We regularly receive questions from customers in our mailbox. We are happy to answer these and with our Customer Question series we share this information for other dog lovers. The questions are always answered with the help of experts who tell us answers from recent research and experiences. Today we answer a frequently asked question: Why does my dog bring me toys when I get home?
The question has been asked several times in the past few weeks, including on July 1, 2020. Patricia van den Bos wondered why her beagle Milou always brought her her favorite toy. We considered this question together with dog psychologist Robbert Fruitman.
Why does my dog bring toys when I get home?
It is of course very heart-warming to be greeted enthusiastically every time you come home or open the front door. Every dog's greeting ritual is unique, some dogs wag their tail, others lick their owner or jump on their owner. And then there are the dogs who bring their favorite toy, every time. But why?
The answer may be a little complicated because different dogs have different motivations for bringing toys to you. These are three of the most common reasons, according to psychologist Robbert Fruitman.
Your dog wants to play with you
While you were busy at work or running errands, your dog was at home sleeping all day because there really isn't much else to do while you're away. That's why it could very well be the highlight of his day when he comes home. This excitement can sometimes last the rest of the night, or your pup may simply have an initial bout of energy when you get home.
For some dogs, this excitement may come from a desire to play, especially if you usually play with your dog right away when you return. Then it won't take long for your dog to learn that it's play time when you get back home. Then it is your dog's way of saying 'Come play with me!', Robbert Fruitman explains. Most owners give their dogs plenty of toys and cuddly toys, which engage dogs for mental and physical stimulation.
When your dog offers you the toy, it may be the toy you use the most when playing with him. If you enjoy this greeting behavior, continue playing with your dog when you return home.
Your dog wants to show you the toy
Another common reason is that dogs want to show their favorite toy to the owner, but have no immediate intention of playing with you. They will prance in front of you and appear to show off their toy, then retreat as you reach for the toy. This is not a sign of disrespect or something negative, but you can encourage your dog by talking and giving extra attention, so your dog can enjoy that kind of attention.
These dogs may have learned that their owners will give them more attention when they hold something in their mouth, and thus love the undivided attention they get with their favorite toy. It may also be that dogs view it as a stay-away game. Regardless of the dog's motivation, your dog got what he wanted. You are in contact with him.
Your dog needs distraction
For dogs that exhibit a lot of irritable behavior, such as barking or biting, you can encourage them to go get a toy to redirect their exuberant behavior. Or you can give your dog a toy as soon as you step through the door to keep your dog's mouth occupied. This is a good solution for dogs that get overexcited and can't control themselves. It is difficult for a dog to bark and bite when a toy is in its mouth.
After several repetitions, a dog can immediately learn to grab a toy when you come through the door. Instead of forcing the dog to sit still, we can give them another outlet for their energy. So you may have started this ritual toy offering accidentally, but you have taught your dog something very useful.
From a simple wagging tail to offering their favorite toy, every dog has a different greeting style. And some just happen to be toy deliverers!