You arrive home and your dog greets you with his most cherished toy in his mouth. He is excited, wriggling his body and softly whining. He paces around you with his toy for several minutes until you acknowledge him. Eventually, he settles down. He greets all of your visitors like this and throughout the day he will often bring you toys as well. This gift-giving behavior is completely normal and not even specific to breed. While adorable, gift-giving can become a problem if your furry friend starts grabbing objects other than his toys that could be broken or ruined by his mouth, or if he is grabbing items for guests that might cause some embarrassment all around.
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The Root of the Behavior
In a dream scenario, you can ask your dog what his motives are and he can tell you what is going on with him. Since dogs cannot talk, it is not always possible to have a definitive answer to his behavior. Having a dog bring you his toy is common and there are many theories about this action. A lot of people assume that being greeted by a dog with a toy only happens with retrievers. And while it makes sense since they are bred to retrieve, it appears this behavior is seen in all breeds and ages non-discriminately. One theory that is in line with other studies of dogs and wolves involving the pack hierarchy, is that your dog is trying to please you. Your dog might be bringing you a toy upon greeting because he thinks of you as the alpha, and this is a way of ensuring his place in your pack. Another theory is that he is expressing his trust in you. Dogs can be quite possessive of their toys, so his desire to bring his toy to you could be his way of expressing his faith in you to care for his toy. He also may just be trying to engage you. In presenting his toy to you, he is saying ‘pay attention to me.’ And his doing something that you perceive as sweet, kind, or cute will generally draw attention. Dogs love to play. They love to play with you, with other dogs, and with toys. When he brings you a toy, perhaps he is simply trying to tell you he is up to play. Toys also make dogs happy, as does you returning home. There is a chance he is just telling you he is happy. The strongest theory is that he is letting out extra energy. Dogs have a lot of energy, and he has most likely been holding a lot in while you have been away. In the action of finding the toy, bringing it to you, and pacing around you with the toy he is getting out a lot of his nervous energy. In this way, he avoids jumping and barking which are not desirable.
Encouraging the Behavior
The minute you smile at your dog when he brings you a toy, you have encouraged his behavior. Dogs pick up on all sorts of expressions and subtle movements, so a happy greeting from you tells him he likes when you bring him a toy. The more you positively respond to his behavior, the more he will continue. Make sure to leave him plenty of toys from which to grab so that he does not become anxious looking for a toy to bring to you or your guest. Dogs will bring anything if they cannot find a toy, which means they could bring something from the trash, the dirty laundry, or from the backyard. It could be quite embarrassing to you and a guest if he were to greet you with a pair of dirty underwear. Your home could be a mess if he rifles through the trash to bring you a welcome home gift. And imagine what he could find in the yard and drag through your home to say ‘I missed you, welcome home alpha.' Some dogs will grab the first thing they see, so make sure what he sees is his toys. Some owners find it beneficial to have a basket of toys near all doors and where your dog spends most of his time. It is also recommended to keep your yard clean of objects he may try to bring into the home such as open garden beds, droppings, and weather-beaten toys. Finally, limit his access to your bedroom, closets, and hampers.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs can get very excited when you come home or have a guest, especially if they have not been exercised or received external stimulation in a while. Some dogs will express their joy and release their energy by barking, running in circles, and jumping. This can be quite a nuisance and may even tear up your home. You can easily teach your dog to bring you a toy instead. This behavior may even be instinctive and is easily taught. Offer him many toys from which to choose and when you arrive home, hand him a toy. When he brings it back to you, praise him highly and reward him. When a guest is arriving, give him a toy to present to the guest and again praise him. After several repeated brief training sessions, he should begin to shift from jumping to bringing gifts. If you need assistance in training him to bring toys, consult with a trainer. If he is bringing inappropriate gifts, you can also consult with a trainer to eliminate that behavior.
All dogs will bring you a toy, either by instinct or when trained to do so. He may bring you a toy because he is trying to please his alpha, as a sign of trust, to gain your attention, to show trust, to ask you to play, or to release some energy. By accepting his gift with a smile, you are encouraging his behavior. Make sure to provide him plenty of toy options to bring you to limit the chances he brings you something inappropriate. If he is greeting you in other undesirable ways, train him to bring you a toy or work with a trainer.