A great many dogs are very possessive about their toys and other resources, and will not allow anyone to get close enough to them to take it from them-and if the resource in question is particularly desirable and/or is edible, like a bone, even very good dogs will tend to be fairly protective of it!
Most of us are used to watching our dog take a large prize like a bone off to chew in peace and quiet away from people or other dogs that might try to take it from them-and even when they are finished with it, they are more likely to bury it or hide it than to willingly give it up!
However, some dogs will actually make a point of proudly bringing you a bone or other favoured resource and offering it to you, even potentially pushing you with their heads to encourage you to take it, even if you have just handed the bone over to them! Willingly giving up something desirable in this way is not something that we commonly expect from dogs, and usually, don’t really want if the bone in question consists of sticky, smelly meat and sinew!
Despite our wishes that the dog keeps their bone to themselves, the fact that they offer it up to you can tell you a lot about how your dog feels about you, the esteem they hold you in and their relationship to you-and knowing how to interpret this behaviour can give you an insight into your dog that can actually strengthen your bond.
In this article, we will examine what it means when your dog offers you their bone, why they might be doing this, and how they feel about it all. Read on to learn more.
In the wild and in pack situations, dogs work cooperatively to gather and split resources and to protect the pack as a whole, raise young, and raise the chances of the group’s survival. The integrity of the pack structure is based on a hierarchy from the alpha downwards, and every dog has their own place in the pack. Challenges to the pack leadership are rare, because ultimately, infighting or discord within the pack affects the chances of every dog within the pack, weakening the general structure.
In a domestic situation, the adults of the household fulfil the alpha and top positions in the pack, taking care of the actual dog and providing for all of their needs. This means that the dog looks to said pack leaders for guidance and direction, and also gives them first refusal on desirable resources.
In the wild, when a pack catches or scavenges prey, the pack leader eats first, and the other dogs in the pack will not challenge them for first dibs-sometimes offering up food that they have caught or found themselves to the dominant dog before eating.
If your dog offers you a bone, this may be due to their recognising and demonstrating their acceptance of you as the pack leader, and they want to give you first refusal on the best resource. Praising your dog and handing the bone back to them or giving them the “go ahead” command will usually end the demonstration!
As we mentioned in the introduction, dogs will usually take bones, chews and other desirable food resources off to a quiet, private place to enjoy it at their leisure, where they will feel safe to do so without being interrupted or having to defend it from other dogs that might try to take it.
If your dog wants to stick close to you when they have a bone or a chew and are determined to eat it right in front of you or even while touching you, this can be an indication of their trust. By doing this, your dog is letting you know that they know that you are a safe person for them to eat around and that you will not try to steal their treat-and that you will keep a lookout so that they can eat in peace without having to defend their treat!
If your dog has decided that they have had enough of their treat or bone for now but they don’t want to lose it, they will begin to look for a safe spot to keep it in until they are ready to go back to it. This usually means that they will try to hide or bury their bone-perhaps in their bed, or for dogs that tend to dig like the Jack Russell, outside in the garden.
However, your dog may decide that you are the best choice to be the guardian of their toy or treat and so will bring it to you after they have got bored so that you will keep it safe for them to have back later on!