Why do dogs ride on stuffed animals and pillows?
Of all the embarrassing things your dog could do, riding on stuffed animals, pillows or legs is definitely at the top of the list. To us, this is not acceptable behavior, but dog etiquette is not the same. So, the next time you see your dog enthusiastically riding a teddy bear, think about why he would want to do that.
To reduce your dog's driving behavior, you first need to understand why your dog is doing this. Only then can you address the cause of driving, and often this already helps to reduce riding on stuffed animals or other objects.
For all you embarrassed dog owners out there, let's take a look at possible reasons why your dog is riding on stuffed animals or pillows and how to stop it.
Dogs don't just ride stuffed animals
It's important to note that dogs don't ride exclusively on stuffed animals. They will also ride on furniture, other dogs or cats in the house, and unsuspecting people.
A dog riding a plush toy may be funny, but your friends and relatives won't be happy if your dog starts riding their legs.
Sexual maturity and driving
The most common reason for riding on objects has to do with hormones. Most male dogs begin to reach sexual maturity between 6 months and 1 year. As the dog begins to reach sexual maturity, certain hormones such as testosterone spike, triggering the urge to drive. If there are no females in season, your dog will settle for next best thing. Your leg, furniture, the cat or his stuffed animals.
In bitches, driving can be caused by her oestrus cycle. Dogs going through their first season are more likely to exhibit this driving behavior.
The most effective way to prevent your dog from riding on stuffed animals or other objects is to have him spayed or neutered. This causes a decrease in certain hormones and thus reduces the urge to drive.
The sooner you do this, the more likely your dog's driving will stop. Driving can become a learned behavior if allowed to continue uncontrolled. Some dogs will therefore continue to ride on objects if you wait a long time to neuter.
Talk to your vet so you can consider all options. For example, an intact male dog can also be chemically castrated, and sometimes this is a good way to see if castration has a positive effect on behavior.
Drive by excitement
Excitement drive is more common in male dogs, but can occur in both sexes. A dog that gets particularly excited by playtime or meeting other dogs may start riding other dogs or objects as a way to channel their excitement.
It is common for young male dogs to ride other dogs when they first meet, as they experience a rush of excitement and accompanying hormenas when they meet a new dog.
This usually has little to do with dominance or aggression, but can cause an encounter to escalate into a fight, which is why riding should be stopped as soon as it starts.
If your dog does this more often, you will have to pay close attention during walks. Teach your dog to stay with you, or keep it on a leash. Stop driving immediately, and don't let your dog harass other dogs in this way. Do not punish your dog, but distract him with a toy or a snack, and take your dog with you.
You can do the same with toys. If your dog is excited about something, an increase in hormones such as testosterone may make him feel the need to ride on pillows or stuffed animals. Distract your dog again and take the hug away.
Keep in mind that your dog may find other things to ride on instead. This is normal behavior, so you should be consistent in removing the object your dog is riding on. Give your dog something else to do, such as a chew or stuffed Kong.
Drive for attention
Driving can be a learned behavior. A puppy may have started riding when he hit puberty, but he found himself getting your attention when he did. Even if your dog doesn't have a hormonal need to drive, he may choose to do so to get your attention.
This is easy to fix. Whenever your dog rides a plush toy, remove the toy and leave the room. Not only has he now lost his toy, but he also hasn't gotten the attention he wanted. He'll soon learn that riding his toys won't get him the attention he wants. You can continue this training by rewarding your dog when he calmly waits for you to give him attention.
Driving on objects due to stress
Every dog experiences stress, and every dog handles it differently. Even when your dog experiences stress, hormones are released that can trigger driving behavior. It can be caused by several situations, including:
- A moving
- Arrival of a baby
- New pet
- Death in the family
- Home renovation
Any situation that is perceived as scary or that differs from your dog's normal routine can trigger stress-related behaviors, such as driving. Dogs can't talk like we can, so they use their behavior to vent stress. Compare it with nail biting in humans.
To stop driving in this scenario, you need to determine what is causing the stress in your dog. Simply removing the object won't stop him from driving, and the stress is still there, of course. You must address the trigger to correct the behavior.
In this case, it may be best to see a dog behaviorist to help you get to the bottom of your dog's fears. Keep track of when your dog shows driving behavior and what you did with him that day to get a better idea of what events are stressful for your dog.
Driving due to a condition or illness
The most likely conditions to cause driving are allergies and infections. Both cause itchy or irritated skin, and driving can help relieve the itch. Inflammation of the genitals can also be the cause of driving.
If your dog has never exhibited riding before and nothing has changed in his daily routine, check your dog's abdomen and genitals for irritation and bald spots. If the skin is red and showing other signs of irritation, it is recommended to see a vet for a checkup.
Treating the allergy or infection will help stop driving since the trigger—the itchy skin—is no longer there. Without itching, your dog probably won't feel the urge to ride his toy anymore.
What do you do against riding on cuddly toys or other objects?
If you think the driving behavior is due to your puppy entering puberty, seek veterinary advice to have him neutered. This not only helps with driving, but also prevents unwanted litters. Spaying and neutering also reduces your dog's chance of developing certain cancers or genital diseases as he ages.
If you choose to breed your dog or don't want to neuter it for any reason, you'll need to explore other methods to prevent the driving. For this it is sometimes advisable to talk to a dog behavioral therapist.
If your dog only rides when you have visitors, it is likely that your dog is nervous about the presence of other people. Dogs are territorial and want to control what goes on in the house. You can help your dog feel more comfortable around guests by giving him a routine to follow when people come over.
For example, if your dog has been crate trained, teach him to go to his crate when he hears the doorbell and let him out when he's calm and your guests are settled. Make sure your guests don't pay attention to your dog so he learns that nothing special happens when people come over.
Don't punish your dog if you see him riding on a stuffed toy or pillow. He doesn't understand why you consider it bad behavior. Riding is a natural act for dogs, whether to reproduce or to express their emotions. Calmly remove the object your dog is riding on, and direct your dog's focus to something else. Correcting your dog will only make him more nervous, so he will probably just find something else to ride.
Create an environment where your dog can't access his stuffed animals without getting them first. Keep the toys in a box or container with a lid, so that your dog can only play with his toys if you supervise him. This eliminates the chance for your dog to ride his toy without you noticing and can greatly increase the success of your training to correct the behavior.
It's a good idea to talk to other dog owners or a dog trainer and ask if they've had a similar experience. There's no shame in having to ask for help, as this is common behavior, especially in male dogs. Sharing stories with other dog owners can help. What works for someone else's dog may not work for your own dog. So it is always advisable to try different methods to improve your dog's behavior.
Author: Tom Marr viahondenblog.nl
Illustrations: Antonia Oana
This BLOG has been posted on our website as a guest blog with the author's approval.