Dog thinks her toy is her baby

My dog thinks her toy is her baby

“She’s so cute, she carries that toy around like it’s her puppy.”

“I know, she even growls when I try to take it. So cute!”

“Aww … she’s protecting it. If I try to put it away, she sits and cries for her baby. Haha!”

Have you ever caught yourself saying something like this? I made up the above conversation, but I hear similar comments all the time.

I’ve even encouraged my own dog to carry a stuffed toy around because I think it’s cute. But that’s the problem. We think it’s cute when really it’s unhealthy for a dog to obsess over a toy.

Does my dog think her toy is her baby?

My dog thinks her toy is her baby

Dogs know their toys are not real.

Chances are, your dog does not think her toy is her baby. When a dog carries her toy around all day, it is most likely because she is obsessive or possessive about the toy.

She does not think it is real. She knows it’s not her puppy, unless it’s a rare instance where the female dog is having a false pregnancy. Most of the time, though, it’s us humans who create emotional attachments to stuffed animals. Dogs know better.

My dog is attached to a stuffed animal

A dog with pent-up energy easily takes that frustration and fixates on a toy or several toys. If the dog is not given exercise, mental challenges or rules on a daily basis, the obsession on the toy grows because she has no other outlet for her energy.

We humans think it’s cute to see our dogs obsess over a toy so we even encourage the behavior. We say things over and over in an excited voice like, “Where’s your puppy?” Or, “Where’s your ball?” And then we overdo the praise and attention.

We reward the obsessive behavior without even realizing it.

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Obsessing over a toy can lead to aggression.

My dog thinks her toy is her baby

If your dog growls when you try to take her toy away, it’s not cute.

I see owners of small breeds like Chihuahuas encouraging their dogs to growl because they think it’s funny. Encouraging aggressive behavior in a dog is never funny.

A five-pound dog can bite someone pretty badly, especially a child who has her face up to the dog.

We think it’s cute if a rottweiler carries a stuffed puppy around all day. We like to nurture small, cute things, so we like it when our dogs do the same. We like the idea that our dog has her own “baby.” Many of us carried around stuffed animals as a kid, so it’s heartwarming to us when our dogs do the same.

Even when a rottweiler growls as someone tries to take her toy, it’s easy to overlook the behavior if the dog is gentle in all other situations.

The only time my old golden retriever growled at me was when I tried to take her rawhide bone away. Since I knew she would never hurt anyone, I didn’t take her growling too seriously.

But even she would snap if I tried to take her bone. This was a behavior I should not have put up with, but I didn’t know better at the time.

Dog thinks her toy is her baby

Why is my dog carrying a toy and whining like it’s her baby?

There could be several reasons why your dog is carrying her toy around and whining. Usually it’s one of three reasons:

1.) She might simply be excited and wants you to play with her! She might want you to try to chase her or play “keep away” or tug. This particular toy might be one of her favorites and she is just so excited to play with it!

2.) Your dog might want you to let her outside so she can go burry the toy in the yard (like she might do with a bone). This toy might be seen as high value to your dog, and she wants to go out and bury it or hide it so no one else can steal it. She might also pace around the house as though she’s looking for a place to hide it from you or from your other dogs.

3.) A third option is that your dog might have some possessiveness issues with this particular toy. (More on that below.)

Of course, just because a dog loves a certain toy doesn’t mean she has issues. Just learn what the difference is between a normal dog playing and a dog that is starting to become possessive of the toy.

Signs of toy possessiveness to watch for:

  • The dog growls, bites, barks or snaps when someone tries to take the toy.
  • She refuses to give up a toy.
  • The dog cries or searches for a toy once it is put away.
  • The dog is fixated on the toy.
  • She starts fights with other dogs when the toy is in the room.
  • The dog intentionally or accidentally snaps at hands to grab the toy before it’s been given to her.
  • She takes the toy and hides in a corner.
  • The dog is very submissive and the toy is the one thing she “controls.”
  • The dog is possessive and aggressive around other objects such as food or bones.

Ways to prevent possessiveness:

  • Set time limits on when the dog can have the toy, maybe 5 minutes at a time.
  • Make sure the dog understands that the toy is yours and you can take it whenever you want.
  • Teach your dog the “leave it” command. Learn more here.
  • Don’t let the dog have the toy until you say so.
  • Don’t encourage obsessive, possessive or aggressive behavior.
  • Make sure your dog gets enough exercise.
  • Set rules for your dog and follow through.
  • Put the toy away when not in use, but place it on the ground and ask for “leave it” and calm behavior first.

For more training tips, see my ebook, “50 Dog Training Tips: Your Training Problems Solved Now.”

Dog training ebook

Does your dog seem to think her toy is her baby?

Let me know in the comments. My dog Ace used to be pretty obsessive with tennis balls. He’s gotten less obsessive in his old age! (2019 update: Ace has passed away.)

My young dog Remy can get in a very fixated/possessive state of mind over stuffed toys so we are careful not to let his excitement escalate.

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Related posts:

How to break a dog’s possessiveness

Why does my dog want me to hold his bone?

Dachshund dog thinks her toy is her baby

123 thoughts on “My dog thinks her toy is her baby”

  1. Ha! Yes, I have heard people make those statements about dogs thinking something is their baby, etc. Great post, most don’t realize that doggy OCD (for lack of a better term) is real and that an obsessive dog is one that is under-stimulated or under-(insert activity here).

    1. My chi did do this for several days. It was disturbing and sad. She carried it so careful like mothers do. Bathing it constantly. Putting it to bed. She got over it.

