Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
Why Do Some Dogs Whine While Carrying Toys?
A dog typically does one of two things with its favorite toy. It might carry it to his favorite spots to relax with and gnaw on or pace restlessly with the toys in his mouth, whining endlessly.
If your dog does that latter, you're probably wondering what gives. There are several explanations for such behavior, but he's definitively not just complaining for want of a better toy!
What's Up With Dogs Carrying Toys and Whining?
Because dogs cannot talk, we can ultimately only make assumptions for their behavior. The age, gender, and breed of the dog may be factors to keep in mind when looking at specific dog behaviors. Following are several potential reasons why a dog may carry a toy and whine.
Signs of a False Pregnancy
If the behavior is carried out by an unspayed female, it may be that she is exhibiting the first signs of a false pregnancy. A false pregnancy in dogs takes place after a dog has gone through heat, but she did not mate/her eggs were not fertilized.
A female in false pregnancy may therefore engage in mothering behaviors such as carrying toys around as if they were her pups. Therefore, she may form an emotional attachment to her toys and whine as she carries them around looking for a place to nest.
However, males, spayed females, and females not actively undergoing a false pregnancy may also carry toys and whine, but for quite different behaviors.
Perception of Toys as High-Value
Some dogs, when given high-value items such as bones or certain toys, will whine and walk around for some time. Then they eventually calm down and decide to chew on or play with it.
Certain breeds, especially those bred to hunt rodents like Yorkies and rat terriers, perceive squeaky toys as high-value items. Labs and Goldens instead were bred to retrieve waterfowl, so a squeaky toy making a sound that mimics a downed bird may cause excitement.
An Instinct to Bury
If your dog does not normally hide stuff in the yard or under the pillows of your couch, it could be that he instinctively knows that there is something he is supposed to do with his treasured toy, but doesn't know what (especially if he has never seen another dog bury his treasures).
So your dog may carry his toy around whining, but since there's no ground to bury the toy in, he'll whine a bit in frustration, not knowing exactly what to do.
A Sign of Excitement
Some dogs, on the other hand, seem to be so excited about having a new toy they do not know how to express themselves, and this generates whining sessions. The whining may stop when your dog has vented enough and calmed down.
A Desire to Play
It could be the dog wants the owner to play with the toy with him, and whining is his way to express that desire. For example, if you've taught your dog to play fetch, he may come with his toy in his mouth requesting a session.
If you do not pay attention, he may whine. If the whining gets your attention and you toss the ball, then the whining is reinforced and will likely be repeated every time the dog wants to play. However, this is different behavior than carrying a toy aimlessly around.
A Way to Self-Sooth
This can stem from a dog's instinctive need to keep their mouths busy and self-sooth as their arousal levels increase, sort of like a pacifier does with babies. This can explain why many dogs go grab a toy when they are excited to see you or guests.
How to Reduce the Whining
As long as your dog does not become protective of the toy, whining is quite an innocent behavior. However, it can get annoying, especially if your dog notices it flags your attention.
If it bothers you, you can try to invest in toys that are more interactive such as Kongs. You can fill Kongs with goodies, which encourages the dog to actively seek out its contents.
This leads to the dog laying down and working on it, rather than carrying it around aimlessly. A win-win situation for all!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My dog keeps carrying a toy and whining, is she pregnant?
Answer: Not necessarily. Many dogs who carry out this behavior are spayed female and male dogs. On top of this, intact (not-spayed) dogs, carrying a toy and whining can also be seen when they are exhibiting signs of false pregnancy. Telling a false pregnancy from a real pregnancy in dogs can be challenging. To know whether your dog is pregnant or not, your best bet is to have your dog see a vet.
Question: Why does my dog cry after he eats?
Answer: This warrants investigation by a vet to rule out medical problems. If the whining happens right after eating there may be chances the dog may have painful swallowing or some type of issue in the esophagus (ulcer, structure, etc.). It may be helpful to record the behavior and then show it to a vet so the vet can see how long after eating it happens and whether your dog shows signs of pain after swallowing. Of course, this can also be just a behavior quirk, but it's always worthy ruling out medical issues.
© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli
Silvia on August 18, 2020:
My Husky is 16 months and she began to be very over protective of a small colorful ball. She whines/cries if we take it away and when we give it back she goes to her bed crying and hides it. She doesn't want anyone to touch it. Her behavior isn't normal because she growls at who ever wants to get close to her when she has the ball and she never did that before. I agree about the false pregnancy because she was in heat about a month or more ago. I try to walk her and she refuses to go with me because she is caring for her ball.
christina quinn on May 22, 2020:
my 2 year old dog does this and he always does it with the same toy. he hasn't done it in a while though...
Nadine on February 28, 2020:
Mine carries his treats around winning, then tries to bury in his bed under blankets,etc. He never seems satisfied as he keeps digging it out & trying to rebury over & over. He goes days without trying to eat it,sometimes never eating it. Is funny watching hid try to push something over the treat when there's nothing there but bare floor or carpet.
Chiquis on October 07, 2019:
I gave my 11 year old chihuahua a mint teeth cleaning bone and she loved it so much but started whimpering and crying. She looked sad but wanted to be where the bone was. She’s spayed. So why is she acting like this
Cristina Coronado on September 19, 2019:
My 3 year old poodle has Ben winning and carrying a toy in her mouth for the past 2/3 days . She won’t let go of it or leave it behind. She spends most of her time hidden and won’t come out to eat
Suzanne on September 14, 2019:
I'm so happy to have found out the many reasons my dog is carrying around her binky and whining with it!!
I have had her for 6 months now, and she has never done this before.
I heard her whining and became concerned, i then realised that it was only when carrying around her squeaky pacifiers. Thank you for this wonderful article!!!
Lindsey Martinez on June 24, 2019:
My dog has recently been doing this she is female but never mated , and she also has been carrying toys to bed (she doesn’t do this very often) , also if I would try to play with the toy she’ll take it back and continue to whine/ cry, please help or give an explanation for this behavior
granny on June 18, 2019:
My Chihuahua puppy is now a 11 month old neutered male. He has always hid his treats But would keep constantly moving them. & walking around with in mouth ,whining , looking for another hiding place. Is this a normal activity? My 13 yr old female hid hers in open spaces like behind a chair leg or somewhere in close site but never whined nor tried digging. But if she saw you looking she would move it somewhere else. Another male we did have always hid his in the couch. Funny watching the puppy trying to cover his treat by pushing on carpet or blanket with his nose. Even tries to dig into them
Amber Clarke on March 24, 2019:
My dog had puppies 2 days ago, when she leaves the pups to walk around our family home she will leave the puppies in their bed,but she carries around her squeaky toy In her mouth. Does anyone know why she’s doing this . If you can help me to understand x
Gary Harrington on November 26, 2018:
This site is great. The first time I used it. Thank you
Karen Irelan on November 24, 2018:
I bought my dog a stuffed toy right after she was spayed. She now carries it everywhere, runs in the room to get it as soon as she comes in from outside, and sometimes whines with it in her mouth.
Is this her mothering instinct and knowing that she cant have babies?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 22, 2018:
Ava, is she spayed?
Ava on April 18, 2018:
My one year old beagle is whining and carrying it around with it. I’m getting scared somethings wrong with her. Can you help?
Neelam chavda on March 30, 2018:
How can i stop my dog from whining as you have explained that female dogs do that when its a false pregnancy but my dog has not yet mated ... please help
Lux on March 10, 2018:
My dog was holding a bone in his mouth and crying while walking around with it. I was concerned that he was choking, however when I opened his mouth he apeared to be fine. Is it likely one of the four reasons? Or is it different because it is a treat?
Matthew on January 31, 2018:
I bought my dog a flappy toy and from the moment he got it he was walking around the house whining. He would not put it down or play with it and then finally he took it outside, left it and came back inside. He didn't try to bury or hide it. He has recently started doing this with a toy he loves and would play with, he no longer plays with it and just walks around the house whining with it in his mouth. Any idea what could be causing this?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 23, 2018:
Some dogs like grooming each other, so maybe your dog is trying to groom teddy?
