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My dog will guard her toy like it’s a puppy

My male dog is a toy-obsessed, retrieving fool.

Years ago, I learned in order to live with Ace I would have to set some rules.

I only throw the ball a couple of times in a row, for example. I use the command “that’s enough” to signal play is over.

And I know I’m not alone.

There are a lot of dogs like Ace.

Some are obsessed with retrieving and constantly drop toys at their owners’ feet. Others are obsessed with carrying toys around, and some become possessive of toys and will guard them from other dogs or from people.

I believe the majority of these behaviors are linked to high-energy dogs in need of more structure, exercise and training. This is just my opinion, and I’d like to hear yours in the comments.

However, there are some cases where a female dog will guard her toy like it’s a puppy because she is going through a false pregnancy.

When I wrote a post about whether or not dogs think their toys are babies, several people shared examples of their dogs experiencing false pregnancies. In those cases, the female dogs were “nesting” with their toys, licking them and sometimes guarding them as though the toys were puppies.

Below, you’ll see my neutered, male dog Ace when he was going through his false pregnancy.

OK, not really.

But jokes aside, some dogs really do have to deal with false pregnancies.

Dog will guard her toy like it's a puppy

False pregnancies in dogs

A false pregnancy in a dog is when a non-pregnant female dog shows signs of pregnancy, according to [1]. These symptoms are typically 4 to 8 weeks after her heat is over.

Most intact females will show some signs of false pregnancy at some point, according to [2]. Although, the symptoms do not necessarily happen after every heat.

Symptoms of a dog’s false pregnancy

According to, a dog going through a false pregnancy could have behavioral or physical symptoms such as:

  • “nesting” behavior, like gathering blankets
  • “mothering” activity
  • enlarged mammary glands and fluid from the glands
  • vomiting
  • restlessness
  • “Mothering activity” could also include guarding toys or other small objects, according to The dog may also guard her blankets or “nesting” area.

Why do false pregnancies occur?

A hormonal imbalance is most likely the cause of false pregnancies in dogs, according to

After a heat cycle, the female dog’s ovaries will produce hormones, regardless of whether or not she is pregnant, according to It remains a mystery why these hormonal changes occur even in non-pregnant dogs. If she is pregnant, the hormones will continue to be produced until right before she gives birth. If she is not pregnant, hormone levels begin to decline again after four to six weeks.

Can spayed dogs have false pregnancies?

Brown and white border collie guarding her toy
False pregnancies can occur in spayed dogs (a spayed dog’s ovaries and uterus have been removed), but it’s not as common, according to A false pregnancy in a spayed dog is most likely to happen a few days after a spay surgery.

What should you do if your dog is going through a false pregnancy?

Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it too much unless your dog seems to be very uncomfortable or if the symptoms do not seem to pass. If that is the case, I would contact your dog’s vet.

“My dog wants to be a mom.”

Several people have left comments on my other post saying they think their dog “wants to be a mom” due to the guarding behavior (guarding stuffed toys as though they are puppies).

I can’t speak for dogs, but I don’t think any dog actually wants to be a mom. I believe they are simply acting out their maternal instincts. Meaning, don’t breed your dog just because you think she wants to be a mom (dur-de-dur)! I am not against dog breeding, but come on.

Should you have your dog spayed?

This is a personal decision. Most people in the United States choose to have their female dogs spayed so they do not have to deal with the mess of their dogs going into heat. Spaying a dog does have its health risks, though, and I encourage you to read my post on the pros and cons of spaying and neutering.

Does your dog guard her toy like it’s a puppy?




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