    2. Our chihuahua from the time she was 2 months old she has a favorite finger puppet she’s been carrying every day and she wines like a baby she’s now 11 months old but 5 days ago we got her spayed and she has now more bigger a more toys she carries in her mouth and wines constantly we’ve noticed that her wining has gotten worse we do play with her quite a bit and walk her just about every day I’m wondering y her wining has gotten worse I know she not in pain her tummy is just about completely healed our vet did an excellent job on her and I stopped giving her pain meds today and she’s jumping around like nothing

  2. Our old GSD used to be fixated on tennis balls. It was pretty annoying. Fortunately Biggie is not obsessive about anything except guarding, and even that’s not really obsession. We just joke that it is. And he’s not really possessive about anything, we are very lucky that he has such a great disposition.

    When he wants to play with someone (another dog or person), he’ll sometimes grab something and shake it around and try to get you to chase him. But if you look at him and tell him you want it, or tell him to drop it, he does.

    His breeder got him started, and we continued to work with him, to not be food aggressive or possessive about anything. So far it has worked.

  3. Good information for sure. Toys are great but obsession and resource guarding are not, for sure.

    As for growling… it is okay within limits. My dogs growl at me, but it’s giving me information… mostly they are complaining and I know it won’t go further, so I do not dissuade them from their growling.

  4. I had a major issue last Thursday night. I haven’t written about it yet but plan to soon. It involved protecting a bone, and biting me. *sigh* 🙁

  5. Just because a dog carries around a toy does not mean it is obsessed. The other signs, yes. But not just carrying it around. Especially in retriever breeds. My dogs will frantically search for a toy to carry around when I first get home. They will show me what they have and shove it at me daring me to tug on it and toss it for them a time or two. (labragifting) but will loose interest after awhile. If i get up to change rooms the ritual will begin again and the labragifting happens all over. The retrieving impulse/response is deeply breed in them and as long as it does not become possessiveness, it is a completely healthy and normal retriever behavior.

  6. Lindsay Stordahl

    Yep, i think we each need to decide for ourselves what is acceptable and what isn’t. Sounds like your dogs are just fine! I know what you mean about the retrievers!

  7. I haven’t noticed my Diesel being involved with his toys to the point of obsession. If he has a toy longer than a week, i would consider it to be extremely durable, as he likes to try and trash each toy to shreds. He has a couple of favorites that i must admit i took away from him, because of the “mess” the shreds make on my floor. If i remove the label from an empty water bottle, he loves it!

  8. My chihuahua is obbsessed with a stuffed squirell and does try to bite when i take it from her. I tried to hide it or put it where she can see it but cant reach it and she goes insane starts shaking and whining and wont stop she hasnt eaten because of it and wont leave the chair where she and it sit because she cant get it back up there…HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  9. Throw that toy away, or put it away somewhere on another level of the house when she isn’t around. She will eat when she is hungry, don’t worry about that.

    Then start some serious training with your dog to show her you are in charge, not her. That means you control the toys. Also, take her for a long walk every day so she gets enough exercise and doesn’t have pent-up energy left to obsess over a toy. I wouldn’t let her have toys or bones at all unless she is playing normally and is not in that fixated, obsessive state of mind.

  10. We left for New Year’s for 6 days. Our neightboor looked after Jessie and gave her two small stuffed animals. We have bought toys for her before and she just chews them up. This time, she is obsessive. She is not growling at us, but at our male dalmation. She is acting like a mother to these toys inclduing licking them clean after we hold them. She will not leave them and is refussing to eat. We have showed our dominance by picking up and moving the toys. She doesnt like us having them but does not try to bite or growl. She just gets real anxious. I am thinking about throwing them away, but what will that do to her?

  11. Lindsay Stordahl

    Throw them away. But watch and make sure she doesn’t become possessive/obsessive over any other toys. Don’t worry about her, she’ll get over it. Dogs move on a lot better than people do. If she does seem weird after you throw the toys away, then distract her by taking her out for a run, working on training or playing with her.

  12. my dog stays with a toy duck all day. Won’t go outside or eat unless you bring it to her. Just sits all day with this toy.

    1. I got a golden retriever that done the same thing. So I just took the toy away and threw it in a garbage. That’s possessive behaviour and shouldn’t be tolerated.

  13. i have a chihuahua at the moment she thinks a pig (soft toy) is her puppy or something i dont no if its the same thing as others have written about there dogs or not but my chihuahua only acts possessive of 1 toy and only when she is on or coming on 2 heat.she humps it furiously just before she comes on heat. so is this just an obsession or does she really just want to be a mum?

  14. oh plus my brothers pitbull had puppies they are only 4 weeks he brought one round and she left the pig and acted as if the puppy was hers let it nuzzle into her to sleep and got really anxious if anybody touched it. when he took it away she chased him and after he left she went straight back to the pig. she hardly ever leaves her bed i have to make her most of the time she is going to be 5 this year is that to old to breed a chihuahua?

  15. Lindsay Stordahl

    Instead of breeding her, I would recommend having her spayed. She doesn’t want to be a mom, she just doesn’t know what to do because she has pent-up energy and she is bored.

    I would definitely put that pig away and only let her have it for a few minutes a day.

  16. All of those signs of ‘possessiveness’ is exactly the way my dog acts and MORE! My dog gets really, REALLY obsessive when it comes to toys. We can go and buy lets say 6-7 new toys and 4-5 rawhides(mind you I have 3 other dogs plus him)and within an hour he will have all of the new toys and rawhides gathered up and he will have dragged them under the bed…yea I know! He is almost all the time under the bed and any time you get around or even near the bed he will start growling. He carries the toys outside with him when they use the ‘potty’ and freaks out when we take them away. Once we crawled under the bed and took them all away, I thought the dog had a heartattack! The way he was shaking, crying, and just clawing at us to give them back! And what drives me crazy is the way he ‘washes’ all of the toys. He will sit and spend hours just licking them until they turn a disgusting color! Ugh it’s soooo annoying! I wish there was some easy way of correcting his problem! It’s not the other dogs because out of the other 3, only 1 actually plays with toys, the other 2 could careless as long as they have a rawhide! What is my dog’s problem!?

