On many occasions, I have seen many dog parents ask this question: “Why does my dog hold pillows in his mouth?” If you’ve ever witnessed your dog carrying around a pillow in its mouth, you may have wondered why they engage in this peculiar behavior. Since dogs have their own unique quirks and habits, and pillow-holding is one of them, we’ll look at eight main reasons behind this behavior, with brief explanations for each reason.
Why does my dog hold pillows in his mouth?
To better understand this dog’s behavior and habit, here are the 8 main reasons why your dog may consistently hold pillows in his mouth:
It provides a sense of comfort and security
Dogs, as descendants of den-dwelling wolves, have an innate need for comfort and security. Holding pillows in their mouths can provide a sense of familiarity and mimic the feeling of being close to their mother or littermates. The softness and warmth of a pillow can offer emotional support, soothing anxiety or stress that your dog may experience. So, it’s important to provide your dog with a cozy and safe environment, like a dog bed, to fulfill his need for comfort.
It’s simply playful behavior
Play is an essential aspect of a dog’s life, promoting physical exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs are known to engage in interactive play with toys, and pillows can serve as substitutes during playtime. The soft texture and pliability of pillows make them enticing for dogs to hold, shake, and toss around, simulating the excitement of play with their canine or human companions. It’s crucial to supervise play sessions to ensure the pillow remains intact and your dog doesn’t accidentally swallow any stuffing or fabric.
Your dog may be going through a teething and chewing phase
Puppies, like human babies, experience discomfort during the teething phase as their adult teeth emerge. Chewing on pillows can help alleviate the pain and itching associated with teething. The pressure applied by biting down on the pillow provides relief to their gums. In addition, chewing on pillows helps puppies explore their environment and satisfy their natural urge to chew, promoting healthy dental development and preventing destructive chewing on other household items.
Your dog may be scent marking the pillows
Dogs possess scent glands in their mouths, allowing them to leave their unique scent on objects. By holding pillows in their mouths, dogs can mark the fabric with their scent, effectively claiming it as their territory. This behavior stems from their ancestral instincts, where scent marking played a vital role in communication and establishing dominance within a pack. It’s worth noting that intact males and females in heat may exhibit more intense scent-marking behaviors.
Your dog may be seeking attention
Dogs are intelligent animals capable of learning how to gain attention from their owners. If your dog has observed that holding pillows in their mouth leads to increased interaction, such as play or petting, they may repeat the behavior to elicit a response. It’s important to provide positive reinforcement for desired behaviors while redirecting attention-seeking behaviors towards more appropriate alternatives.
It could be a sign of boredom or anxiety
Boredom and anxiety can lead to destructive behaviors in dogs. Holding pillows in their mouth can serve as a coping mechanism or a self-soothing activity to alleviate feelings of restlessness or anxiety. Engaging your dog in regular physical exercise, mental stimulation, and interactive toys can help prevent boredom and reduce anxiety-related behaviors.
It could also be a nesting instinct
Female dogs may exhibit pillow-holding behavior as part of their nesting instinct, particularly during their heat cycle or pregnancy. The urge to create a comfortable and secure space for potential offspring drives them to gather soft materials, including pillows, to construct a makeshift nest. Providing a designated nesting area or a suitable alternative, such as a comfortable dog bed, can satisfy this instinctive behavior.
It could be a breed predispositions
Certain dog breeds have specific genetic predispositions that make them more inclined to hold pillows in their mouths. Retrievers and terriers, for example, have a history of hunting or retrieving instincts. They may view pillows as “prey” and carry them around as part of their natural behavior. Recognizing breed-specific tendencies can help owners understand and accommodate their dog’s unique needs and instincts.
Why does my dog sleep with a pillow in his mouth
It’s a habitual behavior
Sometimes, dogs develop habits that persist during sleep. If your dog has been holding a pillow in their mouth during waking hours, they may continue to do so while asleep out of habit. Dogs are creatures of routine, and behaviors they engage in frequently during their waking hours can carry over into their sleep.
Your dog may be suffering from dental discomfort
In certain cases, dogs may sleep with a pillow in their mouth due to dental discomfort. Dogs, especially puppies or older dogs with dental issues, may find relief by applying gentle pressure to their gums and teeth through the softness of the pillow. The pillow’s texture may help alleviate soreness or itchiness associated with dental problems, allowing them to sleep more comfortably.
It is a self-soothing behavior
Some dogs engage in self-soothing behaviors to alleviate stress or anxiety, and sleeping with a pillow in their mouth may be one such behavior. Similar to human thumb-sucking or the use of a pacifier, holding a pillow can provide dogs with a soothing sensation that helps them relax and fall asleep more easily. The repetitive action of gently clenching the pillow between their teeth may have a calming effect on their nervous system.
It provides a sense of comfort and security
Similar to holding a pillow in their mouth during waking hours, dogs may sleep with a pillow as a source of comfort and security. The softness and familiarity of the pillow provide a sense of reassurance, mimicking the feeling of being close to their mother or littermates. Dogs may find solace in holding the pillow in their mouth while they sleep, offering a calming effect that aids in relaxation and peaceful rest.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dogs Holding Pillows in Their Mouths
Why does my dog hold pillows in his mouth?
Dogs may hold pillows in their mouths for various reasons, including seeking comfort and security, engaging in playful behavior, relieving teething discomfort, scent marking, seeking attention, coping with boredom or anxiety, expressing nesting instincts, or due to breed predispositions.
Is it normal for dogs to sleep with a pillow in their mouth?
Yes, it can be normal for dogs to sleep with a pillow in their mouth. Dogs may find comfort and security by holding a pillow while they sleep. It can also be a self-soothing behavior or a manifestation of nesting instincts. However, if you have concerns about your dog’s sleeping habits, consult with a veterinarian to ensure there are no underlying dental issues or health concerns.
Should I be worried if my dog holds pillows in his mouth?
In most cases, there is no need to worry if your dog holds pillows in their mouth. It is a natural behavior for many dogs and can be harmless. However, it’s essential to ensure the pillow is safe and does not pose any choking hazards. If you notice any signs of dental discomfort, excessive chewing, or if the behavior becomes obsessive, consult with a veterinarian for a proper evaluation.
How can I discourage my dog from holding pillows in his mouth?
If you wish to discourage your dog from holding pillows in their mouth, redirect their behavior to more appropriate alternatives. Provide them with engaging toys, interactive play sessions, and suitable chewing items. Reinforce positive behaviors with rewards and praise, and consider training exercises to teach them commands like “drop it” or “leave it.”
Can holding pillows in their mouth be a sign of a medical issue?
In general, dogs holding pillows in their mouths are not indicative of a medical issue. However, if your dog exhibits other abnormal behaviors, experiences changes in appetite, shows signs of pain or discomfort, or displays oral health problems, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian for a thorough examination.
Are there any breeds more prone to holding pillows in their mouths?
Certain dog breeds with hunting or retrieving instincts, such as retrievers and terriers, may be more inclined to hold pillows in their mouths. These breeds have a natural inclination to carry objects, and pillows may be seen as “prey” items. However, individual personalities and experiences can vary, so not all dogs of these breeds will exhibit this behavior.
Should I allow my dog to hold pillows in their mouth?
Allowing your dog to hold pillows in their mouth is generally harmless, as long as the pillow is safe and doesn’t pose any choking risks. However, it’s important to ensure your dog receives proper mental and physical stimulation, has appropriate chew toys, and is not engaging in destructive behavior. If you have concerns or the behavior becomes excessive, consult with a professional dog trainer or veterinarian for guidance.