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The Root of the Behavior
One popular theory of what would cause a dog to be a gift giver is due to a natural hunting instinct. In the wild, canines will carry their food back to their dens to create a cache. Part of this practice is sometimes presenting part of their acquired prey to the pack’s Alpha. In the case of domesticated canine, you are their Alpha. This act of gifting can be seen as a sign of submission and respect.
Another belief is that we humans have created this behavior through selective breeding. Hunting animals, such as retrievers, have been taught to “soft mouth” their prey and bring it back to the hunter. In training certain breeds to behave in this manner it has become part of their instinct to retrieve something and present it to their owner. So, in this case, we only have ourselves to blame.
More simple explanations are thought to be that your pup is seeking attention or play time. Or they believe that bringing us a gift makes us happy. When you respond to a gift your pooch has brought with a higher pitched voice or seem filled with excitement, your pup is pleased. This positive reinforcement will encourage the behavior to continue. The excitement you show could also cause your furry friend to think that giving you a gift signals play time. Which means he or she gets to spend some quality one on one time with you.
One thing most experts do agree on is that any behavior exhibited by dogs has both learned and genetic components involved. Meaning that your dog giving you a gift may not just be a natural instinct. It could be a combination of deep-rooted primal behavior and years of human interference. And whether it is genetics or learned behavior, there is no denying the fact that our pup wanting to make us happy makes us well... happy.
Encouraging the Behavior
Keeping in mind that this particular behavior can be seen as a sign of respect is important when deciding how to respond to your gifter. And whether you decide to encourage or discourage this gift-giving behavior is really up to you. If your pup is bringing you mainly harmless gifts such as toys or shoes, then it may be something you want to let them do. However, if your fur baby is continually bringing you the carcass of small critters, a little discouragement may be in order. Talking with a dog trainer or behavior expert can aid you in finding ways to break the gifting behavior. A lot of dog owners consider this act a very sweet and pleasant 'homecoming' when they are met at the door by their pup with a gift in their mouth. And though you may not totally understand the reason behind the act you can still enjoy the feeling of your fur baby displaying their joy to see you. Whatever you decide, make sure you stick with it. Consistency is key to your pup learning what he or she is expected to do or not do. As pack leader, you are responsible for encouraging or discouraging any behavior of your pack members.
Other Solutions and Considerations
One thing you may want to consider if you have a dog who is a gift giver is whether or not there is a positive effect from the act. For instance, does your fur baby seem to calm down and not be quite as excitable when he or she has a gift in their mouth? If so, this may aid in keeping them from becoming overexcited, which can bring about other issues. In this instance encouraging the gifting may be a good idea to help an otherwise overly anxious canine. However, you may want to talk with your vet if you have concerns about your pup becoming too excited. They can determine if there is anything underlying to be concerned about.