Why Do Labradors Like To Carry Things In Their Mouth? What To Do About It?

By Benjamin Tash

Does your Labrador always have an inkling for always wanting to have something in its mouth whenever it greets you? 

Or does your Labrador always try to bring you things, but yet they back away as soon as you try to get a hold of the item? What does it all mean and what should you do about it?

Well, we got you covered in this article. 

Here’s Partly Why Labradors Always Like To Carry Things In Their Mouths:

Labradors love carrying something in their mouths because it’s ingrained in their genes to be predisposed to their natural retrieving abilities. They have been bred to be perfect hunting dogs as well as efficient co-workers for the fishermen on deck — all thanks to their exemplary retrieving abilities through their mouths. And this trait has been passed down to modern day Labs where they can’t help but to always have something in their mouths as part of their instinctual duty. 

Apart from that, Labradors may also habitually engage in this behavior as a way of seeking out attention by roping their owners in for a playtime together. 

In this article, we’ll cover the 4 main reasons in detail why Labradors love always having something in their mouths as well as the steps you could take to nip this in the bud if it’s out of control.

 It’s important for Lab owners to understand this particular quirk in order to better understand and manage their Labradors. So let’s get on to it. 

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4 Reasons Why Labs Love To Carry Things In Their Mouths

1) Natural Retrieving Instincts

Labradors have been bred in such a way that retrieving is part and parcel of its very existence. Going back to its breed history a century prior, Labradors have been the go-to dog for retrieving and as assistant fisherman partners on deck in the icy cold waters. 

Labrador’s exceptional natural retrieving abilities through their mouths have been incessantly praised and capitalized on for retrieving of fallen cods in the sea as well as of hauling of nets and retrieving of fallen hats in the water. 

Labs have also been reported to be mind-blowing divers and had performed retrieving games through their mouths as a form of entertainment for a crowd of fishermen after duty. 

Apart from their excellent retrieving ability with its mouth, Labradors’ inclination to always have something in its mouth can also be attributed to its great hunting abilities back in the day.

They make great hunting dogs for the capture of waterfowls, ducks and all other birds shot down by hunters — by virtue of their great retrieving skills through their mouth.

This is because Labradors have been bred in such a way that they have soft mouths, that way they’re able to carry and retrieve game for hunters without causing much damage to it. 

These natural retrieving instincts have been honed through selective breeding over the years, resulting in the passing of such genes and skills in modern day Labradors.

Hence, a Labrador's inclination to always have something in its mouth is actually a holdover of their ancestors' exceptional retrieving and hunting abilities. 

Read also: Why Do Labradors Steal Things? (and Food!) What To Do About It?

2) An Expression Of Happiness 

Labradors also indulge in this behavior as a manifestation of their people-pleasing tendencies. Labradors, coupled with their ingrained retrieving abilities through their mouths, have been bred in such a way that appeasing their human companions as well as appealing to their emotions makes them the happiest.

This is because they are social butterflies and they thrive on interactivity and companionship with their owners. 

And what better way for a Labrador to do so other than randomly bringing you some of your belongings as a “gift” to express their affection or as an “invitation” to play or chase in order to please you.

Labradors may nudge you with the target item in their mouth with their ears cupped while wagging their body — and this typically means they’re extremely happy in your presence and are expecting some sort of interactivity from you.

 It's also a sign of comfort for some Labradors as having something in their mouths may help keep them relaxed and calm from getting too excited. And it's also in line with their natural instincts to do so. 

Check also: Why Do Labradors Love Socks? (4 Reasons & 5 Tips Explained)

3) Attention-Seeking Behavior

Being people-pleasers and social butterflies that Labradors are, they are also amongst the top dog breeds that have a knack of wanting attention. Labradors would often carry things that have your strong odor such as your socks, handkerchief or things that they know you’re well associated with.

And that way, they know that by retrieving you such items, they’ll most likely get a reaction out of you for affection or for an exchange of treats.

This is mainly due to the fact that most Labradors have a strong desire to eagerly please as well as to be close with their owners as part of their outgoing personality. 

Some labradors would even go the extra mile of not wanting to retrieve you the item back despite showing you in its mouth, and that is usually a sign of hyperactivity from overexcitedness or an invitation to play, especially if it tries to run away when you try to get ahold of the item. 

It could also mean that your Labrador is perhaps mentally understimulated around the house and is trying to initiate a response or a chase from you if you’re not giving your pooch the adequate exercise or mental stimulation if deserves. 

