Sometimes it is on purpose, such as when you play fetch with your dogs. Other times it is more of an annoyance, such as when they are carrying around your new shoes. Regardless of the specific reason, you’ve seen your dog carrying an object at some point. The question is… why do they do it?
Well the simplest explanation of why is because, without hands, they can only carry things around in their mouth. While this is a rather simple explanation, it does not take into account why dogs will ‘steal’ items just to carry them around, or why dogs seem to enjoy carrying things around when they don’t seem to necessarily need them.
Take your socks for example, your dog obviously doesn’t need them but they will often pilfer your laundry bin in order to get these items. They will then precede to carry them around and maybe even chew on them.
There are a few reasons why dogs will carry items around, usually depending on the item itself. Dogs like carrying things around and showing them off in general. They won’t always give you the item, especially if they see it as theirs, but sometimes they simply enjoy it.
When it is items such as your clothing, this is largely because it smells like you. They like to be near you and therefore like to carry and surround themselves with things that smell like you. Usually these clothing items are made out of cotton, and cotton fabric absorbs smells more readily than synthetics.
While you may find it gross that they want to have your dirty laundry by them, they find it comforting. This is especially common with dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, as they will not steal these clothing when you are there, preferring your actual company.
If you think that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, then there are ways to help your dog. Training and socialization are usually the best methods and can sometimes help stop your dog from stealing your clothing.
When it comes to their toys, it is for a similar reason: comfort. This reasoning is slightly different however as these toys do not smell like you, but instead themselves. They get comfort from the item being their property. Much in the same way as people like having familiar items on their desk or counters, dogs will enjoy that the item is with them and it’s their property.
They will carry it around in their mouths in order to take the items with them. They don’t want to lose the items. Whether they think that another dog (or person) is going to take them or they are simply going to lose track of where they put them, they carry around the toy to keep it safe.
With some items, such as sticks, the dog is bringing you the item to show it to you. They aren’t just showing to you because the item is ‘theirs’, but because they want to give you the item. This is the reason that dogs will play fetch. They will bring an item and give it to you as a gift.
Similar to how some cats will bring you their prey, dogs will bring you sticks, toys and other items to show that you are the alpha animal of the pack. They bring you the item to show their respect. They also will carry an item around, and notably bring it to you in order to play. They will give you an item that they want you to throw.
So, all in all, it boils down to the fact that dogs will carry around items for a multitude of reasons ranging from them simply being happy to the items providing comfort to the dog wanting to play with you.