  17. Lindsay Stordahl

    If you want to put a stop to this behavior, I recommend you follow some of the tips provided in the post. Don’t allow your dog to bring toys or bones under the bed. Make him play with toys out in the open and purposely take them away often for a few seconds at a time. Don’t give them back when he is freaking out because this just rewards the behavior. Give them back when he is calm, and keep taking them away. You’re right, there is no easy way to correct the problem.

  18. omg, I’m not the only one seeing this with there dogs I guess. My maltess carries it around all day and cries and whimpers w/ it in her mouth, then puts it by her belly and licks it gently. When she picks the rubber dog up w/ her teeth it takes her like 5 minutes to gently pick it up so it doesnt hurt the dang toy hahaha well I dont know what she is thinking!

  19. My moms chihuahua just had a puppy and it was still born she now treats her rubber toy dog like its her puppy licking it, protecting it, and even trying to get it to nurse. she is very possisive of it and freaks out when the other dogs come in the room or even other people going so far as to attack the other dogs and nip at my mom and dad. she has never done this befor and we are worried about her

  20. Lindsay Stordahl

    I would throw that toy away. Then I would provide the dog with a lot of distractions such as long walks every day and training sessions to get her mind off it. I would avoid comforting her too much because that will just encourage and reward her behavior.

  21. My dog is submissive but when there is a rawhide ANYWHERE in a room that she knows she can get(it doesn’t necessarily need to be line of sight) she growls and snaps when you try and pet her head. She doesn’t even chew on the rawhide in front of me because its almost like she’s afraid that I might take it if she does.(I have in the past… to discourage this behavior initially)

    As soon as I put the rawhide on a shelf where she knows she doesn’t have access she immediately goes into a submissive state again(at this point I’m pretty displeased and she can pick up on it)

    Is the only solution to this to simply never give her rawhide?

  22. Lindsay Stordahl

    You need to claim the rawhide before you give it to her. Deliberately place it on the ground and don’t let her take it until you say it’s OK. If she tries to approach and take it, correct her and stand over the rawhide like another dog would do.

    Put her leash on her whenever she will receive a rawhide. That way you will have more control and can take it from her whenever you want. I would practice this every day. Giver her the rawhide (after you’ve claimed it first) and then take it away. If she growls at you, you can’t back down. You have to move into her space and show her that you are not scared and that you own the rawhide.

    I know this is easier said than done as it is scary when a dog is going to snap. And please be very careful. It helps to approach from the side without making direct eye contact. When she growls or snaps, don’t back away. She is most likely bluffing and will eventually give up if you hold your ground. Don’t put your hands out. Sit with your side to her or if she is a small dog, back her into a corner while standing and eventually you can just step on the rawhide and hold it there until she backs off.

    Another option is the one you suggested – just don’t give her rawhides. But you may eventually see the behavior with toys or other objects if you don’t get it under control. Don’t be afraid to find a professional in your area to help you out.

  23. Ok thanks for the advice I’ll try the leash thing.

    She doesn’t take the rawhide in front of me unless I actually put it in her mouth and she’ll soon drop it unless I want to chase her around with it or something(like a normal toy). In fact she doesn’t even chew it in front of me anymore, but she is still sometimes aggressive when it is in the room and on floor level. Its so striking that immediately when the rawhide is not accessible she is again wagging her tail and/or being submissive(depending on how pissed off I am at her for being aggressive at that particular instance)

    When she gets aggressive I never have backed down until I “won”. If she gets aggressive I do the hand nip at her neck area and get on top of her and pin her until she stops baring her teeth and then I remove the rawhide from access. Is this probably helping or hurting the situation?

  24. Lindsay Stordahl

    Doing a “hand nip” at her neck will help if you have the timing right.

    Getting on top of her and pinning her down might be a bit extreme. I put dogs onto their sides or in a down position in some cases where they have been aggressive or too excited, but I make sure to do it in a calm way. If I am angry and forceful, it just shows that I’m out of control – I’m too emotional and upset. It can also end up scaring the dog and making her more aggressive/tense.

    I also find that simply being more relaxed and calm about the situation can make a big difference. Tension leads to more tension.

  25. My dog shes 9 years old she’s never had puppies and shes not fixed we have a 5 year old cat that she has nursed since he was a baby and she has also nursed his duaghters and his mother and a couple other cats of ours she has two stuffed babys she has and she walks around with them and cries and when she goes into heat she trys to get the cat to nurse off of her what i want to know is she sad or is she just very motherly.


    The dogs name is callie & the cats name is buddy there like best friends

  26. Lindsay Stordahl

    I doubt that she’s sad. The motherly instincts come naturally to her, especially because she is not spayed. I’m glad your dog and cat are such good friends.

  27. Hmm well have you ever considered that some dogs MAY actually think that their toy is a puppy? My dog is going through a phase called a “fake pregnancy,” when a couple of months after she is in heat, she’ll think she was pregnant and had puppies. She carries and hides her toys and will groom them as well. She is particularly fond of one toy- a small squeeky rat toy, and she whines whenever she carries and grooms it. What I wanted to know from google (and what led me to your site) was if she was crying because she thought that her “puppy” was dead, because it was not moving. She is not aggressive at all with her toys, and she really does get distressed and comes quickly if she hears her “puppy” calling to her (I squeak the toy). Also this really only happens after she’s in heat, afterwards, her toys are just toys. Just wanted to let you know that there is such a thing as a dog thinking her toys are puppies.

    1. I agree with you Mendie!
      My dog does the exact same thing! When she goes through about a week or so of this, her toys are just toys again. She goes on a fabulous nature walk with my husband every single day. There is no possible way she is lacking exercise or attention in this house. Im so glad I read about someone who understands. Thank you.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        This doesn’t mean the dog actually believe her toys are puppies. She just goes through some instincts due to being in heat. Dogs also mark more and can become more possessive/territorial while in heat. These are just instincts.