Jane on January 20, 2018:
Hi just wondering if you have any idea why my dog cuddles his teddy with it in his mouth and rubs its back (this prolly sounds so weird)
Lindsey on November 19, 2017:
We recently got our dog (4 year old Boxer mix) a noisy chicken toy. At first he seemed to love it but as time goes on (still less than a week today), he keeps trying to hide the toy. He will carry it around and whine while searching for somewhere to drop it. I noticed that he engages in digging into the furniture and blankets or pillows to try and hide the toy. Once he does find somewhere to put the toy, he leaves it alone and doesn't come back to it. I thought he would play with the toy but all he seems to want to do is hide the chicken.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 09, 2017:
Isabella, is your dog not spayed? It could be a false pregnancy.
Isabella Block on October 02, 2017:
my Yorkshire terrier ( 3 years almost female ) has been carrying a small stuffed animal around sense yesturday morning and whimpering she had gone through this a while back and I called the vet but they thought I was crazy or something but it didn't seem as bad has it did this time.
Gillian on August 15, 2017:
My dog does it with bones, I know he is looking for somewhere to hide it and eventually he will though he will then refuse to leave his hiding place. He is protective and aggressive of bones and food that he can't at straight away. Working on giving him "higher value" goods for him to understand that I'm not there to steal his stuff but what I'm not sure is am I meant to give him the bone every day to be able to work with him? It stresses him out and I prefer to avoid but then it means he's not learning? Any advice please?
Leo on August 12, 2017:
joe on August 04, 2017:
My dog treats her stuffed animal like its her puppy. she never had puppies but gently carries a little stuffed giraffe in her mouth all day long and whines constantly while doing it.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 15, 2017:
Darren, it could be the instinct to hide the toy which creates conflict. It can also be mouth pain too at times (like in dogs with periodontal disease).
Kay on March 27, 2017:
My cockers (male littermates). One has two toys that he whines while he's playing. He doe not exhibit this behavior with his other toys. The other only plays with his ball. He is a fanatic when it comes to this ball (he will fight his brother - he knows it so he doesnt try him). After reading this article it doesn't seem he wants to bury it. He also takes one of them outside to play. My conclusion is that he loves it soooooo much
Jessie on March 07, 2017:
What do you do about it?
Chester122 on March 06, 2017:
I have a 10 year old Tibetan terrier. He is sick after an evening meal maybe twice a week. Within ten minutes of him eating he finds a toy & walks around the table whining for about 15/20 minutes and then throws up & then eats it up & settles down. He's been to the vet & had scans. I've put him on hyper allergic meals. I give him tiny meals throughout the day but nothing seems to reduce the times & the whining. One thing I think I've picked up on is that he is rarely sick over a weekend when my partner is home. Could it be stress or anxiety. If so what else can I do ???
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 27, 2016:
Amy B, Aww.. so cute, looks like you did what your dog was just hoping for, gotta love 'em!
Amy B. on September 12, 2016:
Thank so much for this post. My daughter`s new puppy chewy got a new squeaky toy from his bark box and was whining non stop with it in his mouth. We tried everything. I read this post and learned he wanted to bury it, so we put a large blanket in the floor and he instantly hid his new treasure in the blanket and is very happy now!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 24, 2016:
Bridget, please seek the help of a good trainer using positive training methods!
bridget on August 21, 2016:
my jack russell goes after people when they approach him . also when they try to leave the house he goes after them. he will bite them i dont no what to do.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 17, 2016:
Hello Kathy, it depends on why your dog is carrying a toy and whining in the first place. Is your dog spayed or not?
Kathy on June 15, 2016:
How long does this last my dog has been whining and carrying her toy puppy around with her
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 21, 2016:
It could be a false pregnancy or something else going on. A vet check could be helpful to rule out anything physical going on. Try to exercise her more and keep her mentally stimulated.
Addison on February 27, 2016:
My Female husky was recently spayed at a year old. She had just finished her second heat, and we waited the recommended time after heat before getting her spayed. Now she is whining and restlessly carrying around a rubber lizard toy. She checks on it every few hours and seems really concerned about it and sometime she brings it to me. Could this be false pregnancy? even though she was recently spayed?
Edu on February 05, 2016:
My beagle (9 months) does that but in a more funny/diff way. He grabs his bone AND a toy and THEN he starts all this eternal crying and walking. In most times he is looking for a place to bury it (and it tends to be our couch with a couple of blankets so he thinks it's actually being buried).
