Why Is My Dog Carrying a Toy in His Mouth and Whining?
Why Do Some Dogs Whine While Carrying Toys?
A dog typically does one of two things with his favorite toy: 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 a behavior, but one thing is sure: He is definitively not complaining for want of a better toy!
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.
For instance, 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 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. She may therefore 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. For instance:
- A perception of the toy as high-value:Some dogs, when given high-value items such as bones, will whine and walk around for some time, almost as if looking for a safe place to bury it. Then they eventually calm down and decide to chew on or play with it. Certain breeds, especially those bred to hunt, see squeaky toys as high-value items. Labs and Goldens for instance, were bred to retrieve waterfowl, so a squeaky toy making a sound that mimics a downed bird may cause excitement.
- An instinct to bury the toy: If your dog does not normally hide stuff, 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).
- 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.
- 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. The dog actively seeking a play session.
As long as your dog does not become protective of the toy, whining is quite an innocent behavior. But 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!
For Further Reading
- Signs of False Pregnancy in Dogs
How to recognize a false pregnancy and what steps to take.
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
- Helpful 16
Why does my dog cry after he eats?
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.Helpful 5