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Why do dogs show off their toys when you get home?

black labrador holding toy in mouth
© Dean Fikar - Shutterstock

Dogs are funny creatures with all sorts of quirky habits. One of them is parading their toys around for you to see when you come home. But why do they do this?

By Justine Seraphin

Published on the 13/11/2021, 18:00

If you own a dog, you’ve definitely witnessed the following scene: You come home from a long day at work, and as soon as you step in through the door, your dog comes running up to you, tail wagging and favourite toy in mouth! Oftentimes, dogs won’t even give you the toy, they’ll just parade around the house with it in their mouth.

So, why do dogs do this? What does it mean? And how should you respond to it? Don’t worry, we’ve got all the answers for you.

Why do dogs parade their toys when you come home?

The reasons why your dog is behaving in a certain way depends hugely on their own unique personality. That being said, here are the main reasons why dogs bring you toys when you come home:

1. They’re trying to contain their excitement

You coming home is the highlight of your dog’s day. They’ve probably been lounging around all day, not doing much, so the mere sight of you is beyond exciting. Grabbing a toy (or whatever else is lying around) on their way over to you is a way of transferring their energy into something else than just you - lest they knock you over or accidentally injure you with their enthusiasm.

2. They’re trying to show you they come in peace

In doggy language, running up to someone at full speed and jumping up on them could be interpreted as a sign of aggression. To make sure you don’t misconstrue their behaviour, your dog brings a toy along as they greet you, as if to say “I’m not attacking you, I just want to play!”

3. They’re bringing you a gift

In wolf or wild dog packs, it’s not unusual for members of the pack to bring gifts (usually of food) to the pack leaders. By bringing you a toy when you come home, your dog is probably trying to please you. After all, they love the toy, so why wouldn’t you?

4. They’re inviting you to play

The most common reason why dogs bring toys to you when you come home is that they want to play! They’ve got all this pent-up energy from having stayed home all day and they can’t wait for an outlet!

5. They’re trying to get your attention

Over the years, your dog has learned that when they bring you toys, you usually engage in playtime with them. In this sense, they not only bring you their toys because they want to play, but also because they want to keep you with them! You’ve been gone all day and there’s no way they’re letting you go again. And nothing says “stay over, it’ll be fun”, more than a slobbery dog toy!

What does it mean when dogs bring you “gifts”?

Whatever the reason why your dog is bringing you toys or other random objects from around the house, one thing is for sure: It means your dog loves you and trusts you. Studies have shown that dogs don’t bring toys to strangers, only to people they know and appreciate. So really, you should be flattered - even if your dog likes to bring you socks when you walk in - because they’re really just showing you how much they love you.

How should I respond to my dog bringing me random things, like socks or shoes? 

Remember, your dog is only bringing you objects because they love you and are happy to see you, so don’t scold them!

However, there could be times when a dog bringing you a “gift” could be a bit of a nuisance. If they grab on to your slippers or favourite pair of shoes, for example, it could ruin the happy moment. 

The best thing to do is to make sure your home is impeccably “dog-proofed”, with nothing lying around that you wouldn’t want your dog to get their mouth on. If your shoes are neatly put away in the cupboard, there’s no chance of your dog using them as a greeting gift! You could instead leave a toy or two near the door before you leave your house, this way you know your dog will have easy access to these more appropriate greeting gifts when you come home. In addition, it’s a good idea to teach your dog the “drop it” command, which would come in handy in all sorts of situations. 

If you’re not a fan of your dog’s over-exuberance, or often have visitors that feel this way, try not to encourage their greeting behaviour too much. When you come home, stay calm and ignore them for a few minutes until they calm down before you give them attention.

If you don’t mind that behaviour though, there’s nothing wrong with engaging with your dog as soon as you get home. They’re happy to see and you’re happy to see them, so why not?!

Does your dog bring you “gifts” when you get home?

Frequently asked questions

Why is my dog carrying a toy in his mouth and whining?

What does it mean when your dog carries a toy around?

Why does my dog throw his toys in the air?