Does this scenario sound familiar?
You walk through the door after a long day of work, and you’re greeted by your favorite furry friend. Not only is your dog excited to see you, she also brought you a present! Sometimes it’s one of her toys, and other times it’s a shoe, pillow, or anything else that was nearby the second she heard your car door close.
It’s always cute when your pup comes wiggling up to you with something special in her mouth, but why does she do it? Does she think a present will convince you to never leave again? Is she threatening to destroy said present if you don’t immediately bend down and scratch her ears?
While we can’t know for certain without speaking the same language, canine behaviorists have come up with a few solid theories to explain this adorable behavior. Here’s what they have to say.
1. It’s Their Wolf-Like Instinct
All dogs--yes even your bow-tie wearing couch potato--have a little bit of wild in them. Wolf-like instincts are in their genes. Wolves abide by the pack hierarchy, and that social structure comes with a few rules. One of those rules is that you always respect the alpha. Lower ranking wolves do their best to please the alpha, and sometimes that means bringing them presents--like the best parts of a recent kill. Your dog bringing you a toy when you come home could be her way of showing you respect and making you happy.
2. It’s Time to Play
After sitting at home alone all day, your playful pup doesn’t want to waste any time. As soon as you walk through the door, she’s ready to start playing. She shows you this by bringing over a favorite toy, or in some cases, she gets so excited she just grabs whatever is closest. The TV remote might not be the best play thing, but if it convinces you to spend time with her, she doesn’t really care.
3. It's an Expression of Trust
When you’re away from home, and even when you're not, your dog might see it as her responsibility to protect the homestead. There’s a reason why our furry friends make great guard dogs, after all. She learned quickly how to tell the difference between an intruder and the sound of your car pulling into the driveway. She knows you and trusts you, and offering up an object when you walk through the door could be her way of expressing that trust. Toys are sacred objects, and by offering it up, she’s showing you she trusts you to take care of her most valuable possessions.
4. It’s All About Unused Energy
Sitting at home while the humans are out doing whatever humans do is boring. Even when you leave out a good supply of toys, puzzles, and treats, your dog spends hours sleeping and just staring into space. For high-energy dogs, this can be mentally taxing. They need to exercise and burn off energy, and quick grabbing a toy and bringing it to the door is probably the first activity they’ve gotten to do in hours.
5. They’re Excited to See You!
If nothing else seems to make sense, your dog's toy-grabbing behavior could simply be her way of showing how happy she is about your return. Dogs (well most of them at least) associate toys with feelings of happiness. You coming home after a long time away is another reason to be happy, and bringing a toy into the mix makes it even better.