    2. I can relate to what Mendie is saying. I have a female mini-doxie who is not spayed yet. Without fail, 2 months after she is out of heat, she begins to carry around a stuffed animal (or 2) and clean it and keep it with her. She takes to her bed with the toy and won’t leave. She whines and cries and I feel helpless. So, this false pregnancy in female dogs does seem to bring on this type of behavior in my dog.

      1. lisa S schultz

        My 6 yr old st Barnard Carrie’s around her toy well 2 different ones not all the time and dont growl I can take it away and she is fine with it
        She becomes very close to me bring her toys to me and hide them or tucks them underneath her and laies on top of them next to me or on the bed or sofa I dont think an OCD thing idk what it is she is so gentle and nurturing with them it’s crazy and its not all the time what could this be ??

  28. Lindsay Stordahl

    I disagree. A dog knows what is her puppies and what isn’t. Since she is not spayed, she still acts out some natural “motherly” instincts.

  29. When we brought Charlie to the dark park soon after we got him we would throw his ball and if another dog got near it he would growl and even dropped the ball and snapped at another dog once. I worked with him and now if another dog is coming up to him while he has the ball he will move away but come back to me. Last weekend he dropped the ball and another dog took it away and he just walked away!

  30. I recently bought my dog a mini version of herself toy, usually she’ll go nuts and play with it but lately she has been whimpering when I squeak the toy as I try to play with her. Or she’ll start trembling/shaking when its not in her sight. She only started this behavior two days ago, I’m glad I found this site(:

  31. I wouldn’t encourage her obsession over that toy. Encourage her to play with other toys and put them away after each play session.

  32. weird!! I have a doberman she is almost two years old two days ago she just stated to carry her toy like it was her baby she never add any interest before for toys and if I take the toy away from her she will get back put it on her bed and sleep with it and sometime cries is this normal?

  33. Lindsay Stordahl

    I would take the toy away and distract her with something better like a walk or play or training.

    Is she spayed? Sometimes unspayed dogs go through some of these “mothering” instincts with a toy.

  34. I am having some similar issues with our mini dachshund, she is 10 months old, she went through 1 heat cycle and then we decided to get her spayed.
    That was 1 wk ago. Now she is obsessing over a little stuffed toy puppy, that shes had since she was a puppy (but never really showed any interest in) it has been down in her bed…. But, she wakes up in the morning goes outside and then right back in & down the stairs to get the puppy, she whines, carries it around and won’t eat her food at her feedings… although has NO problem eating, when offered treats, which makes me wonder, if we’re just rewarding this behavior…
    Anyway, sorry for long post, just wondering if the spaying could have anything to do with her behavior, maybe her hormones are just out of whack??? IDK… please help!!

  35. Lindsay Stordahl

    Don’t worry that she’s not eating. Don’t give her any treats or food in between meals. Give her five minutes to eat at her usual meal times and then put her food away. She may skip a few meals but then she will be hungry for the next one.

    I’ve heard of other dogs doing this same behavior either when they are in heat but have never had puppies or shortly after they have been spayed but have had at least one heat cycle. Don’t encourage the behavior by laughing at her or talking about her while she’s being obsessive. Don’t acknowledge her at all when she does this. I would just throw the toy away and then encourage her to do other things. Take her for walks, work on tricks, whatever it is she loves to do.

  36. Lindsay Stordahl

    Oh, gosh! Well I’m glad that solved it. Watch her to make sure she doesn’t start acting that way around another toy. Rotate her toys so she doesn’t become obsessed with a single toy and limit the time she can have them. Also, make sure they are ultimately “your” toys.

  37. I’m so glad someone pointed this out, my dog goes through this every few months of pretty much all these symptoms with one toy or so and cries obsessively when I have to leave, my mom and I have been thinking that since she hasn’t been spayed she is going through a thing where she wants puppies, my only question is what do I do since she’s already 5 years old? Certain boundries won’t work now, it isn’t like she’s still a puppy and hasn’t learned the rules, if we spring a new rule on her, like not letting her have a toy, for no reason she’ll think she’s done something wrong, that’s what my poodle book says, and she can’t go outside because of having respitory problums, so what do I do?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You can certainly change her rules. Dogs adapt easily. Just take the toys away and distract her with something else. Work on obedience training. Play a game of tug.

      Or, if this isn’t a problem, just let her carry a toy around every few months.

  38. my lil maltese loves this toy we call barney. there are tow of them. she tots them about and brings them to bed at night and other tines, just forgets about them. she knows when to ‘drop it’ and she knows if i take it to help her up on the couch (for example) she’ll get barney back. i don’t think she’s too horribly obsessed, though caesar milan might think so. interesting note, the sibling dog kills all toys. i mean ALL toys. he’s a chewer from hell. but he won’t kill barney. he inherently knows the maltese will kick his butt if he does. strange that.

  39. Lindsay I have had two dog that thought thier toy was thier puppy the first time was right after my 1st son was born she cried like she was in pain & then later caried her toy all around with her & licked it, her tits started to fill up we were really worried took her to the vet,Whenever the vet said it was not uncommon & they gave us meds to help her & dry her milk that she had started to make. The 2nd one once again we took to the vet just to make sure once again they said she was okay & that it was not unusual. Sometimes its when they feel left out (such as when you bring home a new baby or another pet) .If you notice all most all of these dogs that do this are females. It seems when you are really close to the pet & something big changes in the household or right after they are in heat & their hormones do not return to normal right afterwards this seems to occur. Thanks for hearing me out .

    1. My dog is doing the same thing with her stuffed animal but she not being possessive over it I can take it off of her with no problem she even brings it to me and lays right beside me with it. did the vet say what to do when they are going through this. She’s not producing milk or anything like that her symptoms are whining, panting and carrying the toy where ever she goes and also following me everywhere

  40. well my dog does this and she is WELL entertained. also she does not snap or do any of the other things you said they do, so im sorry but i think your statement is a load of crap!

