You may be wondering; “why does my dog hide his treats”? Mostly, this is harmless behavior meant to store something for later, but could there be more at play?
Your dog may receive treats with happy tail wiggles, only to run off and hide the treats. This hoarding behavior may seem a bit odd, but it has instinctual roots. Canines naturally want to guard their resources, and this inborn attribute can manifest as pups hiding their goodies in their favorite spots.
Dogs can also hide toys and other sentimental objects around the house as a part of their valuables collection. This concealing behavior is quite harmless most of the time, save for how annoying it can be to find treats all over the house. However, excessive and compulsive hiding points to more severe issues like behavioral problems.
Why is My Dog Hiding Treats?
Dogs instinctively hide treats because they are saving them up for later, so they need to protect them. Your dog may be full already but not willing to pass on the treats, so they put them away for the future. Additionally, anxious dogs hide their treats to consume them away from people and other dogs.
Dogs burying bones in the yard or hiding them under the furniture is one of the most common hoarding practices. They usually don’t finish up with bones immediately, which is why bones are the perfect camouflage candidates. We have listed 5 top reasons dogs hide treats, even though regular mealtimes are assured.
They are instinctively hoarding food for later
Dogs had to scavenge for food when they were undomesticated. During this time, dogs quickly learned to hide their food from other animals and even dogs from their packs. Low-rank dogs in packs, in particular, had to hide their food carefully, or else the other pack members feasted on it.
Even though times have changed and your furbaby doesn’t have to hunt for food anymore, the instinct is still intact. The drawback is that dogs have loving families that provide more than enough food for them, leaving the stashed food decaying and stinking up the house.
The instinct to guard and hoard food is still alive in most dogs, so hiding treats is a perfectly normal behavior in dogs. It’s nature, not naughtiness, for your dog to leave that half-eaten bully stick under the bed. To minimize instinctual food hiding, remove all leftovers and bones once your dog’s done eating.
Some pet parents are way too generous when giving their dogs food and treats. Most dogs gobble their food up and would happily eat more food if you offered it. It’s our responsibility as pet owners to correctly size food and treat portions and distribute them throughout the day.
If your dog has had too much to eat, they’ll likely accept the additional treats and stash them for later. You should limit the treats to 10% of your dog’s daily calories. Resist doling more out, even with longing eyes from your pup. The limited percentage of treats is necessary because treats should never compromise proper nutrition.
The PawSafe dog snuffle mat encourages your dog to take their time to find the treats. You won’t be tempted to give your dog too many treats because they’ll be busy sniffing on the mat for treats. Our snuffle mat is a fun way to keep your dog mentally stimulated as they forage for treats.
Dogs that get nervous around other dogs and people can hide their food and treats in a secluded place where they feel safe. Anxious individuals can experience severe and debilitating dog panic attacks resulting from constant exposure to high stress that occur suddenly without apparent triggers.
You may notice panting, whining, and tucking their tail between their legs before seeing the hidden treats if your dog is anxious. Typically, the anxiety wanes when the trigger passes because the dog’s fight or flight responses have settled down. Some dogs exhibit prolonged anxiety that requires medical attention.
Anxiety medications like alprazolam combat stress susceptibility in extremely anxious dogs. Dogs rescued from hoarding situations and backyard breeding may have had to compete for food in the past. They may have anxiety over food which minimizes when they realize they’re safe and the food supply won’t deplete.
Medical issues and boredom
Your dog may be bored and want your attention. They will run to hide with their treats and even non-toy items like shoes to grab your attention and play. To stave off lousy behavior in dogs resulting from boredom, ensure your dog receives enough mental and physical stimulation.
Once you learn how to entertain your dog, you will observe fewer unwanted behaviors like destructive chewing and barking. Your pup is also less likely to steal your stuff and hide them in an attempt to catch your attention if they are tired due to exercise. For most dogs, negative attention is better than none at all, so they quickly learn that hiding your stuff pisses you off and focuses you on them.
Your dog may have medical conditions like stomach upset, causing them to hide their food. GI issues lead to appetite reduction, and your dog may hide treats because they don’t want to eat them yet. Nauseated dogs show a lack of interest in their food, even those that normally have a massive appetite.
Dogs in multi-pet households can exhibit fierce resource guarding. Such dogs fear that the other house dogs will steal their valuable toys and treats, so they hide them to keep them safe. Overly possessive dogs can receive proper training and stop the behavior with enough patience and practice.
Similarly, dogs from backyard breeding programs and those with neglectful owners had to fight other dogs for their food. Even in the safety of a loving home, such dogs may still engage in resource guarding because they can’t let their guard down and risk starving.
Train your possessive dog on basic cues like “leave it” and “give,” and reward with treats and praises when they perform the command. Hiding treats may also mean that your dog feels dominated by the others in the house, so they stash their goodies to ensure the more dominant dogs don’t steal them.
How to Stop Your Dog from Hiding Treats and Toys
Establish a regular feeding time for your pup
Dogs thrive on consistency, and setting up a routine assures anxious dogs that there’s enough food. Rescue dogs from abusive homes where they didn’t eat enough benefit from regular feeding time, reducing their resource guarding tendencies.
Ensure you aren’t overfeeding your dog
Overfeeding can occur at two times: meals and treats time. You can tell you’ve overfed your dog when your dog is gassy and the stool consistency, especially at night, is soft. Similarly, your dog will be less motivated by treats during training time. Consult your vet on the best food proportions for your breed during the next visit. Put away excess food immediately after your dog finishes eating.
Punishments like yelling and beating your dog barely correct any behavior. The best that physical punishment does is wound your relationship with your dog. Instead, use basic commands like “give” and “leave it” if you catch your dog hiding treats and reward them with treats.
Reduce opportunities to steal
Place items in elevated areas unreachable to your dogs. If your dog doesn’t hide only treats but house items away, putting them away reduces his chances of stealing and hiding. Also, don’t encourage hiding treats by offering even more treats. Your dog will make a positive association with hiding food if you promote the behavior with more yummy eatables.
Exercise your dog regularly
A mentally and physically stimulated dog is less likely to indulge in unwanted behaviors like treat hiding. A brisk daily walk will expel your dog’s excess energy, and they’ll be unlikely to hide treats for your attention.
Dogs hide their treats and food instinctually. Back in the day before domestication, food was scarce and ancient dogs had to make the most of the food they found by hiding it for later. The stashing instinct is still intact for modern dogs, even though most never have to worry about running out of food.
Dogs can also hide their food due to nervousness, overfeeding, boredom and possessiveness. It’s essential to correct the behavior through training and rewards instead of physical punishment. For most dogs, hiding behavior is normal even though it’s annoying. Others, like dogs prone to panic attacks, need medical attention and behavioral therapy.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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