Dogs sometimes seem to have so many peculiar behaviors that us humans are completely baffled by. This can especially be the case when you have a female dog.
Female dogs undergo far more hormonal changes than male dogs, and can subsequently be far more confusing to understand.
One of the strangest behaviors that you may have witnessed being practiced by your female dog, is pacing around the house carrying a toy, whilst making whining noises.
You may be wondering just what type of emotion they’re trying to convey, but just can’t figure it out. Don’t worry, because we’ve got the answer, simply keep reading as we take a look below.
Could It Be A False Pregnancy?
One of the first things that you should look at when your dog is behaving in this manner, and carrying around their toy, is hormonal changes.
Female dogs sometimes cry and carry around their toy when they are experiencing what is called a false pregnancy. This will normally occur at around 4 – 6 weeks after their heat cycle.
This can also be known as a phantom pregnancy, and is a phase that female dogs can go through when they believe themselves to be pregnant. It is incredibly common, and can happen after any season as they produce pregnancy hormones each time.
The symptoms will normally only last for a few weeks, and are usually quite mild.
What Other Symptoms Could Indicate A False Pregnancy?
You can check to see if your dog is undergoing a phantom pregnancy physically by observing their mammary glands. When they are experiencing a phantom pregnancy, these will become swollen and may produce milk.
In the more severe cases, your dog’s mammary glands might become so large that her belly can appear swollen.
Your otherwise mild mannered dog may also begin to develop some angsty behavior, and become aggressive.
They can also have very low energy levels, so may not feel like playing with you as much as usual, as well as eating less of their food because of decreased appetite levels.
You may also see signs of nesting behaviour as your little lady prepares to welcome her brood.
As well as causing these symptoms, while undergoing a false pregnancy, your dog may become more clingy. Both to you, and their possessions.
This explains why your dog is carrying around the toy, likely in a motherly manner as a result of the hormones that she’s experiencing. She’s practicing carrying her babies.
Spaying Your Dog
Spaying your dog will prevent them from experiencing false pregnancies. Although the behavior described above is not harmful, occasionally where milk is produced, false pregnancies can cause mastitis. This is a painful infection of the mammary tissue and can be very unpleasant for your dog.
Spaying, or neutering will protect your dog against real, unwanted pregnancies.
Spaying your female dog also protects against a whole host of other things which could potentially prove to be problematic. First of all, spaying prevents your dog from experiencing womb infections.
A womb infection, or pyometra is a serious and life threatening condition. It often involves very expensive emergency surgery to treat and sadly could prove fatal to your dog. If your dog experiences vomiting or is unwell 5-8 weeks after her season seek urgent medical attention.
Spaying your dog also removes her risk of female specific cancers such as womb, ovarian and breast tumors. These cancers are as serious in dogs as they are in humans, and unfortunately are not always treatable once they have been diagnosed.
Spaying before the first heat offers more protection against breast cancers, however this is not appropriate for all breeds of dog. Seek advice from your veterinarian on when is the best time to neuter your lady.
Uncomfortable urine infections are also more common during the heat period, so it’s important to monitor your dog closely each season.
What If My Dog Isn’t Female?
Some of you reading this article may feel even more confused at this point, because your dog isn’t female, so can’t possibly be experiencing a phantom pregnancy. Male dogs don’t have fluctuations in pregnancy hormones, so this simply can’t be the cause.
Despite this fact, male dogs can still feel incredibly possessive over their favorite toys, even if it’s not tied to their hormones. There is a slight chance, though, that if they haven’t been neutered, they could be expressing some slight parent-like affection for their toys.
It usually isn’t the case that the male dogs play a big role as a father after their puppies are born, they normally leave it to the mother and carry on as usual. There is some variation in this behavior however, and some male dogs may become more protective of their puppies.
It is more likely that your male dog is showing possession over his toys and this is a behavior you will want to work on over time. To start off on the right foot you may find this article useful: How To Encourage Good Puppy Manners During Playtime
What if neither of these reasons described above seem applicable for your dog? It could be the case that your dog has had past traumatic experiences that have led them to become possessive over their items, previous to you owning them.
Some dogs are like this even if they haven’t been adopted. The key is to interact with them and their toys, showing that they are to be shared and there’s no need to feel possessive. If they show any signs of aggression (growling, lip curling, snapping) then it’s time to speak to a behaviorist.
There are a few reasons why your dog may be carrying around their toy and whining. If your dog is an entire female the key reason is most certainly tied to hormonal changes and possible phantom pregnancies.
This is not harmful for your dog, and the behavior should subside in a few weeks – but its best to get her checked out to be sure.
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