  41. Thank you so much. What you say makes so much sense & is right on the money. My Chiquita became very possessive over a stuffed frog. She wouldn’t let it out of her sight and would growl at anything that came near it. She does everything you listed. She’s always been very energetic & since I became disabled and unable to take her for walks or to the park I totally get it. I know now what I have to do to allow her to get back to her normal self and back on both of our way to recovery.

  42. Hi Lindsay, my poodle is having the exact symptoms as what you mentioned above. And so, we took her toy away and kept it at the place she can never reach. But she goes to every corner of the house crying and sniffing. She looks so miserable and has this heaving panting which she hardly had it in the past. She doesn’t want to do anything other than searching for that toy. We brought her out for a walk but still she sniffs around when she gets home. I’m worried. She’s crying again. What should I do now ?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Distract her with something like obedience training for highly valued treats (real chicken, cheese, etc.). Or offer her a Kong toy filled with goodies like peanut butter. Have her do something like sit or lie down before she gets it so she associates the reward for the behavior she just did (not the crying).

  43. yeah, i have a question, i found this site because i searched “my dog thinks her toys are her puppies” …ur explanation above sounds completely logical but i think our situation is somewhat different. she has always loved her toys and pretty much played with them when we would get her interested…but we recently had her spayed and a day later she was obsessed with her toys…she knows if one is missing, she crys if she cant find them, she baths them, she has all of them in her bed and lays with them. she will not leave the bed, she has lost weight and wont even leave the bed to eat, we had to bring her food and water to her bed. the vet said she was “nesting” and gave us some meds to give her…said that she would be over it in a few days and she was, with meds she cared nothing for the toys, but now that we are out, its right back to being SUPER MOM!!! what should we do, just keep medicating her or what???

    THANKS, stressed out SUPER OWNER!!! hahahaha

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would stop catering to her by bringing her food to her bed and that type of thing. Just get her out doing normal dog things like going for walks. Put all her toys away. Have one toy out at a time and if she starts going into that state of mind, just put the toy in an closet with the door shut. Distract her with a walk if needed or have her work on obedience-type commands for a treat.

      I wouldn’t want to keep her on meds all the time, either.

  44. sorry, its me again, left out a major factor…she has 26 toys of different shapes and sizes!!! its driving her and US…CRAZY!!!

  45. my dog got like this, it was squeaky toy and she used to squeak asif to check it was still alive, she never got aggresive about it, she had other toys that she didn’t treat the same, we considered taking her to the vets after a couple of days cuz she started taking it outside every time we took it off her she would go mad, and she wouldn’t eat we left her to it but after it really started to worry me so i got her excited to go for a walk (when we mention wee wee she knows its time to go out and it was the only time she left her toy for a few seconds then realise she left her toy) then my partner took it from her bed behind her back we didnt give her chance to look for it and when we ame back and she noticed it wasn’t there she went crzy looking for it at first but we ignored her and carried on like normal and eventually she forgot about (as far as i know) i keep considering giving it her back or not because she has seemed depressed lately but then i dont want her to be the same way with that toy she still has her other toys that she isn’t obsessed over.

  46. I have had a male chihuahua for 13 1/2 years and he has always carried a toy squirrel around. He does not bite if you get it but he does want it back. He shakes it and trys to get you to play with it and throw it. He sleeps with it and carries it around everywhere he goes. He gets plenty of exercise and I think he just likes the comfort of having his own toy. He has never bothered any other toy nor has he ever chewed on anything other than his toy. I think it comforts him and see no reason to take it away from him. Hey there is only one life to live and if it is not causing any problems then why take something that away that he enjoys.

  47. I have a 4 year old chi mix who has become obsessed with a stuffed animal. She barely sleeps at night and will not really even come around us (she was until about 2 weeks ago, a total lap dog) Its like she is scared that the stuffed animal is hurt or something. She stays off by herself in a bedroom laying on this thing. I tried to take it away, and it was 2 days of non stop anxiety and whining. Help, I miss my buddy 🙂 Should I get another dog so she has company, or should I get her spayed? She is never around other dogs so I never saw the need, I was always afraid of complications of an elective surgery.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would put the stuffed animal away in a closet or cupboard when she is not looking. Then, take her out to do her favorite things to distract her. Take her for a walk or to the dog park or to a favorite pet store. Or, work on tricks or training or play with toys she’s not quite so weird about. Or give her a bone or something to chew like a Kong toy. Just get her mind focused on something else.

      I’m guessing that getting her spayed would help, but you could talk to your vet about the options.

    2. Richard Vaughn

      I’ve read many of the comments here about female dogs that obsess over toys and retreat with them….and change their behavior and become reclusive. This happens with female dogs who have gone through heat without getting pregnant and then have been spayed. It’s a symptom of “false pregnancy”….they’ll position the toy to nurse, they’ll sleep with them, keep to themselves, and they’ll be very protective. We saw our Yorky do all these things and she would even wag her tail and smile if you gently held the toy and fussed over it. It passes eventually…

  48. I have a seven year old yorkie. She has lots of toys she plays with, but maybe about every 6 months or so she takes her little bear toy and carries it around with her. She sometimes wants to hide with it, but mostly wants to cuddle up with it in on the couch with me. She licks it constantly and gets alert when our other boy yorkie comes by her. She doesn’t snap at him unless he tries to take it off of her. This behavior usually lasts about a week or two. What is going on with my dog?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Is she spayed? Dogs typically go into heat twice per year, but even if your dog is spayed she may simply be acting out some sort of motherly instinct.

