Why Does My Dog… Grab Something in His Mouth When He’s Excited?

Ready to play? Some excited dogs run for a toy (or anything else they can find) when guests arrive.
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Ready to play? Some excited dogs run for a toy (or anything else they can find) when guests arrive.

Some dogs seem to love to entertain. When guests come to the door, these dogs become delighted hosts, racing to greet their visitors with something — anything — they find to put in their mouths.

What’s behind this amusing behavior?

Vetstreet checked in with Dr. Wailani Sung, a veterinary behaviorist, to find out.

There are several different reasons your dog might be doing this, she says. Among them: They’re offering a gift, they’re looking for attention or they want to show us they’re happy.

“I think some dogs are so excited to see a visitor because it may represent a new person who will play with him/her, so the dog grabs a toy to try to entice the person to play, whether it is tug or throwing the object,” Dr. Sung explains.

A Welcome Distraction?

For other dogs, it may be a behavior that the owners taught them or encouraged to give them something more appropriate to do in place of jumping on people or barking.  

Does Your Dog Put Things in His Mouth When He's Excited?
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“Other owners have recognized that their dogs may appear anxious or worried, but if they get the dog engaged with their toys, they appear less concerned about new visitors in the house,” she says. “Some dogs may naturally grab a toy on their own, whether to solicit play or to have something to do.”

The dog may also be reacting to your own excitement and responding in kind.

Dr. Sung has seen the behavior mainly in Retrievers but said it’s something any breed might exhibit.

Avoiding an Embarrassing Moment

In some cases, owners report some rather embarrassing situations — like when the first thing their pooch spotted to grab was dirty laundry or other “unmentionables.”  

Dr. Sung says it’s best to be sure those things are out of the dog’s reach. But if the arrival is a surprise and the dog does get something he shouldn’t have, the owner should try to keep calm and get the dog to exchange the contraband for another toy or treat. 

“They should distract the dog, redirect to a more appropriate behavior, such as come and sit, and then ask the dog to drop it,” Dr. Sung said. “Sometimes people forget and raise their voices or go chasing after their dog and it becomes a game to the dog. Then the next time visitors arrive, the dog remembers how much fun he had last time people arrived and grabbed an item.” 

It can be flattering to be the source of a canine host’s excitement — unless he’s so thrilled, he’s jumping or running into people. In those cases, Dr. Sung recommends putting him in another room or in his kennel or bed while guests arrive to try to avoid the excitement.

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