Why Is My Dog Carrying a Toy in His Mouth and Whining?

Updated on February 16, 2016
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

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!

Possible Explanations

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!

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.

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    • profile image

      Gary Harrington 

      2 weeks ago

      This site is great. The first time I used it. Thank you

    • profile image

      Karen Irelan 

      2 weeks ago

      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?

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 months ago from USA

      Ava, is she spayed?

    • profile image

      Ava 

      7 months ago

      My one year old beagle is whining and carrying it around with it. I’m getting scared somethings wrong with her. Can you help?

    • profile image

      Neelam chavda 

      8 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Lux 

      9 months ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Matthew 

      10 months ago

      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?

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      10 months ago from USA

      Some dogs like grooming each other, so maybe your dog is trying to groom teddy?

    • profile image

      Jane 

      10 months ago

      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)

    • profile image

      Lindsey 

      12 months ago

      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.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      14 months ago from USA

      Isabella, is your dog not spayed? It could be a false pregnancy.

    • profile image

      Isabella Block 

      14 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Gillian 

      16 months ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Leo 

      16 months ago

      Nice article!

    • profile image

      joe 

      16 months ago

      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.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      17 months ago from USA

      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).

    • profile image

      Kay 

      20 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Jessie 

      21 months ago

      What do you do about it?

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      2 years ago from USA

      Amy B, Aww.. so cute, looks like you did what your dog was just hoping for, gotta love 'em!

    • profile image

      Amy B. 

      2 years ago

      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!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      2 years ago from USA

      Bridget, please seek the help of a good trainer using positive training methods!

    • profile image

      bridget 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      2 years ago from USA

      Hello Kathy, it depends on why your dog is carrying a toy and whining in the first place. Is your dog spayed or not?

    • profile image

      Kathy 

      2 years ago

      How long does this last my dog has been whining and carrying her toy puppy around with her

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      2 years ago from USA

      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.

    • profile image

      Addison 

      2 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Edu 

      2 years ago

      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 :)

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      3 years ago from USA

      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!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago from USA

      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...

    • profile image

      tom 

      4 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Andrew 

      4 years ago

      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.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago from USA

      Hello Maegan, have you figured out a potential cause for your dog carrying a toy in her mouth and whining?

    • profile image

      Meagan 

      4 years ago

      Thank you so much for this information. I was becoming increasingly concerned- as my dog has carried out this behavior for several days now.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      5 years ago from USA

      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.

    • profile image

      april 

      5 years ago

      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?

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the thumbs up! My girl has to add the whining on top of it, but it's fortunately short-lived:)

    • Solaras profile image

      Solaras 

      5 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Emily 

      6 years ago

      My doberman does this all the time

    • profile image

      D. 

      6 years ago

      My German Shepherd does this. At least now we'll finally have a reasoning behind it.

    • profile image

      C. 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 

      7 years ago from USA

      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.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      7 years ago from USA

      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.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      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.

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