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Your socks. Those new shoes. The remote control. Every single one of their toys. Some dogs just love hiding things. But why? There are several explanations for why your dog may have this somewhat annoying behavior.

Animal Behavior College Dog Trainer Deborah Fenton and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant Kate Naito discuss why dogs hide things and how to address this behavior so you can keep track of all your favorite things.

Hiding things is in their nature

“Most of the time when dogs hide things, they do so because they have an instinct to hoard or guard their food and possessions,” says Fenton.

“Although we may not want our dogs hiding a half-eaten bully stick between the couch cushions or digging up the back yard to bury a bone, we have to understand that this is nature, not naughtiness,” explains Naito.

They’re saving up for later

Just as squirrels stash nuts, and humans put valuables in a safe, dogs hide their most treasured items, so they stay safe and don’t end up lost.

It’s a survival strategy

“It’s believed that hiding a surplus of food in the ground is a canine survival strategy where the food can be preserved and protected in the cool ground, and then eaten later. When it comes to domesticated dogs, hiding items prevents other pets in the house from stealing them,” states Naito.

Golden Retriever chewing on a treat laying down in the yard.
©Khaligo -

It could indicate stress

Dogs who hide or protect their possessions may have underlying anxiety or stress issues. This may stem from living with another dog who takes things away, among other reasons.

Underlying health issues

Hiding isn’t always a behavior issue. The habit could be a sign of a health problem, such as your dog being overfed, or simply boredom.

How To Curb Hiding Habits

One of the best ways to prevent these habits is to teach puppies the right way to play from the start. Avoid giving puppies access to off-limits items like shoes, socks, or kids’ toys and keep the following tips in mind:

Use playtime to teach your dog the right behavior

Offer appropriate toys and play often, teaching the “give” cue so that your dog learns to return the toys, and establish the proper place where the toys will be kept. At the first sign of hoarding, call your puppy over. When they come back, reward them with a treat.

Fenton recommends the following best practices:

  • Store your pet’s toys where your dog can access them.
  • If you find a missing toy, place it back where the toys are stored.
  • Reward your dog with praise and play every time your dog brings a toy back.
  • Teach your dog to put their toys in a particular area of your home, using treats to reward positive behavior.
Chocolate Labrador retriever puppy running outdoors with a stuffed toy in its mouth.
Aly Tyler/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Put away items your dog may be tempted to hide

Consider keeping certain items, such as treats or toys, out of sight or reach of your dog. It’s best to give them access to these items under supervision. For example, let your dog chew a bone in a room where there’s nowhere to hide it, suggests Naito.

Don’t give too many toys or treats

Having a surplus of items can cause dogs to bury things. If you have many toys, for example, rotate them so your dog only has access to a few at a time.

Create a controlled eating environment

When your dog is still in training, consider using a baby gate or barrier so they cannot move their food out of the kitchen or wherever their food is served, says Fenton.

Teach your dog new tricks

Dogs who receive plenty of mental and physical stimulation are less likely to get into bad habits. Teaching dogs tricks is a great way to bond with your dog while simultaneously teaching polite play manners. Consider working controlled games of fetch or tug or morning jogs into your dog’s routines. Dog sports, such as AKC Trick Dog or AKC Scent Work, are also great ways for your dog to work off excess energy.

Dogo Argentino puppy laying down chewing a tennis ball.
©nsc_photography -

What Not to Do to Stop Dogs from Hiding Things

Whatever you do to respond to your dog’s hiding behavior, your goal should be to reinforce the trust and loving bond you have. You don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that or create a situation where your dog is fearful and may even bite in retaliation. Avoid chasing your dog or making a fuss. Doing so could signal to your dog that you’re creating a game of chase that encourages the hiding behavior.

If you’re still not seeing the results you’d like, Fenton suggests reaching out to a dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods to help modify your pet’s behavior as you teach your dog not to hide things.

Related article: Expert Tips for Issues Between Multiple Pets
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