Dogs have many endearing quirks, one of which is bringing you a toy when you get home. It seems like a sweet gesture, but have you ever really stopped to wonder why they might do it? In this article, we look at some of the most common reasons why your dog will greet you with a toy.
Why does my dog bring me a toy when I get home?
Here are some of the most common reasons that your dog might bring you a toy, though bear in mind that he could have his own reasons too!
1. Your dog wants to play
Bringing you a toy is often a dog’s way of inviting you to play. As well as bringing a toy they might be wagging their tail, jumping around, and/or play-bowing. If your dog can’t find a toy, he may bring you something else instead, like a piece of bedding or a shoe! The message will still be the same though – play with me!
It might be worth making sure your dog has a ready stash of toys to avoid him making a game out of any other items.
2. Your dog wants to show off their toy/bring you a gift
Many dogs can become quite attached to their toys, so the fact your dog is bringing it over shows a level of trust as well as playfulness. It’s also a way of your dog demonstrating his love, through physically sharing his possessions with you.
Of course, some dogs might just be showing off their toys to you with no intention of actually giving them up! This can be a form of playful teasing and may result in a “chase me” type game!
3. Your dog may be possessive
If your dog frequently brings his toys to you but seems wary and doesn’t want to give them up, then monitor this behavior closely. Some dogs may pick up their favorite toy as a way of protecting it, by stopping others from being able to get it. Look out for other signs, like tensing up if anyone approaches his toy, growling, or guarding the toy.
This could be a dangerous situation, especially if a small child were to accidentally pick up your dog’s favorite toy by mistake. If your dog is showing signs of guarding or aggression, then seek professional help from a qualified animal behaviorist to try and work through this behavior safely.
4. Your dog might be having a false pregnancy
If it is unusual for your dog to carry a toy in his mouth and greet you with it, then it’s worth considering whether there is an underlying hormonal issue at play. Female dogs can experience pseudo-pregnancy (false pregnancy), due to an imbalance in hormone levels.
Some dogs will show behavioral changes like guarding toys and carrying them around like puppies, as well as doing things like “nesting” with their bedding. They may also have physical changes like an increase in their mammary gland size and milk production.
Most female dogs will come out of a pseudo-pregnancy by themselves over time, but medications are also available that can help, especially if your dog is lactating excessively.
5. Natural hunting behavior
Pack behavior dictates that dogs look up to their alpha/pack leader by acting submissively. Your dog may be trying to keep you, his pack leader, happy by bringing him something. Similarly, when wild dogs hunt and eat, the alpha gets to go first. Your dog is just trying to keep you appeased by recognizing your place as the alpha pack leader.
6. Your dog is showing you they are happy to see you
If your dog is bringing you a toy it usually means they are happy and excited to see you, which is wonderful. This shows you have a relaxed and playful dog, who is ready to interact with you positively.
Usually carrying a toy in their mouth tempers their excitement to a manageable level. Your dog will probably be furiously wagging his tail but carrying a toy in his mouth helps calm him. Compare this to an excited dog with no toy who might come along open-mouthed, panting, barking, and jumping up.
Both are happy dogs, but the one with the toy in his mouth is a bit more controlled and tends to be a bit more pleasant to interact with.
7. Your dog is trying to win people over
Dogs don’t just bring toys to their parents, they will quite often bring a toy to someone that they don’t know too. They are thought to be trying to win this person over, to gain their trust. If the dog succeeds in doing this then he will make a new friend to play with him, feed him, and generally fuss him. So, bringing a toy is a great way to engage with someone new and make friends with them.
8. You may have reinforced the behavior
If your dog brings you a toy and you react happily and enthusiastically then he will want to keep repeating this behavior. Clapping, laughing, and rewarding them by stroking them, will all be positive indications to your dog that he is making you happy. He will keep repeating this behavior each time you come home to keep getting the same reaction from you.
There are many reasons why your dog might bring you a toy when you get home, and most of these are because he is feeling happy and playful. Make sure that this is always the mood you observe though, as a small number of dogs may carry a toy in their mouth to guard and protect it. If you have any concerns about your pet’s behavior then seek professional help, but otherwise, you can enjoy the fact your dog likes to greet you with a waggy tail and a toy or two!