You might also be interested in Why Do Labs Eat & Chew On Wood? (7 Reasons + Tips To Kick Their Habit)

4) Positively Reinforced To Do So

Besides that, your pooch may also have picked up a positive experience with you whenever it carried something in its mouth eventhough you may not realize it at the time.

And it have since been positively reinforced to always have something in its mouth, expecting to recreate the positive association it has had previously.

But worry not, accidental positive reinforcements can always be corrected as explained in later paragraphs. 

You might also be interested in How To Stop Lab From Counter Surfing? (13 Action Plan Guide + Tips)

What Should You Do When Your Lab Has Something In Its Mouth?

You may be tempted to playfully engage with your Lab whenever it carries something in its mouth and brings them over to you.

Or you may also have the urge to just grab the item off its mouth but I wouldn’t recommend you doing either of these things as they aren’t effective in combating this issue. 

1) Redirect the behavior

Instead, what you want to be doing is to redirect the behavior with an exchange of toy or treats. It's worth noting that you should only implement this method right in the moment when you're trying to correct its behavior as Labradors have a limited memory span. 

You can either use a high-quality healthy treat to lure your pooch to come to you while calling its name. Rest assured your Lab’s olfactory receptors in its nose will get triggered by your treats and your Lab will quickly come to you upon calling it.

You can then trade for the item in its mouth with the treats in your hand and be sure to praise them effortlessly when they eventually drop the item off its mouth for the treats — that way, they will be reinforced to associate the drop with a positive association. 

Also check out: Do Labradors Attack Humans? (Statistics, Factors and Reasons Explained) 

2) Train Your Pooch The “Leave It” Or “Drop It” Method

Alternatively, you may teach your pooch to drop the item from its mouth if you find the behavior totally out of control. You may want to use a specific command such as “drop” or “leave it” with a specific tone to signal your displeasure.

I’ll go over the step-by-step process on how to implement this method in the later paragraph. 

Eventhough it may seem like a cute gesture for them to present you items as a gift, this will soon branch out into other behavioral problems if not properly stemmed early on.

Be sure to not positively engage with your Lab with its item in its mouth, or else it will be be positively reinforced to repeat such gestures — with even more items. 

It’s also crucial to nip this unnecessary behavior early before they start making a habit of carrying hazardous items around the house.

Labradors don’t usually grow out of this behavior over time either, as it’s in their genes to always be carrying or retrieving things for the sake of it as explained in earlier paragraphs. 

There has been numerous instances where Labs have unfortunately choked on items such as blankets, socks or even small shoes. And these could all be prevented if this seemingly innocent habit gets cracked down on early on.

 Read Also: Why Do labradors Like Soft Toys? (5 Reasons Explained)

How To Effectively Train Your Lab The “Leave It” or “Drop It” Command Within Minutes 

While you may not be able to teach this command right in the heat of the moment when your Labrador has something in its mouth, you can proactively teach the “Leave It” command early on to properly address future shenanigans. 

My recommendation would be to teach your Labrador as soon as you want your pooch to drop the item in its mouth. 

So here are the steps to do so: 

  • Grab an equal value toy like this one on Amazon to entice your Lab to drop the current item it’s carrying 
  • Call your Lab towards you
  • Attempt to slightly pull out the item from its mouth. Your lab will then perceive it as a tug of war game where it’ll not release the item
  • Bring out the second “equal-value” toy on your left hand and use the command “Drop It” or “Leave It” or “Out” as you have your right hand on the item your Lab has in its mouth — you can use any other command terms to your liking.
  • Now, you may realize that it may take awhile for your Lab to let go of the item. But be sure to only use the command ONCE or Twice (Don’t oversay it). And don’t engage or pull on the item on your right hand — even if your Lab pulls hard on it. Just hold the item tight from your right hand. 
  • Your Lab will then realize that’s it’s a useless endeavor to keep pulling on the item on its mouth when you’re not engaging with it. And it will eventually let go of it. This will typically take 20 seconds or less. 
  • Your pooch will then grab hold of the second toy in your left hand.
  • Repeat the above steps with the command/term you used till it eventually drops the toy or item immediately on command. 

If you have a hard time following the steps in a written format, do check out the recommended video below that pretty much explains it the same way.


Repeat this steps as much as you can till your Lab learns to associate your command with the act of dropping the items in its mouth immediately. 

This method works extremely well with my dogs and it should do the trick with yours too. 

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