General info

What Is Nooking?


Nooking is a self-soothing behavior, where the dog will suckle on a blanket or a soft toy without destroying it. Nooking is more common in some breeds, particularly Weimaraners and Dobermans, but other breeds may nook as well.

Maybe you’ve seen your dog sucking on a toy or a blanket and wondered what was going on. The objects don’t get destroyed or have holes in them, they only end up with a wet patch. That’s what is called nooking.

Sometimes you can see your dog also kneading while they suck on a blanket and that’s part of nooking too. If you’re wondering if your dog is nooking, check out the video below to compare!

Why Do Weimaraners Nook?

Many consider nooking as a normal Weimaraner trait, although I need to mention that not all Weimaraners nook – Nelly doesn’t.

Most Weimaraners tend to nook when they’re relaxed – before a nap or before bedtime, but can also nook during the day as a calming and self-soothing gesture. Every Weim (and every dog for that matter) has different nooking habits and may prefer nooking sessions of varying lengths.

The most common reasons for nooking are the following:

  • relaxation, winding down
  • calming down excitement
  • relieving anxiety, boredom
  • pica (more on that below)
  • compulsion disorder

It’s not always apparent to the owner why their Weim is nooking. If it’s something that bothers you, you can start by journalling everything that happens during the day and the pattern for nooking should emerge soon.

What Do Other Weimaraner Owners Say About Nooking

I’ve done a bit of research among a few Weimaraner owners because I was interested how common nooking is. Out of 42 replies, 38 people said that they have (or had) a Weimaraner that nooks. People with multiple Weims in the household reported that some nook and some don’t.

Out of the Weims that nook, a few were weaned off early from mama (before 8 weeks) but most haven’t. Some were rescue Weimaraners as well with unknown history.

Most Weimaraners have nooked right from the start in puppyhood and within 1 year of age, while a couple Weims took longer to develop nooking behavior at 3 and 5 year old respectively.

A lot of Weim owners reported that nooking continued well until senior age.

Should I Let My Weimaraner Suck On Toys And Blankets?

As long as you can interrupt the behavior and redirect it, you don’t need to worry about it. If nooking starts to interfere with your life or the dog shows an aggression when you try to take the blanket or toy away, seek out animal behaviorist and also consult your vet.

If it bothers you though, you can try taking away soft objects which they tend to nook on. Depending on the dog and the cause of their nooking, they can redirect their nooking/licking to a part of their body or some other ways if their nooking was compulsion-related.

If the dog tends to suck on your blankets, pillows and clothes, make sure to give them their own blanket or toy. Over time nooking can cause the fabric to become thinner and eventually cause holes.

If you’d like to stop your Weim’s nooking, never punish the dog! It will most likely ramp up their nooking behavior.

What is nooking?

Studies On Nooking

Studies have been done on Doberman Pinchers, who tend to suck on blankets (and/or their flanks). This behavior can be extrapolated to the Weimaraner breed as well.

There was no difference in gender or neuter/spay status when it came to nooking. Most Dobermans in this study nooked daily, some were more affected than others, spending more time sucking on blankets than others.

The most common triggers mentioned in this study were:

  • inactivity (bored, crated)
  • increased arousal (excitement)
  • availability of soft items

Most Dobermans nooked at bedtime, when relaxing and cuddling with the owner, when they were tired, after a meal or at night time. Some owners noted that their dogs nooked when they were anxious or uncertain, with change of environment or routine or even from a loud noise.

Owners reported that they could predict fairly certainly when a nooking session would begin for their dog, which points to a ritual or a compulsion performed during inactivity.

There’s no real evidence whether early weaning has any effect on nooking as puppies that were with their mother for the recommended 8 weeks or longer still displayed the behavior later.

Some scientist speculate that with large litters some puppies might not get enough time suckling and had to compete with other littermates for their spot, thus causing nooking behavior. However, there’s not enough research on this topic.

About a third of the dogs used in this research also had pica.

What Is Pica?

Pica is a disorder also observed in humans and cats. Individuals with pica would eat or crave non-food items – dirt, fabric, paper, tissues, soap, drywall, paint and many more.

A study has found that some dogs displaying sucking habits on soft toys and blankets also suffer with this disorder. What might have started out as nooking slowly turned into destroying and ingesting the fabric.

Is Nooking A Symptom Of A Compulsive Disorder In Dogs?

From studies being done, nooking could be a symptom of a canine compulsive disorder. Canine CD and human OCD share some similarities but are very different.

Compulsive disorders in dogs can present in multitude of ways – from staring at shadows or chasing light reflections, tail chasing, excessive licking, leg chewing, inanimate object aggression and more.

Always consult your vet and a behavior specialist if you suspect anything is wrong with your dog. Usually nooking and above mentioned behaviors are quite cute and funny to the owners until it causes them injury or interferes with their lives.

What Causes Compulsive Disorder In Dogs?

Study has found that CD in dogs can be caused by stress (separation anxiety), frustration (not enough exercise) and conflict (inconsistent interaction). On the other hand, a lot of the compulsive behaviors in dogs may be conditioned by their owner.

The dog learns that the behavior gets the owner’s attention, so they get inadvertently conditioned to keep doing it to get the attention. If the behavior doesn’t happen when the owner isn’t present, it might mean the behavior was conditioned.

Is Nooking Dangerous?

When Weims nook, they don’t usually destroy their toys or blankets, so there’s a lower risk of them ingesting pieces of fabric or string that could cause obstruction.

However, if your Weim is nooking frequently and intensely, it can be detrimental to their health. In extreme cases, the dog can cause themselves mouth injury like severely worn down teeth, lower lip callous, and of course accidentally ingested fabric may cause vomiting or obstruction.

How Can I Prevent Nooking?

As I mentioned above, you can remove access to soft objects before the dog will usually start his nooking habit. The triggers for nooking may not be clear to owners but your best bet is to do the following to prevent nooking:

  • lower overall stress/anxiety by having a predictable routine
  • increase exercise – especially mental stimulation (tired Weim is a good Weim!)
  • occupational training – If you have a Weim, hunting is a great training. If you have a terrier, create pits for digging. If you have a scent hound, train tracking with them, etc.

Conclusion

There are things that science still doesn’t know for sure and the cause of nooking is one of them. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your dog’s life, can be interrupted and redirected and doesn’t cause injury, generally you don’t have to worry about your Weim nooking.

If at any point nooking becomes excessive, consult your vet and a behavioral specialist.


References:

  • Moon-Fanelli, Alice A., Nicholas H. Dodman, and Nicole Cottam, 2007, ” Blanket and flank sucking in Doberman Pinschers” (link)
  • Andrew U.LuescherDVM, PhD, Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice, 2004,”Diagnosis and management of compulsive disorders in dogs and cats” (link)
  • Valarie V. Tynes, Leslie Sinn, 2014, “Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors in Dogs and Cats: A Guide for Practitioners” (link)
  • Dodman, Nicholas H. et al., 2016, “Genomic Risk for Severe Canine Compulsive Disorder , a Dog Model of Human OCD” (link)

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