Why do dogs eat tissues?
Original Question: My 3 year old small Labradoodle loves stealing toiland shredding/eating them. What is the best method to break him of this habit if I don't catch him in the act? I know it’s not helpful to yell at your dog so what’s the best approach? - Elizabeth
Thanks for your question and I’m sorry that you’re dealing with this. There is a really easy way to address a dog eating tissues and a really hard way.
The first thing to think about is why it’s happening in the first place. Dogs and cats may start eating non-food objects when they have underlying medical issues. Any sort of gastrointestinal disease can cause them to want to eat things like this, such as parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, dietary sensitivities, tooth infections, oral lesions and other similar ailments. Stress can also trigger this behavior so it’s important to look for anything that could be causing him stress. I recommend that you have a physical exam and consultation with your veterinarian to start off with.
The really easy way to deal with this is to simply prevent your dog from getting access to Kleenex. I find many pet owners want to change the behavior of their pet rather than just eliminate the ability of the pet to perform the behavior. It would be much easier and safer to prevent access to the Kleenex by putting it on a high surface that he can’t get to. This is the advice I would want you to take. The reason is that it’s not healthy for them to eat materials like this so even if we did change the behavior, how confident can we really be that this will never happen again?
Changing your dog’s behavior, in general, will be extremely difficult. Some methods that immediately come to mind are not appealing solutions, such as implementing punishment. An example would be to wait for your dog to eat some Kleenex and then create an alarm noise that scares them, or even putting bitter apple spray on the Kleenex so that it tastes bad.
I really dislike trying to change behavior through punishment and I don’t recommend it. It is better to change behavior through positive reinforcement but that can be difficult in this scenario. You would need to be there in the moment when your dog first grabs the Kleenex, you would tell him to drop it, and then give him a treat. This would reinforce the behavior of not eating the Kleenex. I’m certain you can see how much work this would require.
It’s my personal advice to just eliminate access to the Kleenex. I hope that’s what you will consider after having a physical exam and consultation to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical condition in this case.
Thanks for your question. Good luck.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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