Does your dog bring his toys to bed? If he does, you will know just how cute a thing that is. Have you just watched him pick up his favorite stuffed animal, carry it across the room, and then bury it beneath the blankets on his bed? If you let out a sigh and went ahh, who can blame you? It looks like a really sweet and loving thing to do, doesn't it?
Have you ever been searching for your dog's toys and then discovered them all hidden in his bed? If you have, it looks like you've got a dog who really likes to keep his toys safe by bringing them to his bed. Either that or you are exceptionally lucky and own a dog who knows how to tidy up after himself. It is understandable if you're laughing and thinking "if only that were true." The thought that they might be that organized is nice though, isn't it?
So why do dogs take their toys to their beds?
The Root of the Behavior
Most dogs love to keep the things they like in a safe place. His bed is his domain and there is nowhere safer than that. If your dog is not in the mood to play with his toy at any given moment, he may well decide to take it to his bed and hide it from view until he wants it again. Similar in a way to how he might bury a bone or a wild dog would conceal any leftover prey from other animals on the prowl, your pup has done the same with his toy. It has been removed from sight and is out of harm's way.
If you have discovered a mountain of toys in your dog's bed, you may well want to consider your dog has a hoarding problem. A bit like humans, in the days when supermarkets didn't exist, we would fill our larder shelves with all sorts of home preserved goodies ready for the winter months when there was nothing easily at hand. Your dog's natural instincts for survival and the replacement, in his mind's eye, of toys for prey, could well be his way of stocking up and ensuring his larder is full in case of leaner times. Even though he is not planning on eating however many toys he's got stored up, as they won't taste anywhere as near as good as the food you give him, it could well be a placebo for satisfying his food storage instincts.
Some dogs miss having company. They really are not designed to be solitary creatures and are much happier when they are with you or others of their own kind. Dogs, because of our domestic situation, no longer have access to what would be their natural family arrangement, the pack. If they were still in the wild, they would sleep en masse rather than alone. If you, the pet owner and current pack leader as far as your dog is concerned, have gone to bed, then your pup will look to replace your presence with whatever he can. If a soft toy gives him solace in his solitude and he takes it to bed to cuddle up to, is there really anything wrong with that?
Well, there just might be.
Encouraging the Behavior
Sometimes female dogs can get very broody. If their maternal instinct is strong, they can often become over-attached to a soft toy and use it as a puppy replacement. If your dog is longing to be a mother and is bringing her toys to bed thinking she is nesting or even nursing them, she may well be suffering from the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy.
It is probably fair to say that if your dog is bringing his toys to bed, he is using it as a comforter. It may be that he begins to feel anxious when he knows it's time to go to sleep and you are going to leave him. It may even be that you gave him the toy to encourage him to stay in his bed when he was a puppy and now, having his toy close by will be reassuring for him. What is not so good is if he can't go to sleep without the toy or if he never puts it down when he curls up to rest. If you find your dog is unable to settle without his toy being close by or gets very stressed until he has it, he may be developing an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Phantom pregnancies in dogs are caused by serious hormone imbalances which can be detrimental to their health. It is easy to ignore the symptoms as just being all in your lady pooch's imagination, but they probably do require medical help. If you think your dog might be suffering from a phantom pregnancy, you will need to seek advice and treatment from your vet.
If your pup does not seem to be able to go to sleep without having his favorite toy in his mouth, you might want to consider that he may have a compulsive behavior disorder or is suffering from separation anxiety. Consulting with a professional dog handler or even your vet will give you an insight into how to deal with the problem and prevent it from escalating further.
Dogs do bring their toys to bed, it is true. While it is cute and amusing, it can also be a sign of something much more worrying. If your dog does not like sleeping alone, you can of course, just move over and make space for him to sleep in the bed with you. If you do, let's just hope that he does not snore.