Why Do Dogs Knead? (7 Reasons and 5 Solutions)

Dogs are certainly one of the most popular pets for a reason: they’re fun! They provide us with companionship, love, and laughs. But sometimes, their behavior can be downright mysterious.

Why do some dogs insist on licking our belly buttons? Or what about dogs that start licking our slippers the moment we kick them off? It’s often hard to figure out what our furry friends want or are trying to tell us.

Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there to help us decode canine behavior. By taking the time to understand our furry companions, we can deepen the bond we share with them and make sure that they always have a happy home.

Dog kneading (I grew up thinking this was a cat thing!) is definitely on the list of strange behaviors. So, why do dogs knead?  There are many reasons why dogs knead but most likely it is because of one of the following:

  • Mimicking the stimulation of milk production
  • Showing affection
  • Being territorial
  • Making the bed more comfortable
  • Stretching
  • Nesting
  • Calming down anxious nerves

There Are Many Reasons Dogs Knead

There could be one or more reasons your dog is kneading.  Fortunately, for most dogs, kneading is a harmless instinct.  Let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons dogs make biscuits.

To Stimulate Milk Production

Okay, so your dog is no longer a puppy and has long been weaned from his mother’s milk, but that habit and instinct can stick with some dogs for life.  

As puppies, dogs will often knead their mother before and during nursing to help get the milk flowing.  The movement also feels familiar to the pup, and so they may continue the behavior even after they’re weaned.

Kneading Can Be A Sign Of Affection From Your Dog

Yes, your dog loves you, and one way he may show it is by giving you a good kneading.

Dogs will often knead when they’re feeling happy and content, much like how humans might pat someone on the back or give them a hug. So if your dog starts kneading you while you’re petting him, it’s likely that he’s just expressing how much he enjoys your affection.

It Could Be A Throwback To Your Dog’s Wild Roots

Some experts believe that dogs knead as a way to mark their territory or leave their scent. In the wild, kneading would help distribute their scent over a larger area, which would be useful for both hunting and defense purposes.

So, there’s a chance that your dog’s kneading could be a holdover from his wild ancestors.

Your Dog Is Preparing Their Bed (Den)

Dogs like to have a comfortable place to sleep, just like we do. And one way they may prepare their bed is by kneading it beforehand. In the past, dogs weren’t lucky enough to always have nice, safe, and comfortable areas to sleep in.  Rather they would be in dens with other dogs.

To make those dens more comfortable, dogs would knead them to help shape them and make them more comfortable to sleep in.

Nowadays, your dog may still do this behavior even though he doesn’t need to worry about making his bed. It could be that he’s just trying to make sure his sleeping area is as comfortable as possible.

Or Maybe Your Dog Is Just Stretching

Sometimes, dogs will knead as a way to stretch their muscles. This could be especially true if your dog has just gotten up from a nap or has been sitting in one position for a while.

So, if you see your dog start kneading after he’s been lying down or sitting, it’s likely that he’s just trying to get his muscles moving again.

Maternal Instinct To Nest

For female dogs who are pregnant or have just given birth, kneading can be a way to help build their nest. By using her paws to push and pull at her bedding, she can create a cozy and comfortable area for her puppies.

This behavior may also be seen in female dogs who are not pregnant but are experiencing a false pregnancy.

To Calm Down And Relieve Stress

For some dogs, kneading may be a way to relieve stress or anxiety. The repetitive motion can be soothing and help to calm the dog down. This may be especially true if the dog has also gathered up your belongings. 

What If My Dog Is Being Destructive When He Kneads?

As we’ve seen, most reasons for dog kneading are benign.  However, some dogs have a knack for doing safe and harmless behavior in a way that can be destructive.  So, if your dog’s kneading is damaging the floor, linens, furniture, or anything else, here are a few tips to try to get them to stop their destructive behavior.

Provide Plenty Of Toys And Playtime

Sometimes dog kneading shows up in the form of digging.  Unfortunately, dogs digging can be very destructive when done in the wrong spot. 

One way to try to stop your dog from kneading/digging and being destructive is to provide them with plenty of toys and playtime.

Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise, both mental and physical. This could include things like playing fetch, going for walks or runs, learning new tricks, and more.

Correct The Behavior With Positive Reinforcement

If your dog is kneading and being destructive, you’ll want to correct the behavior as soon as possible. The best way to do this is with positive reinforcement training.

Whenever your dog is not being destructive or stops themselves from giving in to their instincts, make sure to give him plenty of praise, petting, and treats.

With time and patience, your dog will learn that he gets attention and rewards only when he’s not destructively kneading.

Keep Your Dog Out of Whatever Room He Is Destructive In

While you’re working on training your dog with other methods (such as positive reinforcement and the ‘no command’) you may also want to keep him out of the room or area in which he is destructive.

You can do this by using baby gates, crates, or even just closing doors.

The important thing is that you make sure your dog is not able to get into the area where he is destructive so that he can’t keep doing the behavior.

Keep Your Dogs Nails Trimmed

If your dog’s nails are allowed to get too long, they can more easily catch on things and tear them up, which is obviously not something you want if your dog is a biscuit maker.

So, make sure to keep your dog’s nails trimmed on a regular basis. This will help to minimize the damage caused by his kneading.

Use A Threshold Cover or Bitter Spray

If your dog is destructively kneading carpet or other flooring, you may want to try using a threshold cover or bitter spray.

These products are designed to keep dogs from chewing or biting on things, and they can sometimes work for kneading as well.

You can find threshold covers and bitter sprays at most pet stores or online.

Summary: Why Do Dogs Make Biscuits?

While it may seem like a strange behavior, dog kneading is actually quite endearing when it isn’t destructive. 

Many dogs knead as a way to show their affection for their owner or as a way to calm themselves down.

Some dogs may also do it out of instinct, as it’s a behavior that is often seen in puppies and female dogs who are pregnant or have just given birth.

If your dog is being destructive when he kneads, there are a few things you can do to stop the behavior, such as providing plenty of toys and playtime, training with positive reinforcement, and keeping your dog’s nails trimmed.

You can also try keeping your dog out of the room or area where he is destructive, trimming his nails, or using a threshold cover or bitter spray.

So, if your dog is kneading, don’t be too concerned. As long as he isn’t being destructive there usually isn’t anything to worry about.

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