy with your pup? Mental stimulation tools are useful when you’re busy, but you also want your dog busy, too. These include:

Chuckit! Sport Launcher Dog Toy
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Tornado Puzzle Game Dog Toy, Yellow
SodaPup Love Hearts E-Mat Dog Lick Mat, Large, Red

Dog Toys Meant To Be Destroyed

Toys built to withstand the heaviest chompers are typically made of harder materials, such as rubber, and don’t have an easily accessible squeaker. Still, supervise your dog during playtime, especially with new toys and if they have a history of toy destroying.

“You have chewers who will go through every toy,” says Dr. Muñoz. “There is no chew-proof toy.”

Five durable toys meant to give your toy destroyer a challenge:

Choose dental-safe toys that won’t harm your dog’s teeth. As a general rule, your thumb nail should be able to make a slight indent in the material, says Dr. Muñoz.

Also, dental-safe toys do not have abrasive surfaces and you can flex or break them with your bare hands. Check with your veterinarian to be sure. Many, though not all, dental-safe foods or chews have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance.

Rather than take away your dog’s good ol’ time destroying soft toys, make playtime safer with durable dog toys and active supervision. Ready for a bonus challenge? Clean up that leftover fluff by teaching your pup to put away their own toys.

Expert input provided by Dr. Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, director of Westwood Animal Hospital’s Animal Behavior Consultations in Westwood, Kansas, and Dr. Ana Clara Muñoz, DVM,, Veterinarian, Behavior Specialty Service at the San Francisco SPCA.


By: Lauren KatimsUpdated: