A dog who chews on paper products could have some kind of underlying medical issue. On the other hand, in typical canine fashion, your four-legged comrade could just be trying to get your attention. Before scolding him, get him in for a checkup to get to the root of the problem.
Snacking on Used Napkins
Napkins are one type of paper product that are particularly tasty for pups. Think about it: You ate a juicy burger, wiped your face with a paper napkin, and tossed the napkin in the trash. Naturally, Murphy seeks a chance to snag it in hopes to snatch the tiniest morsel of your dinner. He has learned that napkins taste good, and he scavenges for them.
Eating Paper for Attention
When you snap at Murphy for going after a napkin, or even that stack of scrap paper next to the fireplace, he quickly learns that grabbing these objects gets your attention. If you wind up stopping what you’re doing and going over to pull him away from the paper product, he just got a smidgen of attention from you -- exactly what he was aiming for. He doesn’t care that it was negative interaction; he just wanted you to focus on him.
Pica is a phenomenon that causes your dog to gnaw away happily on inedible objects like rocks, dirt, feces and paper products. It’s possible that your pooch is missing some kind of nutrient from his diet, so his body makes him crave weird things. Pica can stem from boredom, curiosity or even as a way to ease pain from teething -- reasons for pica are relatively unclear. Because paper-eating can be a case of pica and of other things, it’s best to get him in for a thorough checkup and let your veterinarian know that the dog's favorite snack appears to be paper.
If your fur ball tends to eat paper on a daily basis, he could wind up with some digestive problems. Paper, particularly napkins, absorbs water when it gets wet. So when Murphy swallows a chunk of the morning newspaper, it can get stuck in his throat, making it difficult for him to swallow, or even breathe. Any paper that does make it down to his intestinal tract can form sort of a wall, because it is a foreign object his body isn’t used to. If his gut can’t push it along, food waste gets trapped. He can wind up with a serious complication that may lead to surgery in extreme cases.
After you’ve doggy-proofed your home, put away every trace of paper and secured your trash bin, you’ll want to give Murphy plenty of diversions from his chewing obsession. You don’t want him to turn to your shoes or furniture if he can’t get his paper fix. Pick out a variety of toys: ropes, plastic-based chew bones and hollow toys that hide treats. Rotate toys every day and make sure he always has access to one or two when you are home. If he does wind up digging through the barrel and grabbing a piece of junk mail from the trash, simply walk over, pick up the paper and completely ignore him. You want to take away the potentially dangerous object without giving him any gratification that he caught your attention.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.