The world of canines seems to be split into two distinct categories: dogs who will take their bone to a corner and promptly growl if you get too close, and dogs who will actually bring the bone to you, almost as if they wanted to share their valued possession with you. If this behavior has left
you puzzled, there are some possible explanations for this behavior.
Look at Me
It's in a dog's nature to repeat behaviors that have a history of reinforcement. In behavioral science this is known as "the law of effect." If your dog had a bone in his mouth one day and then casually walked up to you, you may have thought he looked adorable. Consequently, any form of attention and praise could have been perceived as a reward from his perspective. So now Scruffy loves coming towards you, tail wagging, almost as if saying: "Look at me, I have a bone, don't you love me?"
As the saying goes: "A dog that will fetch a bone, will carry a bone." Some dogs are fetching machines who are naturally predisposed to retrieve and bring stuff back to you. If your dog loves fetching balls and toys and constantly brings them back to you, then why not do the same with a bone? Whether your dog's bone is a real bone or a plastic one, Scruffy may feel compelled to drop it on your lap or at your feet simply because he wants to play his favorite game.
Be My Chew Pillow
Some dogs may not only walk up to you with a bone in their mouth, but will also try to chew on it, using your lap as a form of support. In this case, your dog is likely taking advantage of your body contours to get the right angulation to effectively chew his bone. You are basically morphed into a convenient "chewing pillow" that allows your dog to reach all the nooks and crannies of that tasty marrow bone.
Some dogs just seem like they enjoy sharing their valuables with their family. Many owners find this behavior endearing and don't feel the need to change it. After all, this behavior is quite innocent as long as the dog doesn't show signs of becoming protective of the bone. Protective behaviors tend to stem from a dog's lack of trust, security and socialization, therefore it takes a certain amount of confidence to share.
How to Solve it
Though some don't mind being given a bone soaked in slobber, you may be wondering how to stop your dog from repeatedly bringing his bone to you. If your dog is an attention seeker, try totally ignoring him when he carries the bone. Tired of being a chew pillow? Invite him to go to a designated spot and praise him lavishly for gnawing his bone there. Placing the bone down and rewarding your dog for chewing it on the floor can be helpful. If he still insists on depositing the bone on your lap, you can always get up and leave the room to make the message clear. Most dogs will understand after several attempts.
By Adrienne Farricelli
All Dogs Academy: Dog Trainers' Behavior is Reinforced by the Dog's Behavior
Dog Star Daily: Look at Me
Beneful: What Do Dogs Like to Share?
Tails-a-Wagging: Possessiveness: Teaching Dogs It's Okay to Share [PDF]
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.