Most dogs love to play fetch and find toys to entertain themselves with, and some dogs will take this to the point of obsession, continually returning to you with a ball to throw or proudly trotting around with a prize in their mouths! Some dogs too will delight in carrying around a ball and trying to get you interested in it, and yet will not surrender it when you are ready to throw it for them-this can be hard to train dogs out of, as well as potentially frustrating for the owner!
If your dog is obsessed with a ball or favourite toy and is never seen without something in their mouths, it is possible that your dog is displaying something called trophy mentality-and this is often associated with certain types of breeds of dogs, and can become something of an obsession.
Read on to learn more about trophy mentality in dogs, and what this means.
If your dog is rarely seen without a toy in their mouths even when it is not playtime, they might be displaying trophy mentality. Trophy mentality manifests as an emotional expression of pride and possession over something, and this may be one specific toy, or a general preference for having something in their mouths at all times, to the point that they may even be apt to fall asleep with the toy in their mouths, or become distressed and unsettled when they cannot hold something.
Over time, trophy mentality becomes a form of habit or even OCD, to the point that the dog does not feel settled or totally happy without the toy. It can be compared in human terms to the feeling that many people have when they forget their phone and leave it at home for the day, or how you might feel if you have worn a piece of jewellery for many years and then have to take it off or cannot wear it any more-as if something important is missing.
The inception of trophy mentality can come about due to a great many different things, which are ultimately forgotten as the behaviour becomes a habit-chewing to gain relief from teething, a continual desire to play or interact with people, and a whole range of other things can all lead to the inception of the behaviour too.
Whether or not trophy mentality is a problem is something that can vary from dog to dog. If the dog refuses to give up the toy or even becomes defensive or aggressive about giving it up, this can fairly be considered to be a behavioural problem, and one that will require a resolution in the long-term.
Additionally, depending on what material the toy of choice is made from, it can wear down the teeth over time or even damage them, and in the case of puppies whose teeth and gums are developing, begin to push the teeth out of alignment, as can happen in children that continually suck their thumbs.
Finally, depending on the materials and construction of the toy that your dog singles out, there is a low-level risk in the long term that the toy will become worn and damaged, and lose small parts or develop sharp edges that can be ingested or harm your dog.
Trophy mentality is not a breed-specific issue, and any breed or type of dog can develop it over time-however, some breeds of dog seem to develop trophy mentality much more often than others, and these breeds usually have some traits in common.
The Clumber spaniel is perhaps the best-known breed that will often display trophy mentality, despite the fact that this particular breed of spaniel does not have a particularly strong working and retrieving history compared to many other spaniel breeds.
A large number of retrieving breeds that have strong working instincts may also display trophy mentality, such as the Labrador retriever, flat coated retriever, and any other game dog or gun dog that has a long ancestry of retrieving and catching game without damaging or eating it.
Additionally, dog breeds that are both highly energetic and very intelligent like the Border collie may develop trophy mentality, either as an obsessive behaviour when they do not have enough to occupy their minds, or because all of their exercise needs are not being met.
Whatever breed or type of dog you own, it is important to meet all of their needs in terms of not only exercise but also mental stimulation, in order to prevent potential problems like trophy mentality from developing.
Even after addressing such problems, you may then have to train your dog out of obsessively carrying things in their mouths after this has become a habit, particularly if they will not allow you to take their trophy off them with ease too.