Why Do Dogs? Bring you a gift in their mouth when you arrive home?
Ever have a dog who would bring you his favorite toy every time you arrived home from work? Curious why your pooch retrieves your slipper when she sees you pull in the driveway? Ever wonder why some dogs like to bring us “gifts” during greetings? As a professional pet sitter and dog walker one of my favorite things is to arrive with a pooch awaiting with a toy in his mouth!
The art of “gift giving” does not happen in every domesticated canine, but for those dogs that do exhibit this behavior, it’s downright endearing. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel like their beloved pet missed them while they were away, so much so that they had to celebrate your arrival with a present? Even if it means their affection is shown by bringing you your dirty sock from the hamper…
But did you ever wonder WHY some dogs love to lavish us, carrying random items in their mouth to us?
It can be theorized that carrying and retrieving stems for natural hunting behaviors in canines. Wild dogs learn to carry their food (ie: prey) and cache meals — much like a squirrel would hide it’s nuts all over the forrest — in case of times of famine. A wolf mother will bring her prey back to the den, retrieving and carrying a meal home to her pups. So it appears that the domesticated dog retrieving is a simple variation of this prey-carrying behavior.
Part of this carrying and gift giving behavior is our doing, however. Selective breeding has encouraged this common retrieving behavior in many of our beloved dogs today. For example, the Retrievers are generally taught to “soft mouth” prey (usually birds), and carry it back safely to the human hunter. Many of our Terriers were bred to kill and dissect small vermin, and this carrying behavior may represent the proud retrieval of a kill out of the ground. Depending on the dog’s genetics, there could be a strong predisposition to this charitable gift giving behavior.
Genetics or not, there is still a large part of me that believes dog develop this altruistic behavior simply because it makes US happy! Think about how your pitch heightens, and your voice is filled with excitement and gratitude when Fido brings his bone to your feet as you walk in the door. Perhaps you bend down and give your pup an extra ear scratch for such a thoughtful donation. Our gleeful reactions strongly reinforce the dog to perform this behavior again in the future, as they learn it’s beneficial and can lead to extra snuggles and doting attention.
So next time your pooch brings you a gift, make sure to express your gratitude! Because let’s be honest, to our dogs, our presence is sometimes the best present!