Why does my dog always carry something in her mouth? As a Golden Retriever owner, I’m no longer surprised whenever I see Sherlock with something on his mouth. As a retriever, it’s Sherlock’s nature to collect things. And since canines don’t have hands, he will have to put it in his mouth.
However, if your dog isn’t a retriever, the reasons below will explain why it loves carrying anything in his mouth.
Why do dogs always have something in their mouth?
Dogs are pretty much like kids. They will put anything in their mouths, no matter how dirty or toxic it is. It’s their way of exploring the world and passing the time when they are bored. If you’re wondering why your dog loves carrying and mouthing things, the following reasons will explain it:
1. Your dog is teething
The most common reason why dogs carry things in their mouth all the time is teething. Puppies that are within their first six months of life will undergo teething twice. The first one is when they milk teeth sprout, and the next is when the puppy teeth are replaced with the adult set.
During this phase, your dog’s gums will be sore and painful. And to appease the discomfort, your puppy will chew things. This is the reason why you’ll see your pup carrying things in its mouth all the time.
Safe to say, this is normal behavior. However, you should divert the puppy’s chewing into proper chew toys. This will prevent mouth injuries in case the pup mouths very stiff or sharp objects.
2. Dogs are natural hunters
Dogs are natural hunters, so it’s normal for them to carry things in their mouths. In the domesticated setting, this could be a dead bird, chicken, rat, and so on. While your dog may not eat their catch, they take satisfaction from hunting and bringing it around.
In the wild, canines evolved into hunters to survive. There’s no one to scoop them some kibble, so they have to look for food on their own. And even as they get domesticated, canines retained this instinct.
Aside from its instinct, a dog will be forced to hunt if it’s not fed well. If you’re not consistent with your pet’s feeding schedule, don’t be surprised if it will bring dead animals home and consume them.
3. It’s in your dog’s breed
Another reason for your dog’s affinity for carrying things is its breed. Like I mentioned earlier, my dog Sherlock is a Golden Retriever. As the breed name suggests, Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve things.
Golden Retrievers were bred to be gun dogs and companions of hunters. Their main job is to retrieve the waterfowl that their masters shoot. After being domesticated, Goldie’s kept the strong retriever instinct. My Sherlock will retrieve socks, toys, rugs, and just about anything that’s on the floor.
Aside from Golden Retrievers, breeds like Labrador Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Flat-coated Retriever, Poodle, and Irish Water Spaniel love retrieving things. These canines are bred and trained to become companions and assistants, so it’s second nature for them to carry things in their mouths.
4. Your dog wants your attention
Another possible explanation here is that your dog wants your attention. My Sherlock would often bring a toy to me through his mouth to initiate playtime. This can be the case with other dogs as well.
However, some canines realize that their owners give them attention when they mouth things. For example, a dog owner will yell at his pet if it carries a slipper or sock in its mouth. Over time, the dog realizes that mouthing such things solicit attention or reaction, regardless if it’s negative.
5. Your dog is giving you gifts
Dogs are pack beings. Those who are tasked to hunt will bring their catch into the pack to feed everyone. This might be the reason why your dog is carrying things in its mouth and giving them to you. Your pup considers you as a member of the pack. And as the alpha, they respect your authority to eat first.
Aside from food, dogs will carry any item they consider valuable and give it to you as a gift. It’s a show of love and devotion to you as the master.
My dog Sherlock loves bringing me branches and leaves whenever I let him out. It’s normal behavior, but you have to watch out over the things they bring into the house.
6. You reward the behavior
Your dog will keep carrying things in its mouth if you reward him for it. You’re probably petting the dog or giving any kind of response to the behavior. This will make your dog realize that mouthing is good and somewhat rewarded, deliberately or not.
7. Your dog is anxious
Anxious dogs often let off steam by chewing and mouthing things. As the anxiety becomes stronger, the more destructive the canine becomes.
If your dog has separation anxiety, it’s imperative to address it with training right away. This will save your belongings from damages and your dog from excessive stress.
8. Your dog is possessive
Possessive dogs often carry their resources around. It could be their favorite toy, food bowl, bed, or just about anything they consider valuable. This happens a lot if there are visiting pets that your dog finds intimidating.
Take note that possessive dogs can have aggressive tendencies, especially if the other animal tries to touch their belongings. Desensitization is an important process here, so your pet will relax and stop carrying things around.
You have to teach your dog that it’s okay to leave their belongings. Positive reinforcement using food rewards is very effective here.
9. Your dog likes the taste
Lastly, your dog probably likes the taste of the item he’s putting in his mouth. It could also be the smell, especially if the object came outdoors. This could be your shoes, socks, comb, clothes, and so on. As long as the object is non-toxic, I don’t think there will be a problem here.
How to stop your dog from carrying things in its mouth
It can get really annoying when a dog mouths and carries things all the time. This makes many dog owners, including me, worry about the possibility of choking and poisoning. To help fix the problem, the following tips will help:
Stop encouraging it
The very first thing you should do is stop encouraging the dog to carry things. Avoid giving any form of reward, especially attention. Instead, you should train your dog with the ‘Leave it’ command so it will know how to drop the object when instructed.
If your dog has symptoms of separation anxiety, you should address it right away. Train your dog to calm down and identify its triggers. You should also reduce anything that can cause stress on your dog.
For very nervous dogs, you can consult with a vet to discuss calming aids. It can be a sedative or an over-the-counter treat with calming ingredients.
Redirect your dog’s attention
If you don’t want your dog carrying random things in its mouth, you should offer an alternative behavior. Give your dog more exercise and playtime to keep its mind off mouthing objects. Draining the dog’s energy will also discourage it from looking for objects to put in its mouth.
How do I get my dog to release something from its mouth?
One friend of mine once joked that you’d never see something run faster than a dog who’s asked to drop whatever is on its mouth.
Training is the most effective solution if you want your dog to drop whatever object it’s carrying. Food is always an excellent choice since many canines are food-driven. The smellier the lure is, the more irresistible it will be. In no time, your dog will drop the object to enjoy the treat.
In emergencies when the dog won’t drop a toxic object, pet owners are compelled to force-open the canine’s mouth. You should do this as gently as possible in case you’re facing the same dilemma.
You can also enlist the help of a trainer if your dog doesn’t follow commands. Your dog likely needs a different approach to yield to the training.
Why does my dog always carry something in her mouth? This is a very common behavior among canines. They do this out of boredom, curiosity, seeking attention, or merely because of instinct. As natural hunters, it’s not surprising to see dogs carrying something in its mouth. Just make sure that you manage it by offering an alternative activity.