Why do dogs hide treats and toys?

Have you noticed your dog tucking its treats away somewhere safe instead of eating them? Like a little squirrel collecting nuts for winter? 

It’s one of the most common depictions of cartoon dogs - pups running off to bury their bones in the garden, but have you ever wondered why?

Let’s dig a little deeper into this strange behaviour.

Why do dogs hide treats?
Why do dogs bury things?
Where do dogs hide things in the house?
Which dog breeds hide treats and toys?
3 ways to stop your dog from hiding their treats and toys

 

    Why do dogs hide treats?

    Hiding treats and toys is a natural instinctive behaviour that can be traced back to a dog’s wild ancestors. Burying leftover food is a survival skill coming from never knowing when their next meal will be.

    So if you’ve ever wondered why dogs hide their treats, you may be surprised to find out it’s a pretty common canine behaviour. Although our pups’ may not have to face these harsh environments and competition for food anymore, the instinct is still present!

    3 reasons why dogs hide their treats:

    1. Instinct:

      Wolves, coyotes and other wild Canid ancestors live and hunt in packs so competition for food is rife. Hoarding and guarding leftover meat is a skill developed to ensure there will always be enough to eat.

      Although our dog’s have become accustomed to a life of luxury since being domesticated, the instinct is still there.

    2. Over-feeding:

      Another common cause of dogs hiding treats is overfeeding. Hiding treats could be a sign that you are feeding your dog more than they need. If a healthy dog has left over food and is storing it away for later, this could mean you’re being too generous with meal times and treats so could afford to re-evaluate. 

      The risk comes when dogs are being overfed, yet still carry on eating the excess treats which can lead to obesity. For this reason it’s important to be aware of how much you’re feeding your dog.

    3. Anxiety: 

      For some dogs, hiding food can stem from a negative experience in their past. This can be a very common behaviour displayed by rescue dogs - whether they’ve come from the streets or a shelter, it’s likely that they’ll have had to compete for resources from a young age. 

      If you have a rescue and think this could be the case, it might be something you may need to talk through with a trainer. Although, once your rescue pup has settled, the issue could begin to resolve itself. 

    Why do dogs bury things?

    Burying the food as opposed to just hiding it somewhere is another habit that stems from their natural instincts. In the wild, burying food in the ground keeps it away from scavengers, while also helping it to stay fresh, and marinated with the tastes of soil. Again, domesticated dogs don’t need to worry about hiding food from other predators, but the natural urge often remains. 

    With that being said, another reason for a dog burying their food could be that they don’t currently feel safe enough to eat it. If your dog finds itself in a stressed environment, it's not unusual for it to bury the food and return later when feeling calm enough to eat it.

    Where do dogs hide things in the house?

    Some of the most unusual places dogs hide things include:

    • Under carpets
    • In beds and blankets
    • Down the back of couch cushions
    • In your dirty laundry pile!
    • In broad daylight?!

    You’ve probably come across cute videos of dogs pretending to bury their food or toys with invisible dirt. Or maybe you’ve even seen your own pup exhibit this odd behaviour! Funnily enough, it is actually quite common. 

    So if you’re feeling worried - relax, there is nothing wrong with your dog. This is just their natural instinct kicking in for exactly the same reasons as mentioned above, but instead of taking the food away to hide, they just pretend to nose some invisible dirt over their food bowl instead.

     

    Which dog breeds hide treats and toys?

    There are a number of breeds that are more predisposed to digging and burying their resources than others. 

    Beagles, Dachshunds and Basset Hounds were all originally bred as hunting and scent dogs, so this behaviour is very apparent in even the most domesticated of them. 

    Terriers are notorious food scavengers and will hoard and bury their treats away from you. If he finds out you’ve discovered his stash, he will just dig it up and find somewhere new to bury it. For many dogs, this can become a fun game that enables them to vie for your attention. 

    Although these breeds may be more likely to exhibit this behaviour, don’t forget any dog breed has the potential to dig!

     

    3 ways to stop your dog from hiding their treats and toys:

    We don’t blame you if you’re getting a bit sick of finding old soggy treats in the sofa, or discovering hidden dog toys when you climb into bed. Perhaps your pup is destroying the carpet with his digging, and maybe there are dog toys that you fear are forever lost! Luckily, there are ways to stop your dog from hiding its treats and toys:

    1. Have a feeding routine for your dog and stick to it. If your dog normally just eats a few mouthfuls and then hoards the rest, try several smaller meals throughout the day. Sticking to the routine can help your dog know that more meals will be coming.
    2. Ensure you are not over-feeding your dog and remove their bowl as soon as they’ve had their fill to avoid them hiding the rest. 
    3. Trick training and brain games can ensure your dog is mentally and physically stimulated to avoid certain habits developing. 
    4. Invest in a loud squeaky toy, this way you’ll know exactly where your pup has taken it! Check out our range of squeaky toys - we promise you they are loud enough!

     

    How not to stop your dog from hiding things

    • Do not hit or yell at your dog. This is never an acceptable form of training and it can cause your dog to become fearful of you, which in turn can result in them showing aggression.
    • Avoid chasing your dog or make a fuss of them. This can reinforce the behaviour as your dog could then think you’ve created a game and are encouraging them.
    • Be wary of using negative reinforcement. This would include taking the treats or toys away from your dog without offering anything in return - not teaching them anything or offering a distraction. 

     

    It’s funny to think about the reasons behind dogs hiding their treats and toys, but now that you understand the why, it’s time to introduce change. 

    If over time you find that you are still struggling, reach out to a dog trainer or behaviourist who can show you how to use positive reinforcement methods to help you teach your pet not to hide things. 

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