Lately, your otherwise happy puppy has been with his toy all day and whining. She whimpers and cries and it sounds pitiful. She doesn’t know what to do and you’re not sure, either. You pick up the toy and play with him for a few minutes. But after you’re done playing, she goes back to her puppy sobs. Your dog has a big yard to run in, endless toys, an expensive and tasty brand of dog food, and you and she go for daily walks in the park. You assumed she’s a happy dog, but her crying is worrisome. Should you try to cheer her up? Does she need to see a doggie therapist?
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The Root of the Behavior
Your dog might cry because she’s sad, but there’s a lot more to it than that. If she is toting around her favorite toy and whining, she could be trying to tell you a few things. She might be experiencing a false pregnancy, she might see the toy as valuable, want to play with you, or want to hide it but can’t find a good spot. A dog who was recently spayed might see herself as a surrogate mother to her toy or think she is pregnant. A dog who experiences changes in hormones might feel the need to take care of something or nest. The toy becomes her puppy and she takes care of it. She’ll lay next to it and cry. It’s not real, but that maternal instinct to be with and protect her puppy still comes through. Non-hormonal responses might include the dog valuing her toy. This might be the best toy ever and she has great memories of you two playing. You throw, she catches. No matter how many wacky places your dog leaves it, you always find it for her.
The toy might squeak, which makes your dog spin in circles out of joy. There’s never one reason why a dog prefers one toy over another, but the bond she has with the toy is important. Maybe the toy was part of a special moment. Whatever the reason, your dog thinking this toy is awesome could be why she is crying. Your dog might also be bored and want to play. Her whining is an attempt to get your attention. She might cry with the toy in her mouth or drop the toy at your feet and cry. Either way, try playing with her to stop her crying. It might be all that is needed. Your dog also has an instinct to hide stuff. She knows that she needs to bury bones, among other things, for survival and that might include this toy. But your house is lacking dirt for digging, and every time she hides this toy under the bed, you seem to find it. Your dog might be whining because she knows she should do something with it, but doesn’t know what. Simply put, she’s confused.
Encouraging the Behavior
Crying over a toy may seem silly, but your dog is communicating something to you, and it’s important to decipher what it is. If you think your dog is being a surrogate mother or having a false pregnancy, take her to the vet as she may be in more emotional distress than she is letting on. It’s easy to take the toy away, but this may not solve the problem because your dog thinks this is real and she might feel worse without her toy. The vet can guide you on how to handle the situation. If you’ve picked an awesome toy, you’re an awesome owner. To stop your dog from crying over this toy, you probably need to replace it. But what’s to say she won’t cry over how awesome the next one is? It’s a cycle of crying that can be stopped with some training, but it’s up to you if that is necessary or not.
When your dog is bored, she might cry, and boredom can escalate to destructive behavior. If you think she is telling you she wants to play, add some more playtime to her routine. She might want to spend more time with you and more time with her favorite toy. Then again, if she is trying to hide it, maybe you could give her a hand (paw). Your dog’s instinct to bury stuff comes from years of surviving in the wild, but it’s no longer necessary. Some dogs turn to making a game out of hiding their toys because they’re bored while others bury them in the backyard. If your dog has a bed or crate, you can add blankets or pillows to create a den and encourage her to hide the toy there. Burying a toy in the backyard poses problems: there may be chemicals in the lawn and dirt will get absorbed by the toy, which goes into your dog’s mouth.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog is crying over a toy and demonstrating odd physical behavior as well, take her to a vet. A dog who cries might have a physical problem. Odd behavior could include lack of appetite indicating digestive problems; scratching at the door to be let outside, indicating a need to go to the bathroom; or lying down in a submissive position but not interacting with you, indicating she is sick. You probably know what your dog does when she is not well, but if you’re not sure, call the vet. One time to be concerned is if your dog starts object guarding, which is growling, nipping, or biting when an object like a toy is threatened. For this, you want to contact a trainer because this behavior can escalate to other objects or even people. In general, your dog crying might be nothing to worry about, but it could become annoying. Try giving her an interactive toy that stimulates her mind. She’ll be busy figuring out the toy and will forget to whine.
Your dog might just love her toy, or she might have more going on. Play with her regularly and have fun knowing she is enjoying time with her human best friend. The world is ruff, so having someone and something that you love is important to everyone, even your four-legged friend.