Dogs don't always behave the way you think they would. Like people, different dogs have different personalities. You might give one dog a juicy beef jerky treat, only for him to devour it in seconds. However, giving this same treat a different dog may result in something else. Instead of eating the treat immediately, the dog begins to play with it. So, why do dogs play with their treats?
Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer to this question. We've learned a lot about dogs since domesticating them some 15,000 years ago, but much of their behavior remains a mystery. With that said, there a few plausible theories regarding this behavior.
Picking up the Scent
One plausible, and highly likely, reason why dogs play with treats is to pick up the treat's scent. Studies show that a dog's sense of smell is about 40 times better than ours. Because of this, they'll often attempt to mask their own scent with that of food or waste. You might see your dog rolling around over his treat – a key sign that he's trying to pick up the treat's scent. Even if you can't smell your dog's new scent, he and other dogs can.
Guard from Littermates
It's also possible that dogs play with their treats to guard them from their littermates (or other pets in the home). This instinct goes back to when dogs were forced to scavenge for food. Because food was often difficult to acquire, they would fight their littermates over a meal. When a dog acquired food, he would hide it to prevent others from getting it. Some dogs today may possess this very same instinct, only they choose to play with their treat instead of hide it.
Of course, some dogs play with their dog treats simply because it's fun. While no two dogs are exactly the same, all dogs have a natural instinct to play. Normally, they'll play with toys, including rope toys, plush toys, tennis balls, flying discs, etc. If a dog doesn't have access to these toys, however, he may play with a treat.
We may never know why exactly dogs play with their treats. Maybe it's to pick up a new scent, or perhaps it's to guard the treat from their littermates. Regardless, this is a common, normal behavior exhibited by our canine companions. So, don't worry the next time you see your dog rolling around on his treat.
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