For the most part, canine emotions are easy to decode. Dogs wag their tails when they’re happy, whine when they’re sad, and bark when they're angry. But if you’ve been a pet parent long enough, you may have witnessed one behavior that seems to defy explanation. Some dogs cry when given special toys or treats. It’s easy to misinterpret this response as something negative, but according to pet experts, it’s no cause for concern.
Though it’s indistinguishable from their usual cries, the distressed sound a dog makes in the presence of their favorite item means they’re happy. They’re so happy, in fact, that they’re having trouble processing their emotions. As Wag! explains, dogs usually cry around high-value toys or treats. A meaty bone or a squeaky toy that sounds like prey may elicit this response.
When a dog gets their paws on something they perceive as high value, their instinct is to hide it. Wolves are known to bury the remains of a kill so other predators—or even members of their pack—can’t get to it first. This is where a dog’s tendency to bury bones and other goodies comes from. So if your dog is whining while wandering around with a bone in his mouth, they may be feeling the pressure to hide it before someone takes it away. It’s also possible your pet is torn between the instinct to save the treat for later and the desire to enjoy it right away.
No matter the exact root of their whining, you can rest assured your dog isn’t in any real pain or distress. They may even wag their tail as they cry, signaling their true feelings about whatever you gave them. The best course of action is to let them indulge the natural behavior they inherited from their wolf ancestors. Though don’t let them wander too far out of your sight with the treat, or you may discover it under your bed in a month.