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Why Is My Dog Whining and Carrying a Toy? (What to Do)

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There are many reasons why dogs whine while carrying a toy. Vocal dogs use whining as a way of expressing excitement, a desire to play with you, or possessiveness over a toy. It is also a sign of a false pregnancy or pain. 

Is your female dog whining and carrying a toy around? 

Depending on the circumstance, this behavior is a sign of many things. Excitement, possessiveness, and pain, to mention a few.

To help you find out the underlying cause, you need to know how dogs play with toys. You should also know what causes dogs to whine when playing with their toys and when you need to worry. 

How Dogs Like To Play With Toys 

Some dogs love their toys and sleep with a special one. Others aren’t as sentimental but love to chase a ball, stick or play tug-of-war with them and some seem to bury most of their toys. 

Toys represent prey for most dogs[1]. This is why some dogs like squeaky toys or toys that can be torn apart.

A study published in the journal Animal Cognition[2] backed up the love of soft squeaky toys when researchers found the following:

  • Dogs show more interest in new toys than well-known toys. 
  • Dogs play for longer when we play with them. 
  • Dogs like soft toys that can be chewed and make a noise.
  • Dogs lose interest in hard toys that are difficult to chew and don’t make a noise.[3]

Some dogs tend to hoard toys by burying them in the garden or hiding them around the house. This instinct goes back to when their ancestors would bury food for later. 

How Dogs Like To Play With Toys 

Why Do Dogs Whine? 

Dogs whine to communicate a want, need, excitement, anxiety, or pain. They also whine when apologizing or showing submission. 

Here are the main reasons why dogs whine and cry:

  1. Pain.
  2. Needs or wants something.
  3. Excitement.
  4. Anxiety.
  5. It is apologizing or showing submission.[4][5]

7 Reasons for a Dog to Whine With a Toy in their Mouth

Dogs that whine while carrying a toy in the mouth are vocalizing excitement or asking you to play. It can also be an indication of frustration, increasing possessiveness, pain, or false pregnancy. 

Here are five reasons why dogs whine while carrying or playing with a toy: 

  1. Pain.
  2. False pregnancy.
  3. Vocalizing excitement
  4. An invitation to play.
  5. Frustration. 
  6. Anxiety. 
  7. Possessiveness.

1. Pain

clingy dog in pain

Dogs whine when they are in pain. When your dog starts whining, it’s important to rule this out first. 

Dogs use toys to soothe themselves when they are in pain. In case of dental pain, they use toys to soothe an area of pain in the mouth. This is notable in teething puppies between three and six months old. Signs of teething include drooling and spots of blood on toys. 

Chew toys for teething puppies, like freezable rubber teething toys and edible puppy teething rings, helps ease sore gums.[6] 

Contact your vet if your dog has suddenly started whining while carrying a toy and you suspect pain to be the cause. 

2. False Pregnancy

False Pregnancy

It can be a sign of a false pregnancy when an unspayed female dog is whining and carrying a toy. 

What Is a False Pregnancy in Dogs?  

False pregnancy occurs four to nine weeks after an unspayed bitch’s estrus cycle. It is also known as a phantom pregnancy, pseudo-pregnancy, or pseudocyesis, 

The ovaries produce hormones after the estrus cycle to prepare the uterus for maintaining a pregnancy. This happens even when dogs aren’t pregnant. The levels of hormones usually decline in four to six weeks when the dog isn’t impregnated.  

For unknown reasons, the decline in these hormones signals the body to stimulate mammary gland development and false labor. [7]

False Pregnancy Symptoms in Dogs:

  • Nesting. 
  • Affectionate and protective of toys.
  • Restlessness and sometimes aggression. 
  • Abdominal licking.
  • Decreased activity.
  • Weight gain and abdominal swelling.
  • Mammary enlargement (with or without lactation).
  • Fluid retention. 
  • Periodic vomiting. 
  • Decreased appetite.[8]

What Should You Do if Your Dog Has a False Pregnancy? 

If you can, wait it out. False pregnancy symptoms lessen in 14-21 days in mild cases. 

You can take your dog to the vet if symptoms worsen. If your dog is anxious and distressing, take it to the vet. A vet can give your dog a tranquilizer to relieve anxiety and aggression and diuretics to reduce milk production and fluid retention. [7] 

3. Vocalizing Excitement

Vocalizing Excitement

Dogs whine to communicate. This is not always bad. Some dog breeds whine more than others. It’s their way of talking. While it sounds whiny, it’s their way of expressing glee and determination while chewing on a new toy. 

Puppies are known to make more noise when playing with toys than adult dogs. They whine, growl or bark at their toy as if it is a real animal. 

There is no need to worry if your dog is happily playing with a toy and making a little noise. 

4. An Invitation To Play

An Invitation To Play

Dogs whine when they want something. If your dog is staring at you, whining, and carrying a toy, it’s an invitation to play. 

Your dog’s body language tells you when it wants to play. Whining while carrying a toy, accompanied by a wagging tail and pawing (prodding you with a paw) is a dog’s way of begging you to play.  

While you don’t want to give in to your dog’s every demand for attention, it is important to make an effort to play with your dog regularly. 