  49. These comments have really helped..my dog, a border collie x usually gets lots of play and excercise. lately we have been busy decorating our home and the weather has been dreadful with heavy rain and flooding therefore she has not been able to go out. She started carrying her toy around and whining constantly. I thought she was feeling maternal but i now know she is purely frustrated at being pent up. I shall be doing alot more indoor play with her until the weather improves enough to venture out. Thanks

    1. My 4 year old dog was spayed one week ago as of yesterday. The next day she started acting strange. Curling up in corners and growling at my 10 year old daughter. The day after that she started treating a stuffed animal as if it was a puppy. Licking it, cuddling with it, and growling at my daughter and I if we try to take it. Before her spay, any stuffed animal she would get a hold to would be de-stuffed. So to see her caring for one blows my mind. She added another stuffed animal to the mix. I took that one this morning after a lil growl fest she had. When will this pass? Will it pass?? I love my dog!!! But she is a 80 pound pitbull and she has never been agressive towards humans…. Having her growling and barking at my daughter has me losing my mind. I just think worse case senecio. Grrrr!!

  50. I have 2 dogs Lucky a11yo10lb Boston Terrier and Mari Jane a 8mo 73lb Choc Lab. At Penn Valley KCMO dog park the day before Thanksgiving ’12 Lucky was bitten when she walked to close to a tennis ball. The dog’s owner said his dog had possession issues. His 80lb dog almost killed Lucky over a tennis ball that Lucky got to close to.
    Holidays at dog parks are stressful as owners that haven’t properly socialised their dogs show up and there are plenty of fights. The same thing happens on the weekends so be careful and watch your dogs.
    At Penn Valley the big dogs play rough but they don’t fight each other. It scares newcomers but most of the regulars use voice commands to control their dogs. Some of the beaches we go to state dogs have to be under voice command when off leash.
    Please train your dog before it hurts.

  51. I have a 10 month old female yorkie, and she is doing some of the same things as above. I have hid the stuffed animal, she looked for it, but now is back at her mothers side!

  52. My boxer was shot twice by a policeman. I was not home at the time so I cannot say what really happened but when I returned within minutes of this event, the gate had been opened by someone and she was let out of the back yard. I believe it was a neighborhood kid who had been taunting her by throwing sticks and rocks at her through the fence. I caught him several days before this and had words with him about how dangerous it is to taunt an animal of any kind. Long story short she has not been the same. That was almost a year ago though and now she has developed an obsession with a tickle me Elmo doll. She is crying and carrying it around. I can take it from her and she doesn’t growl or anything but her behavior is odd. For two or three days before she found the toy she had just been walking around crying. It may have nothing to do with being shot but she has never been the happy go lucky dog she was before that incident. Also she was recently in heat and her milk sac is almost like she has been pregnant and gone dry. Could she be mourning a miscarriage or do they experience those emotions? I don’t know what to think.

  53. Also I should have pointed out that the policeman who shot her SAID she charged him but she had never had an aggressive bone in her body before this incident nor since. My grandson rides her like a pony.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear your dog was shot. That’s terrible.

      How old is she? I’ve heard of quite a few dogs that will obsessively carry around a toy during or around their heat cycles. Could it be that your dog is just a bit older and mature now and that is the reason for the change in her behavior?

  54. my do is doing the same things but she is whining and shakeing and has swollen mamory gland but can never run free she got out once and we think she is pregnant and mated with a down the street dog that is always out she got out in october around halloween What should i do?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Take her to the vet to see if she is pregnant and get some advice for how to prepare for the puppies if she is.

  55. Hi my dog just started doing the same thing recently . She is obsessed with her stuffed animal and everytime it squeaks she cries for it . I didn’t know it was unhealthy for a dog to do this. Could it be possibly that we haven’t taken her out lately because of the weather? Should I hide her stuff animal.? Thank you

  56. I just got a new 1-year+ old female dog from the humane society yesterday, and it’s obvious she had given birth not too long ago. She does wonderfully (she’s a hound mix, I think fox hound and maybe pointer) around the house so far EXCEPT she saw a stuffed bison sitting on the couch I got a few years ago from Yellowstone (my prized possession in remembrance of a wonderful trip) and she started “cleaning” it’s rear end and then just became totally obsessed with it; I have another very large stuffed German Shepherd on the floor next to my fireplace, and she started doing the same with it. I have put the stuffed animals in a closet that she can’t get to……my question is: is she missing her pups, and if so, what do I do about it if anything? I walk her regularly, she lays down on her bed near me, etc. Second question is: should I “replace” her lost pups with stuffed animals of her own, or would that make the withdrawals even worse? I did get her 2 chew toys–she’s not interested in chewing per se. I also gave her the only other stuffed animal I have, a pink panther doll (all stuffed, no hard parts) but she doesn’t want that like she is obsessed with the bison and the shepherd. My guess is it’s because those 2 and very similar in touch and feel to her actual pups, yes? Any help would be wonderful!! I just want her to be happy and not sad for her missing pups.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Just do other fun things with her and make sure her needs are met as far as attention, exercise and structure. Work on obedience and so on. I wouldn’t worry about her missing her pups. She will be OK, but I would keep those two toys put away for a few months.

  57. Well, you didn’t really answer my question about what is driving her to obsess about the stuffed animals. I’m not worried per se, just want to know! My vet says it’s because a). she just got spayed, and/or b). she may have just had a litter of pups prior to spaying (no one knows her history). Both potential reasons are due to very high hormone levels which can obviously change a dog’s behavior into being more ‘motherly’ than when her hormones are not raging (kinda like people 🙂

    So now I know and will keep the stuffed animals out of sight until we feel she is more settled hormone-wise.

  58. hi,my bitch is a 18 month old springador (springer spaniel/Labrador).recently she has been acting very strangely around her teddies.she isn’t due a season for at least 3 months but is showing motherly instincts towards the toys.she carries them around and puts them either on my bed or in her basket.she whines and tries to lay on them.she growls if anyone goes near her when shes got them.is this normal?what can I do to stop the aggression and will she grow out of it?thank you.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I don’t have a lot of experience with non spayed females and their behavior related to heat cycles. You may want to talk with a trainer who has had experience with this. Or, contact the breeder where you got your dog if that is possible (I don’t know if you got your dog from a breeder).

      From what I have heard, it is normal for intact females to behave this way. It’s not a behavior I would encourage, though. I would probably remove the stuffed toy if she is showing aggression, and I would try to entertain her mind with other things such as obedience training, walks and play.

