Puppies and even adult dogs often attach to something soft -- like a blanket or shirt -- to suck on, especially at bedtime or when stressed. While you may be stuck with the unexplained but benign habit, there are ways to encourage or train your puppy to stop the behavior.
Distract the puppy from suckling when you catch him. Make a shaker by filling a metal can with rice or beans; shake it at him when he begins to suck on an object. If you do this repeatedly, he may associate suckling with the undesirable noise.
Remove your hand from his mouth and ignore him if he attempts to suck on your hand, just as you would if he were biting. Begin to pet or play with him again. If he tries to suckle, repeat the process of ignoring him so he can associate the behavior with your lack of interest in playing. If necessary, leave the room for one or two minutes before playing again.
Exercise your puppy vigorously throughout the day so that he is tired and goes right to sleep at night. In addition, exercise relieves stress and releases calming endorphins into the body.
Feed your puppy a high-quality dog food that doesn't consist of commercial fillers. Second-rate dog food may leave your puppy feeling hungry at night, encouraging the desire to "nurse" long after he is weaned.
Have your veterinarian give the puppy an exam to rule out health issues, as well as discuss the beginnings of an obsessive-compulsive behavior. Your puppy's doctor can devise a treatment plan to assist you in stopping a negative behavior from becoming destructive as your dog becomes an adult.
- Puppies who continue to suck on fabric after weaning may have been separated from their mothers too soon.
- Stopping the suckling behavior early is best; dogs who continue the habit may eventually suck on their own skin and cause injuries.
Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."