When dogs bring their toys to bed or on the couch, dog owners often start wondering what triggers this curious behaviors. With free run of the house, and lots of square footage to enjoy, it comes natural wondering why it's almost a guarantee that Rover will found chomping on his favorite toy on the bed or on the couch.
While the behavior may be cute, perhaps the most annoying part may be coming home from work and plopping oneself on the couch, only to sit on a slimy ball or being awakened by a squeaky toy when turning at night in bed. So what's up with these dogs? Why do dogs bring their toys to bed or on the couch? Following are some theories.
A Form of Relaxed Play
Dogs seem to enjoy playing with their toys quite roughly when on the floor. Indeed, you'll likely see them toss their toys in the air, chase after them and then shake them side-to-side as if they must effectively subdue some type of enemy.
However, when dogs start getting a bit tired and just wish to unwind, what's better than bringing a favorite toy along on bed or on the couch and just play with it there?
The dynamics appear quite similar to what dogs do when they are playing with a playmate. You'll see the two parties chasing each other, pouncing and running amok from room-to-room, and then, once they get grow tired, you'll see them lying side-by-side playing with their mouths making funny vocalizations. This lazier form of play is, by the way, called "jaw sparring" if you wondering.
Back to playing with toys, once on the couch, your tired pooch may therefore enjoy entertaining himself with his favorite toy by gently mouthing at it. This relaxed form of play may continue for quite some time until your dog gets tired and falls asleep or the toy happens to fall to the ground, at which point, your dog will likely jump down to grab it and start playing with it again with renewed interest.
A Great Way To Unwind
Many dogs find chewing a toy a very relaxing activity. And when dogs want to relax, they have their favorite spots to do so just like us. The bed or the couch offer the ideal setting to unwind after a busy day.
According to Victoria Stillwell's website:"Chewing is a potent stress reliever and releases pleasurable endorphins into the body ." It's indeed a classic sight you may see in many paintings: a dog is relaxing by the fireplace while chewing on a bone. Just visualizing this scene is enough to even make us humans relax!
It's not surprising, therefore, if after chewing on the toy for some time, many puppies and dogs end up falling soundly asleep. For some dogs, chewing and relaxing is almost a routine, a precursor to their bedtime . These dogs know the drill: they will reach into the toy box, grab a toy, jump onto the bed, gnaw on it and then they're snoring in no time.
Savvy dog owners will take advantage of this natural inclination by purposely placing their dogs into their sleeping areas (crate, x-pen, mat) along with a toy so to help their hyperactive companions unwind and finally catch some z's.
Preparing for the "Kill "
Another possible theory is that dogs are taking their toys to the couch or bed to "finish them up. " As grotesque as it may sound, toys to dogs, more often than not, represent prey.
Watch your dog carefully next time he plays with ball or a squeaky toy. You'll likely notice the whole predatory hunting sequence or at least parts of it. The predatory sequence is simply a patterned series of behaviors that are reminiscent of the ancient times when a dog's ancestors were hunting.
A whole predatory sequence includes eye, orient, stalk, chase, grab/bite, kill/bite, dissect and consume. While dogs may no longer hunt the way their ancestors did, they still retain these instincts.
Back to playing with a ball or other type of toy, it's therefore not unusual for dogs to find it, chase it and then go on to doing the "kill/bite shaking" with side-to-side head movements. This shaking is reminiscent of the times when dogs were hunters and relying on animals for food. Small critters were often killed by shaking them for the purpose of breaking their necks.
After having "killed the toy" dogs may then decide to "finish it up." They may, therefore, find a comfy place to lie down (like their mat, couch or bed) and decide to dissect the toy (the expensive part of dog ownership!) and in some cases, if allowed to, even consume parts of it. Side note: if your dog is prone to this, consider the risks for digestive upset and even blockages if large enough pieces are swallowed.
On top of being comfy, the couch may offer an ideal platform that provides support so that your dog can more effectively chew or dissect the toy. By placing the toy against the couch, he may obtain better leverage so that he can chew the toy at certain angles.
Height is Power
If you own multiple dogs, there may be chances your dog cherishes playing and chewing on his favorite toys on the bed or couch because he perceives these pieces of furniture as perks.
A taller sleeping spot offers the advantage of being less accessible to other dogs and dogs laying on top of them may feel as if they have a privileged advantage. In some sort of way, being on top of the couch or bed may feel to some dogs as a small executive sitting on a very large chair.
Your dog may therefore take advantage of being on an elevated surface to tell other dogs to get off or not come close when he has a prized possession to guard from other dogs.
Dogs may therefore choose to go on the couch or bed to chew on valuable toys or bones where they want to be left alone, and sometimes that includes being left alone even by their owners. If your dog has ever showed signs of aggression when chewing on toys or other valuables, consult with a behavior professional.
Please note: if you have an intact female dog (non spayed) who is carrying a toy and whining, sleeping with it in bed, and possibly even guarding it (as if it was a puppy), this may be a sign of what is known as pseudopregnancy. Also known as false pregnancy or phantom pregnancy, pseudopregnancy is commonly seen following a heat cycle and the symptoms can be similar to a real pregnancy. The good news is that within one or two weeks most false pregnancies will regress on their own and affected dogs should then leave her toys alone and return to normal.
A Good Place to Hide
Finally, some dogs may enjoy chewing toys on the bed or couch for the simply fact that after chewing on them, they can hide the toys in between the cushioned seats of the couch or under the pillows or blankets in beds.
This, once again is a natural instinct. In the wild, many animals have a natural instinct to hide leftovers to prevent any predators from gaining access to them. This feast or famine instinct is known as "caching" and its primary goal is to store surplus foods when food is plentiful for those times when food is scarce.
After playing and chewing on th toy for some time, these dogs may therefore decide to dig on the bed or couch and hide their prized possessions there.
Now That You Know...
Some dog owners wonder if there is a way to stop dogs from bringing toys on the couch or on the bed. Instinctive behaviors though may be challenging to tackle because they are so ingrained. To reduce this behavior, you may have to therefore find ways to "outsmart him."
One option is to use toys that grab your dog's immediate attention and that require a more interactive interaction rather than passively chewing. A food dispensing toy such as a Kong Wobbler may keep your dog occupied, and since it's quite heavy and difficult to transport, will likely remain on the floor.
Another option is to provide your dog with his own comfy place to call his "den." For example, you can invest in a comfy memory foam dog bed or use a playpen and make it extra appealing. Praise and reward your dog for using these areas.
If your dog happens to show his intent to go on the couch, you can always redirect by training your dog to "go to his mat." As a temporary measure, when you cannot actively supervise, you can try putting obstacles in the way to prevent him from jumping up on the couch or bed.