  59. hello,

    my 5 yr old Chihuahua Terrier Mix has been carrying around a medium sized stuffed animal for the past 2-3 weeks she keeps it in her mouth when she barks and when she is laying down she puts it close to her tummy as if it were feeding from her. when she cant find it she whines and when she is trying to get comfortable in bed she goes around in circles for it could be 3-5 mins pushing the blankets away or trying to fix them to her liking but if she cant do it she cries, she hides under our bed and actually tore open a storage bag with my clothes in it and made a little bed/nest for her and her toy. it I cute but I believe something is going on with her and it kind of scares me, she has never acted this way before. even though she isn’t aggressive towards anyone that tries to take the toy or while she is playing, she may growl when playing tug o war but that’s with any toy, she is playful while running around in the backyard with our other dog which is a femle 4 yr old Valley Bull. The Chihuahua Terrier Mix is about 10lbs compared to the Valley Bull 30-60lbs and she is very dominate towards our bigger dog. But I don’t allow her to play with that toy with a child/adult to avoid any type of aggression that could possibly happen because its her favorite toy this month. just wondering could she be feeling lonely, and possible want to be a mother again or could she be ready to go into heat again? she was in heat about 3-4 mnths ago but I remember last year she went in heat in September or October and when she went in heat recently I was shocked at how close it followed her previous one. I am very curious as t what might be going on, Any help or suggestions are welcome! She is my baby!!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Dogs typically go into heat once in the fall and once in the spring, at least that is what I’ve generally read. It’s fairly normal for bitches to act this way with toys during heat or prior to going into heat, based on what others have told me. I would take the toy away if it were my dog and try to take her mind off it through working on obedience commands, giving her a Kong type toy to chew on or taking her for a walk. Is she possessive all the time or just around her heat cycles?

  60. Hello my 5yr old chi was spayed 1week ago since then she has been carrying her toy around. She hides it then cries until it is found. Nipping at our other male dog & my 3 month old baby. When we went for a walk she just cried the whole time till we went back for the toy, tried bring the toy with us she just tried to go home with it. Any ideas ?

    1. Loretta Williams

      hello,my Lacey is a great dane and she got spayed about a week ago also and she’s been carrying around her toys also,,I haven’t found out why she started doing this but it is very frustrating..If you find out any info on your dog would you please let me know cause i’m very concerned..thank you.

  61. Definitely a false pregnancy. I have a 9 and a half month pitbull that went through her 1st heat cycle more than a month ago. I watched her like a hawk and I know she’s not pregnant. She now doing the whole mothering thing. Gathering all her stuffed toys and piling them on my bed actually. She sleeps with them the whole day and soon as she sees you take one, youll have her undivided attention. Good thing is, she doesn’t growl when you take her toys, she actually brings them to me to have a look and hold it lol.
    I will definitely get her fixed soon as i don’t intend for her to have any pups anyway

  62. My dog is going through this as I type. I am worried for though. She has cut back on her eating time to spend time with her “babies”. We have tried taking her on walks (her favorite thing to do), giving her treats, spending more time with her, etc. but she insists on being with her toys. She hides in the corner and won’t come out. She wines all night and day long. I am just concerned if she could be starving herself to spend time with her “babies”. What can I do? Could this possessiveness lead to mental and physical harm?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You could call the vet and ask what is best. I’m thinking this will past in a week or two. You could try taking the toys away. I wouldn’t worry about her not eating. She will eat when she gets hungry enough, but make sure she is drinking water.

  63. My choc lab started this a couple of days ago, she is almost 3 years old and the second time she has gone thru this. It only lasts a few days. She growled at our Golden Retriever when he got close to one of the “babies” she was curled up in the corner with. I have had choc labs for 20 years and this is the first one to do this, but i really feel she is having motherly instincts. I had my other ones bred around 2 years old, then spayed. I am thinking i am going to bred this one, and i feel like once they become a mother, they are alot less selfish and more obedient.

  64. My puppy is so obsesed she spends every second laying on this cheap rubber hot dog wont chew it but she gets very agressive when anyonr aproches it shr even runbled at me once wgich she has nrver done she wont do it anymore but still will with everyone else ill put a stop to that thabks for the info

  65. I have a mix of a raterian and yorkie. and since two days ago she has been acting strange. she has been carrying her toy around. Also hiding with it in the corner of the closet. also hiding with it under the bed.when i try to take the to away she growls and tries to bite me. Im worried about my dog. she dosent even want to go for a walk without the toy named mr pigie

  66. I have a 4 yr old Chihuahua named Trixie and a 8 yr Yorkie named Sage, both dogs have not been spayed. Trixie and Sage both have there own separate areas Trixie sleeps with my daughter and sage sleeps with me. A few days ago i was playing with trixie and she brought me a stuffed bear, I played for a few minutes and then got back to work. Only a few minutes into my work and trixie started whining, I was not surprised thinking she had to do the usual (go to the bathroom, or she just wanted to sit with me) but as i turned around she was whining at my feet with the bear in her mouth. This i just took as she wanted to sit with me so i went on the bed with her and relaxed. Trixie was laying on top of the bear and tucked up to me. This I knew was not usual but i just took it as a new thing she does. When my other dog Sage came up Trixie started growling and trying to attack sage, trixie has only done this a few times but never this bad. I took the bear away and made sure both dogs knew they had done wrong and went on, thinking it was all done with. Trixie started whining and sniffing around the house looking for the bear. My daughter gave her the bear to Trix not knowing what had happened. After the same thing had happened to her she took the bear away and trixie proceeded to whine and sniff but we just left her be . A while later Trixie came to me with a another stuffed animal, she showed the exact same behavior. I am really worried about Trixie and her obsession. It seems she is bringing the toys to me or my daughter and staying close to us making sure sage our other dog does not steal them (even though sage does not want the toys). I took away all of the toys except for one. Trixie is the baby or the house so this behavior really worries us. when Sage was trixies age we had never gone through this so this is new

  67. my bitch is on her second season ever since the first one she babys my cats the guinepigs cries if she cant see tghem should I let her have alitter

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Not unless YOU want that litter. I wouldn’t recommend it since I assume you’re not an experienced breeder. If you’ve considered having her spayed, that’s probably your best bet.

