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 has 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 hiding 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.
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
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 in mind the following tips.
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.
Put away items, treats, and toys your dog may be tempted to hide
Consider keeping certain items out of sight or reach of your dog. Or only 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 is what causes dogs to bury things. If you have many toys, rotate them so your dog only has access to one or two 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 with mentally and physically stimulating routines 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 the following:
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 doing any of the following:
- Using positive punishment, such as hitting or yelling.
- Using negative reinforcement, such as taking something away without offering something better in return.
- 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.