You just got back from work, you feel so stressed and tired and you would give anything for a nice, warm bathe. The front door is just inches away and then “Ouch!”, you stepped on a toy. You look around and your front lawn is full of them, your doorstep and garden have been transformed into a toy minefield.
You already know who caused all this mess, and frankly, you’re really curious as to the root of the habit. More often than usual, you’ve found yourself asking “why does my dog take his toys outside“. You begin to wonder how long this behavior is going to last, and begin to fear what your dog might bring out next when it runs out of toys.
The fact is that there are so many reasons why your dog might be bringing its toys outside, and it might not even be so it can play with them as some owners are always quick to assume. The key in nailing down why your dog is acting the way it is is by watching out for hints in your dog’s behavior and believe me, they are always there.
So, why does your dog take toys and other things outside?
Here are some reasons to consider:
1. Show off:
Dogs are social animals, and their attitude is mostly influenced by other humans and even other pets. Your dog might be taking its toys outside because it wishes to show others how much it thinks of its toys. The behavior could be a way of saying “See what I have here, look at my shiny toy”.
Notice, if your dog only does it when other pets, like your neighbor’s dog or cat or even squirrels on the tree by your backyard, are around or when a particular person is around? Or maybe you just got your dog some new toys? If so, then your dog might just be parading its toys for others to see and admire.
The breed of a dog greatly influences and dictates its personality. For example, herding dogs are great at controlling and protecting livestock and retrievers are excellent at retrieving and fetching, such instincts are rooted in their DNA and only get enhanced with the right training.
Hence, your dog might be taking its toys outside because this is a part of its natural instinct.
Also, carrying food and prey in the mouth is a common behavior in the wild, and although dogs have been domesticated for decades now, such behaviors that point back to their primitive instincts still rise every once in a while.
Hence, notice if your dog just likes to carry things outside, and not necessarily only toys. It could be its feeding bowl or even your car keys? If this is the case, then your dog might be doing this as an instinct.
3. Past experience:
Dogs have an excellent memory, it’s how they remember tricks, or where you place their feeding bowl or how to make their way home from the park. So, you can be sure your dog would remember things and experiences from the past.
Your dog might be taking its toys outside because this is how it has formerly been trained. It could be that your dog had anxiety, and toys were used to lure it out. In this case, your dog might just need the toys around for the sense of comfort and security that it provides.
It would be good to ask questions about the history of your dog, especially if you haven’t always had him since it was a puppy. This would help you better understand its actions and provide a solution.
4. Play time:
Dogs love to play and not just because it is fun but for other reasons too, such as it improves their motor skills, it promotes social inclusion, for training and also because it’s an excellent means to dispense excess energy.
Your dog might be taking its toys outside because it believes it is playtime. Check out for other signs of excitement in your dog such as wagging its tail or even nudging its toys towards you when you get outside.
Also, you would want to pay attention to when your dog brings its toys outside, does it do it at a specific time that probably coincides with its normal playtime?
5. Gift giving:
Dogs can be very possessive of their things. For example, they may not like to share their space, their feeding bowl, or their food (not like we’d even want that in the first place).
So, we don’t usually expect they’d want to share their toys with anyone, but sometimes it happens especially if it is with someone your dog is familiar with.
Your dog might be taking its toys outside because it wants to offer it to someone, it could be a visitor or even the neighbor’s dog. Your dog might just be trying to be nice and make some friends.
6. Positive reinforcement:
Positive reinforcement  is a very vital part of a dog’s training. It involves gifting your dog right after it displays a particular behavior you would like to continue. Although, sometimes dog owners reinforce some habits without consciously doing so.
Your dog might be taking its toys outside because you have encouraged the behavior. It could be that you only play with your dog when it acts this way, or only shower it with attention when it brings its toys outside.
The truth is that your dog’s habits and attitudes are always rooted in logic. Dogs don’t just act mindlessly, they always do so for a reason. Your role is to find out why, and learn while doing so.
The best way to tune into your dog’s mind is to pay attention and ask the right question. Does your dog play with its toys outside or just goes off to drop it? Does your dog bury the toys when he takes it out?
If your dog doesn’t play with its toys when it takes it out, and just rather drops them outside before running back inside, then this could be a way of your dog telling you it no longer like its toys or wants to play with them anymore.
If your dog goes to bury its toys when he takes them outside, then this might just be a fun game for your dog, or it could also be a show of resource guarding. Resource guarding should not be encouraged since your dogs would feel the need to go hide anything it doesn’t wish to share with others, even if it is a valuable item.
So, if you don’t want to go on an ultimate search for your favorite baseball cap then you might want to stop this habit.
How to get your dog to stop taking its toys outside.
While your dog taking its toys outside might be a seemingly harmless behavior, you might also not be keen about your front yard evolving into a toy junkyard. Maybe your dog is even going as far as bringing out other items in the house, like your unmentionables, when it can’t seem to find its toys, that wouldn’t be pleasing.
Consistency is key in training your dog to drop or to take on a particular habit.
Ensuring you only give your dog gifts and treats when it doesn’t take its toys outside is a good way to break the habit.
You might also want to check this program out, for professional training advice and tips on how to personally develop your dog.