  68. My 10 year old golden retriever has started acting like her toy is a puppy. She has had three false pregnancies and I am currently 7 months pregnant, with my third. She doesn’t growl or act possessive of it.or anything else. My year and a half old can take anything away and she lets him. But she whines when she can’t see the toy, bathes it and tries to feed it. She will even let my cat nurse on her.

  69. My dog was spayed over five years ago and had previously had a phantom pregnancy. She is nine years old. ANY time she hears a squeaky toy (childrens toys etc) she goes into phantom pregnancy mode so we tried to keep them away from her.

    A few days ago my elderly neighbour gave her a new ball. Its soft and squeaks .

    She took it so gently and then as from before the spaying she is carrying it around crying incessantly. She is not aggressive if I try to take it but is anxious.

    My son tried to show her it was a ball like her other non squeak ones and bounced it. She ran to it and licked it. He took her out for a walk and other son quickly hid it in his room, i belived he had binned it. As soon as she got back from walk she was searching for it but as I thought it was in the bin I just tried to distract her.

    However I have woken up this morning to find it next to her on my bed. She is licking it and crying.

    So even after all these years that mothering instinct is strong. It doesn’t happen with any other toys fluffy or not. ONLY with anything that squeaks.

    I will throw it away when she goes out but its actually really sad. I feel so sorry for her.

  70. Daryl Pereira

    I adopted a Rottweiler when he was 8 months and now he is 2 years. He was never possessive of his toys unless it was a ball. Recently got him a long extreme xtra large toy. He refuses to leave the toy even for a second and growls/snaps if we try taking it. Sits sleeps with it the entire time refusing food water strolls thinking we might take his toy away. At last I managed to grab the toy when he was sleeping and after that he had his food. I have now hidden the toy and not given it to him but he is very upset. Does not play, keeps searching for the toy, eats his food when I raise my voice and keeps looking at me with sad eyes. I want to give him the toy but I know it will be very difficult to take it back because he comes to bite when I tried previously. It’s just been a day now that I have kept the toy hidden but his sad face is unbearable.

  71. I just got my dog a new toy yesterday and instead of playing with it like she usually does she just carries it around and licks it. I normally give her new toys outside but it was hot so I gave it to her inside instead. Did I mess something up? I tried giving it to her outside but same response. Why wont she play with this toy, she still plays with her other one’s?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Who knows. You didn’t do anything wrong. I would probably take that toy away and offer it again in a few weeks. See if you get the same response.

  72. Loved this article. Hi Misty Rose is from a animal shelter and rescue her. She loves all her toys we’ve given her many and rawhides too. Then one day I bought her this plastic star that squeaks and she’s been crazy since we gave it to her. She carries it around she hides it she protects it she sleeps with her and all of her other toys she’s not interested with now. I quest was to find if this is normal. And if I should keep it away from her. She gets really excited and nervous when it’s not around her and that worries me I don’t know should I take it away. Or should I let her continue this behavior.

  73. My mom watches my son and for the past days she has been taking my son’s toys. She takes them to her bed and when we try to take it away she growls at us. If my mom’s other dog tries to go near it she growls at him. If we are able to take it she will follow whoever has the toy and whine for it. Not sure why this behavior started with my son’s toys.

  74. Hello I’m really hoping for some advice. I’m not sure if the problem I have completely relates to this but I think it’s very close. We have a 4 year old Female German shepherd. Most the time she is completely fine but once or maybe twice a year she will go Into a phase. She loves her toys. Well when she goes in the phase she starts gathering all her toys and will put them on mine and my wife’s pillows. She does not sleep in our bed. She has her own bed but wants them in ours. She’s not aggressive she doesn’t growl with her toys but if the cats get near them she definitely gets alert but she has never nipped at them or us. The best way to put it is the vibe she puts off is she thinks someone is going to hurt them and wants us to protect them. It is almost impossible to get her outside to go potty because she wants to run right back into our bedroom and check the toys. She will also walk around and whine. At first I thought it was because we had gave a couple of her very old toys to a friend because it started a day or 2 after that. It normally last for about 5-7 days. She almost becomes hard to be around unfortunately. Neither of us know how to handle the phase so we normally try out best to act like we dont notice that she is having her Phase. The time before this I got aggravated and while she wasnt in the room I put her toys up hoping that it would fix the issue in the next coming day. It absolutely did not. It made it worst and actual prolonged it. So any advice would be great. She is not fixed yet. We’ve been talking about having it done very soon.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh gosh that sounds funny only because I am not the one in that situation! I’m sorry you have to go through this with her! It really does sound like it’s related to her “mothering” the toys or protecting them like you said. I’m assuming it happens during her heat cycles? I do think having her spayed would likely stop this issue. I’m not necessarily saying you should have her spayed for that reason but if you do I think the behavior would go away.

      However, it would be worth bringing up to your vet and breeder (if she’s from a breeder). Here is another post on the topic of “False pregnancy” in dogs: https://www.thatmutt.com/2014/03/25/my-dog-will-guard-her-toy-like-its-a-puppy/

  75. I give my dog a walk everyday. Now that it’s Coronavirus I’m home all day and we typically go on two walks! I recently had a baby, he’s 9 months now. I heard my dog growling the other day and I can around the corner and saw my son with the dogs toy. I laughed it off (my dog would never bite) picked my son up and left her toy. Since then, my dog has been showing all the sign that u mentioned. The pictures look just like her with her toy. She will NOT go on a walk with me, and she will whine and search the house if she can’t find her toy.

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