Squeaky toys, those cute, little playthings we use to entertain babies, have become objects of delight and a distraction for dogs. However, a squeaky toy is exactly how it sounds, squeaky! Sometimes the toy is very annoying, depending on the level of the squeak, and often can be a cause of some stress for certain dogs. Many dogs associate the high-pitched squeaker with other sounds on the same level. A small animal noise alerting the dogs prey drive, the cry of a puppy, or just a reminder that this toy is the best toy in the basket and must be protected at all costs. Whatever the reason behind the crying, this behavior has its roots in your dog’s ancestral dynamics geared towards hunting small squeaky animals or birds. The squeaky sound may just alert a desire to protect the squeaking toy from anyone else. When you are at home with your dog, the annoying squeaky sound will be twice as irritating if your dog is crying at the same time. You will want to get to the bottom of this behavior or perhaps just destroy the squeaker! Remember don’t take your frustration out on your dog, after all, who bought the toy in the first place?
The Root of the Behavior
The best of intentions with 'doggie' toys can end up causing more stress in the home than you bargained for. Understanding why some dogs cry at squeaky toys can help the situation. Many dogs have a very strong prey drive that kicks in when they hear that little helpless squeak. The hunters and retrievers of the dog world could just imagine a squeaky toy as one of the little creatures they were bred to hunt. Many squeaky toys are soft and furry and resemble small animals. When your dog is introduced to the toy and you give it an enticing squeak, your dog's instinctive prey drive is immediately alerted. It tells your dog there is a small squeaky animal that could be just the thing to chase. The whining or crying thereafter could arise from the need to tell you this little animal is on the menu today. Perhaps your dog becomes frustrated as this hunt never seems to end!
Another possible reason for crying when your dog has a squeaky toy is based on a possessive response to the ownership of the toy. Your dog wants to keep this toy. The squeaky toy you bought is the best toy ever until you buy another one, and Fifi just wants everyone to know this is her toy. She may run around carrying it in her mouth and crying while she finds somewhere to hide this precious toy from view. She may just be happy to hide her special toys in her bed if she feels that is safe. Guarding toys and being possessive over them is an action to be aware of, especially if you have young children who may also enjoy playing with your dog and her toys. If you feel that Fifi is guarding her toys and baring her teeth or growling at the toys she has decided are hers alone, seek some help from a behaviorist to see how to manage an unwanted behavior. Generally speaking the crying behavior could be a way of attracting your attention and asking you to please come and play with the toy too.
Encouraging the Behavior
Holding soft, squeaky toys and crying may also be one of the signs of a pregnancy. A real one if your little lady has not been spayed. It could be a false pregnancy in the case of a spayed bitch who just lost out on the opportunity to have her own puppies. The maternal instinct is a strong, natural urge to nest and be a mother. The sight and sound of a fluffy, squeaky toy brings out the natural behavior of protection and urgency to find a place to nurture the toy. There is an emotional attachment to the toy and your dog may feel very concerned about looking after this helpless creature that keeps on squeaking. Be patient and kind in this situation because maternal hormones have probably caused the false pregnancy and your dog is very sure this is for real.
You can see your vet for some hormone therapy if the behavior continues and if there are other signs of a false pregnancy. If your bitch is not spayed, perhaps she really is having puppies! Crying and walking around with a squeaky toy very often is just the best way to attract your attention. This is an opportunity to examine your conscience – are you spending enough time with your dog? A squeaky toy is probably the best attention seeking device around. If you give chase every time that squeaker goes off, your dog will soon have realized this is a great way to initiate a game of tag! However, the toy must remain a fun object and a play item everyone enjoys. The combination of a squeaky toy and a crying dog could play havoc with anyone’s nerves.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Caring for a loved dog usually involves toys and treats. If you must leave your dog at home while you are at work, then the guilt may drive you to buy lots of toys. Dog trainers are not in favor of the squeaky variety because they fear that the squeak tends to bring out the unwanted prey drive in a family pet. It would be wise to get advice if you feel your dog is anxious or crying excessively over the toys you have brought home, all with good intentions. There are many breeds of dog that are just wanting to have a feel-good play time with the family and so look at your dog’s body language and the circumstances surrounding the crying and squeaky toy interaction. Many dog owners remove the squeaker as it can be dangerous if your dog should swallow the squeaking device. Sometimes what is perceived as harmless, cute, and fluffy when you bought it from the pet shop, can have some underlying effects that you would not want to encourage.
Crying is always a sound that is bound to get your attention. You never want your favorite pooch to be unhappy. In fact, the reason you bought the toy was for happy play experiences. Try not to turn on the tears with your dog but simply assess the situation. You can play "happy dog/sad dog" and decide if the squeaky toy is a winner or not. See if Fifi gives a paw up on this one and if you think it is down with squeakers then you will know what to do to keep on smiling.
By a Rhodesian Ridgeback lover Christina Wither
Published: 03/28/2018, edited: 01/30/2020