Living with a Stufficidal Enthusiast
When our Mulligan was a puppy, he had an orange stuffed animal named Chuckanucka. He slept with Chuckanucka, frequently using him as a pillow. He carried Chuckanucka everywhere. He knew Chuckanucka’s name and would fetch him when asked. It was adorable.
One day, for no apparent reason, Chuckanucka had to die.
Mulligan tore open Chuckanucka’s abdomen and removed Chuckanucka’s insides with disturbing precision, until all that remained was his soft fleece skin. Then, his fleece skin was methodically ripped into tiny pieces. It was a grisly scene. Stuffing was strewn across the floor, some of it wet with saliva and effort. The look on Mulligan’s face could only be described as one of delirious glee. There may or may not have been a lot of shrieking on my part when I discovered what he was doing. I cleaned up the pieces of Chuckanucka’s body, hoping this was an isolated incident.
But, other stuffed toys went on to meet the same fate. Sometimes, they were permitted to live for a while. Others immediately met their demise. As a new dog owner, I was worried. I was living with a dog who enjoyed committing stufficide. What if his behavior escalated to something worse?
And, I was frustrated. I’d carefully select stuffed toys that were touted as “tough” and “indestructible” (read “expensive”), but they were no match for Mulligan. Even soft toys without stuffing were promptly shredded. Eventually, I quit buying stuffed and soft toys altogether. There would be no more victims on my watch!
But, as I learned more about dog behavior, I learned that stufficide mimics parts of a dog’s predation sequence. When dogs collect and consume prey, they perform these behaviors in order: search, stalk, chase, grab, kill, dissect, eat. Stufficide is part of that dissection piece of predation behavior, except it’s directed at stuffed animals, not real ones. Learning that stufficide was a normal part of dog behavior helped me feel better about my stufficidal enthusiast.
And, I changed my view about how Mulligan should play with his toys. Instead of expecting him to play with them in a non-destructive way, I let him decide what he’d like to do with them. They’re his toys, after all. If that means disemboweling them within five minutes, that’s his choice. He really loves it, and it makes his life more interesting to him.
A few years ago, Mulligan earned a stuffed toy for graduating from a group class. To the horror of other students, he promptly committed stufficide before the instructor could finish handing out toys and diplomas. “It’s his toy. He’s having fun with it,” I said.
We do take precautions in giving our dogs access to stuffed toys. Here are our House Rules for Stufficide:
Stuffed toys are stashed in a drawer and only brought out when it’s time for one of them to die. This prevents random stufficides and it makes for a special event.
Though Mulligan does not ingest stuffing, two of our other dogs will, so all other dogs are crated or confined when Mulligan is playing with a stuffed toy. This also prevents arguments and resource guarding.
All entrails and body parts are cleaned up after Mulligan is finished.
Mulligan is always supervised, just in case.
You might be worried that allowing your dog to engage in ripping and tearing fabric will result in them rehearsing these behaviors with your throw pillows, duvet, or curtains. However, giving your dog “legal” outlets to rehearse these behaviors will indulge their stufficidal tendencies and may reduce their desire to shred your sofa. Redirection and management is in order if your dog starts to chew on or dissect items that are off-limits.
Allowing dogs to engage in species-specific behavior is important to them. Sniffing, digging, and chasing are all examples of behaviors that are part of the joy of being a dog, and stufficide is no different. Engaging in these behaviors provides important physical and mental stimulation for our dogs. It’s up to us to provide appropriate outlets for these behaviors as our dogs co-exist with us in modern life.
If you also live with a dog who relishes in stufficide, I hope this makes you feel better about your dog’s proclivities.