A study published in the journal Animal Cognition showed that dogs spend more energy when playing with others[2]. It makes sense that your naturally social animal is more engaged in play when playing with you compared to on its own. 

The benefits of playing with your dog:

  • Playing with your dog strengthens your bond with your dog. 
  • Dogs play longer when playing with others. 
  • Playing helps release pent-up energy.
  • Active play can help ease a dog’s anxiety. 

5. Frustration with the Instinct to Bury

Frustration with the Instinct to Bury

Dogs have the instinct to bury food for later. They inherited this from their ancestors who did it to survive.

Even though your dog doesn’t need to save food for later, the instinct can be triggered by toys or treats. Dogs originally bred as hunting dogs, like Daschunds, tend to follow this instinct to save their kills. 

Dogs that don’t have outdoor access whine with a toy in their mouth and whine because it wants to bury it. As it has nowhere to do this, it whines out of need. [8] 

Your dog is frustrated and, chances are, so are you. What can you do if you don’t have a garden or have had enough of your dog digging it up

Either reduce the number of toys your dog has access to, or embrace this instinct and create an enriching game for your dog. [9]

Reduce the Amount of Toys

Giving your dog too many toys arouses the instinct to bury a few for later[10]. Reducing the amount of toys works because there are no extra toys to bury. They will keep to, as they want something to play with.

You don’t have to toss the toys. Rotate them. Toy rotation also helps old toys feel new again. 

Play a Game

Some dogs bury toys to get your attention because they are bored or lonely and want to play. [10]

Embrace your dog’s playfulness and turn it into a game that won’t ruin your garden.

Show your dog it can hide toys under a blanket or behind pillows. Once hidden, give your dog the signal to retrieve the toy.

6. Anxiety 

Anxiety 

Dogs whine when they’re anxious. Separation anxiety is particularly prevalent in puppies[4] and certain breeds. 

Dogs or puppies with separation anxiety whine alone. If you give your dog a toy as a distraction before you leave, it starts associating the toy with being left alone. 

How do you know if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety? 

If you have home security cameras, you can watch your dog when it’s home alone. Look for symptoms of separation anxiety:

  • Excessive whining, barking, and howling when left alone.
  • Trembling and pacing. 
  • Excessive salivation, drooling, or panting.
  • Chewing or digging around doors or windows. 
  • Urinating or defecating indoors. 

Some dogs don’t do anything destructive. A complaint from neighbors about excessive whining is sometimes the first clue that there is a problem.

Related: How to Get a Puppy to Stop Whining

How to Manage Separation Anxiety:

  • Exercise: A daily walk burns off nervous energy and releases feel-good endorphins. A study found dogs with separation anxiety get less daily exercise than dogs who do not suffer from the condition.[5]
  • Training: Give your dog a treat before going out so it will start looking forward to you leaving. 
  • Stay Calm: Speak to your dog calmly when greeting and saying goodbye. Avoid creating too much excitement about your comings and goings. Try not to shout at an anxious dog. It can make their anxiety worse. 
  • Consult a dog behaviorist for advice. 
  • Ask a vet about anti-anxiety medication and natural therapies if your dog struggles with anxiety.

7. Possessiveness 

Possessiveness 

Dogs are possessive about their toys. It seems cute at first, but if left to progress dogs can turn aggressive. 

Possessive aggressive dogs tend to growl, snarl, lunge, and bite anyone who comes near their treasures. This becomes dangerous for other pets and members of a household. 

Depending on the law where you live you may be legally required to have the dog euthanized if your dog bites a member of the public. Even if it is a guest in your home.

To fix this issue, train your dog to let go of toys and stop being possessive of them. 

The American Kennel Club recommend offering them a treat in exchange for a toy. Ask your dog to put down the toy and give them a treat when they do. 

It sounds easy, but training an aggressive dog is not for the faint of heart. It can be of benefit to you and your dog to work with a professional dog behaviorist or trainer. [11]

Conclusion 

Although whining is associated with neediness or pain, dogs whine when playing with a toy for many reasons.

You know your dog and what their vocalizations mean better than anyone else. What sounds like a whine to some, you know to be a squeal of delight. Body language also tells you if it is happy, anxious, feeling possessive, or in pain. 

It’s understandable to be concerned if your dog suddenly starts whining when chewing or carrying a toy. New behaviors that can indicate pain or the start of an aggressive behavior need to be addressed with a vet. 

FAQs

Why Is My Dog Hoarding Toys and Whining?

Dogs have an inherent instinct to bury food for later. It comes from their ancestors who hoarded food to survive days when their hunts were unsuccessful. This instinct can be triggered by toys. A dog that has this instinct but lacks access to a garden can whine out of frustration. 

Why Is My Female Dog Carrying a Toy and Crying? 

When an unspayed female dog is carrying a toy and crying, it can be a sign of a false pregnancy. She can also be vocalizing excitement, begging you to play, expressing frustration if she can’t bury her toy, or expressing increasing possessiveness of her toys. 

Why Does My Puppy Whine While Chewing Toys? 

Teething can cause a puppy to whine while chewing toys. Teething puppies are between three and six months old. They tend to drool more and leave spots of blood on their toys. Puppy teething chew toys that can be frozen and edible puppy teething rings can help ease painful gums.

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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