Some other times he just keeps looking at me and crying with his mouth full of stuff (toy, bone... sometimes 2 toys). I guess he wants attention :)
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 07, 2015:
Well, we have domesticated our dogs and put them in an artificial environment in our homes, those instincts are always alive and our homes do not offer the same burying spots as nature intended to, so it's not surprising if dogs are often frustrated or in conflict. Thanks for sharing your story!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 15, 2014:
Good question! Generally, it's best to let it run its course. Taking the stuffed animal away will not solve the underlying problem. Your dog may resource guard it and may get defensive or may be looking for a "substitute." and if a substitute cannot be found, your dog may pace, whine etc. A better option may be to walk your dog or try engage her with some activities such as extracting food from a stuffed Kong. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Understanding-Dog-Fals...
tom on July 15, 2014:
My chihuahua is experiencing a false pregnancy. It's kind of funny but is getting annoying. Should we take her you away or will it stress her out more?
Andrew on July 08, 2014:
We've had our adopted Cocker Spaniel mix for about a week and we've found that she whines when we give her a toy that squeaks or makes a crinkle noise. She'll take those toys to her "den" under a side table in our living room (a spot she picked out pretty quick as a 'safe' place). She doesn't really like playing with the noisy toys, just brings them to her den. She's about 5 years old but was only recently spayed. I wondered if some maternal instincts were making her treat them like puppies she may have had before we adopted her.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 16, 2014:
Hello Maegan, have you figured out a potential cause for your dog carrying a toy in her mouth and whining?
Meagan on June 16, 2014:
Thank you so much for this information. I was becoming increasingly concerned- as my dog has carried out this behavior for several days now.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 05, 2013:
Is she intact? If so, has she been in heat recently-like a month or two ago? this sounds like nesting behavior in a dog with a false pregnancy.
april on April 04, 2013:
my girl been cry for a week she only eats half her food ,cry for every small little thing and takes her toy ever this is the second time thing this happens but why?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 25, 2013:
Thanks for the thumbs up! My girl has to add the whining on top of it, but it's fortunately short-lived:)
Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on March 25, 2013:
Thumbs Up and Interesting. I have a boy that will not great me when I come home unless he has a toy in his mouth. If he sees me pulling up in the driveway, he runs to get a toy for the greeting. No whining though thank goodness!
Emily on August 14, 2012:
My doberman does this all the time
D. on August 12, 2012:
My German Shepherd does this. At least now we'll finally have a reasoning behind it.
C. on December 14, 2011:
Very interesting. Thank you for the information. My dog doesn't whine - he just wanders around until he finds a place to bury something. Haa. At times he tries to bury his food and he gets it all over the floor. If he wants to play, he goes and gets his ball and then stands and looks at me. It's my friends dog that wanders around with a toy and she whines. So, I will give her your information.
Tammy on December 11, 2011:
My doesn't wine, but instead, drops her toy by our feet. If we ignore her, she will tap our leg with her paw. If this still doesn't bring the attention she wants, she will sneeze on our feet or place her paws on the arms of our computer chair. This is her way of showing us she is ready to play, eat, or go outside. I sometimes find the behavior annoying when I am busy, but most of the time laugh at how she is communicating. It would be nice if they could talk, I would love to hear what they were thinking.
Shasta Matova from USA on December 11, 2011:
While I have figured out the basic language of my dog - when he wants to go out, when he wants to eat what is on m plate - but the more complex things are harder for me to figure out. I'm glad he doesn't whine with a toy in his mouth. Toys calm him down.
Kristin Trapp from Illinois on December 10, 2011:
This was very interesting. Many times my beagle will try to "bury" the last piece of a bone. She literally will hide it behind cushions and sweep her nose across the couch as if she is covering it up the bone with dirt. Before she finally finds the perfect burying spot though, she will run around with it in her mouth whining. Sometimes she is absolutely frantic, but it has always seemed like instinctual burying behavior to me. Sometimes she not only has the bone in her mouth, but a small toy as well and then "buries" the two together. Thanks for sharing all this information and possible explanations. If only the dogs could tell us themselves.