Do you have an old, dirty, torn item covered in slobber that is your dog’s favorite toy? Does your dog carry it everywhere? This bond cannot be easily broken, even when new toys are presented. Right now, you may be wondering to yourself, ‘why does my pet have a favorite toy?’
Why do dogs have favorite toys? There are different reasons why dogs have favorite toys. It could be based on instinct, age, gender or simply its connection to you, the owner. There is no ‘one and only’ answer as to why a toy is chosen. The reason is likely as unique as the dog itself!
Now that you know the possible reasons why dogs have favorite toys, let’s explore this in more detail below. We’ll discuss why dogs like to take their treasured playthings everywhere. We’ll also explore their desire to constantly lick stuffed toys, why they often take a favorite toy to bed and if it’s okay for your pet to form such an intense bond with a toy – in particular, a stuffed animal.
What is a Dog’s Favorite Toy?
A dog’s favorite toy can be anything from a ball to a stuffed animal to a piece of rope! How a treasured plaything is chosen is often based on the following reasons.
Because dogs evolved from wolves, the desire to catch prey is instinctively instilled in them, especially in larger breeds such as Huskies, Malamutes and German Shepherds. Soft toys that make noise when they’re bitten into or tossed about are reminiscent of this predatory behavior and stimulates the part of the brain that drives their desire to hunt.
Terriers, Foxhounds and Beagles also like toys that feel and sound good when in their mouths. The ‘squeak’ these items make is suggestive of the noise made by small animals when caught. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that no matter what other toys are given to them, these breeds will constantly return to that one favorite item, regardless of how old, dirty or damaged it is.
Golden Retrievers, for example, are notoriously ball-crazy and will play for hours! They might not be viewed as the best dog breed to catch a ball (truth or myth), but they will certainly retrieve it. They were bred to retrieve ducks and other prey shot shot-down by their hunter owners. This instinct to fetch and retrieve has been passed down through years of evolution. Labradors also often choose balls as their favorite playthings, especially those that squeak, which drives their prey-hunting instincts.
Apart from instinct, age can also determine a dog’s choice for favorite toy. Puppies, for example, like hard chew toys that help alleviate the discomfort of teething. Associating this item with soothing pain relief is enough to make it a top choice, picked and played with again and again by your pet.
Senior dogs, on the other hand, often prefer soft chew toys that are gentle on their sensitive (or missing) teeth. Items that emit a sense of comfort are also a favorite with aging pets that aren’t as active as they once were, preferring to rest or sleep alongside a trusted play companion.
Female dogs often prefer stuffed animals as a result of their natural maternal instincts. Soft toys remind them of their offspring, causing them to form deep, emotional bonds to these ‘surrogate babies’. This is especially true with females that are separated from their puppies too soon after giving birth.
Even spayed dogs will act as ‘mothers’ to a favorite stuffed animal, licking it constantly and taking it everywhere. This instinct to nurture and protect will continue long after the toy has been destroyed or soiled beyond repair. In fact, separation from this treasured item can result in depression, even illness.
Often, a favorite toy is chosen by a dog based on its connection to his/her owner. It could be something as simple as a ball used to play fetch or a rope used for a fun game of tug-of-war. Dogs cherish the quality time they spend with the people they love. If a toy allows your pet to be closer to you, then it’ll likely become his/her favorite for life!
Why Does My Dog Lick His Stuffed Toys?
Licking a stuffed toy is often considered a form of self-soothing for a dog.
It’s your pet’s way of relaxing or getting ready for bed.
It could also be a sign of boredom or the desire to ‘clean-up’ the sleeping area.
However, if the action seems constant and excessive, it could be a symptom of anxiety or stress as well as a possible neurological disorder. If you have concerns regarding this possibility, enlisting the advice and support of a veterinarian is recommended.
Why Does My Dog Carry His Favorite Toy Everywhere?
There are a variety of reasons why dogs like to carry their favorite toys around. It could be that he/she is offering a gift to a family member or guest. It could also be that your pet is looking for attention and wants to play with you. Or, it could simply be a way of expressing happiness.
Whatever the case may be, a favorite plaything becomes part of a dog’s life, representing joy, comfort and companionship that are innate to his/her ‘world’.
Why Does My Dog Bring His Toy to Bed?
A bed is place of safety for your dog. It represents a special place of security and comfort.
Oftentimes, a favorite soft toy is carried about throughout the day and then used by your pet as a pillow at night.
Sometimes your pet will try to bury the toy in its bed to keep it safe until morning. Or, he/she will curl up beside it like a ‘sleeping buddy’.
A favorite toy is rarely (if ever) out of a dog’s sight, so it only makes sense that he/she would choose to be near it at night as well as during the day.
If you crate your dog at night, is that toy safe enough to leave with your dog, especially if they are a heavy chewer?
Is it Okay that Your Dog is Attached to its Stuffed Animal?
In most cases, an attachment to a stuffed animal is not only good, but encouraged, for dogs. It’s completely normal (and healthy) behavior that has many positive benefits.
There’s nothing to be concerned about, unless you notice aggression being displayed by your pet when you try to touch the toy. Then, seeking the advice of a veterinarian is your best bet. A trained professional will be able to offer specialized support to identify the root of the aggressive behavior and provide treatment options.
Pets that suffer from anxiety or illness, for example, can find comfort and relief from stress or pain when near their special stuffed toy. When you are away for longer periods of time, a treasured plaything can act as a companion, helping your dog feel safe while alone in the home. It can also be that one important piece that strengthens the bond between owner and pet, especially if it signals the opportunity for the two of you to play and have fun together.
To conclude, there are different reasons why dogs choose a favorite toy. It may be the result of instinct, age or gender. Quite possibly, it could be the one thing that bonds your pet to you, especially if it represents time to play and have fun together. There is no right answer as to why a toy is chosen. The reason can be as unique as the dog itself!
According to Liz Kover, dog trainer and director of Miracle Mutts, “Dogs are eternal toddlers. That one toy that he/she has been attached to is part of the repertoire of the comfort things that make up his/her world.” Watching your pet play with a beloved toy is a heartwarming experience. So, embrace it, as this provides a dog with the joy and enrichment needed to live a long and happy life.