For some dogs, greeting their returning owner by presenting them with a toy is an almost compulsive behaviour.
An owner returning to the pack is a big moment for most dogs.
It carries a lot of emotion.
Dogs experience extreme happiness, excitement and in some cases, which might seem counter-intuitive; anxiety when their owner returns. Quickly gathering a toy can provide the dog with a multitude of appeasing feelings.
It can be an expression of joy, it can be because the dog associates toys with fun or it could even be because the dog knows that bringing a toy to their owner results in reward.
In short: why dogs like to greet owners with a toy
Debbie Jacobs, who wrote the excellent: A Guide to Living with and Training a Fearful Dog, explains fetching behaviour as:
“(fetching behaviours are) self-reinforcing, meaning they make the dog feel good. They don’t need to be rewarded for the behaviour. If you like playing football, you play football even if you don’t get paid to do it. It just feels good to do it. Same is true for dogs.”
Humans will often greet each other with words, a handshake, a fist bump, maybe a hug.
But for many dogs, their most simple method of communicating their sheer joy at an owner’s return is by fetching a toy and presenting their most favourite human with it.
Being greeted by a happy dog with a toy in their mouth is one of life’s greatest pleasures as a dog owner. What better way to decompress from a stressful day than by being given a warm welcome and a drool covered gift.