Have you ever noticed your dog hiding food or treats? Whether it’s just a cute, occasional quirk or something bordering on being a little possessive, knowing your dog’s motivations is important. Is your dog burying food to save it for later, or is he dealing with unaddressed stress or anxiety? Here’s a look at why your dog may hide food or treats, and when you should be concerned.
Your dog may be responding to natural instincts
Why do dogs hide their treats or food? Your dog’s natural instincts may be the reason. These instincts can include:
Saving for scarcity
Dogs are pack animals by nature, so hiding food and treats could be part of helping the pack survive.1 Their ancestors used to bury food whenever they had a surplus, just in case there was scarcity later. Because it’s cooler beneath the ground, this also helped preserve the food.2
Instinctual resource guarding
Dogs instinctually want to guard their resources.3 Their ancestors experienced lots of competition, whether within the pack or with wolves, coyotes or other wild animals. Guarding food was integral to survival. This instinct continues, even though your pups usually have more than enough food. You might even find your pup hiding treats under blankets, in beds or in your laundry for the same reason.3
A high prey drive
Dogs with a high prey drive are more prone to digging.4 This same instinct can also make them more likely to bury important resources in your yard, like food and treats.
While any individual dog can love burying things, some breeds are more likely to default to digging than others. These include Terriers, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds1 and Beagles.3
Your dog’s environment may play a role
Why do dogs cover their food or treats? Sometimes environmental factors contribute. These might include:
Lack of food or too much food
Interestingly, both a lack of food and too much food can lead to hoarding behaviors. If your dog has concerns about not having enough food—such as if he’s in a multi-dog household—he might start hiding food.1
But if a dog hides treats or food, it can also be because of overfeeding. He may want to save the leftovers for another time.1
An unpredictable routine
An unpredictable routine might also influence your dog’s actions. Not knowing when food is coming can create a desire to hoard it.3 Setting up a feeding routine your dog can depend on may help.
Your dog’s mental health may be connected
If you’re wondering, “Why does my dog bury his food?” it might be due to unaddressed emotional issues. Here are two examples:
Stress or anxiety
Stress or anxiety might be the culprit. This can manifest as a concern that another dog in your household will take a treat away.2 Or your dog might have had bad experiences with food scarcity and competition in the past, such as if he lived on the street or in a shelter.3
So how do you know if your dog is just playing or if she’s stressed when she hides food and treats? Watch to see if one dog is intimidating another, and watch for other signs of stress or depression,3 such as becoming withdrawn, eating less, licking paws, having less energy or being more aggressive.5
Boredom or lack of mental stimulation could also be the culprit.2 Take time to bond with your dog and do more fun activities together.4 This might include playing games of fetch, going for jogs, or training your pup in scent work.2
Consult a veterinarian for a medical checkup
If you’re asking, “Why is my dog hiding food and not eating?” you might want to check with a veterinarian, especially if this is accompanied by other signs of illness, like vomiting or diarrhea. Sometimes a medical issue that’s causing the dog to have nausea or inappetence can trigger this.6 It could be anything from a mild stomachache to arthritic pain or a more serious illness.6A dental problem might also contribute to sudden food aversion or pain when eating.7
Should you stop your dog from hiding food?
If you’re finding dog food in weird places, you’re not alone. Much of the time, this is simply a normal action your pup enjoys.1 But if he hurts himself in the process or damages your property—or if you’re concerned about bigger issues at play—then you might want to encourage your pup to stop.
If you do, always use positive reinforcement training that builds your bond.2 Since stress can already be causing the issue, you don’t want to increase it with punishment or yelling. And chasing your dog will just make things worse, as she might start seeing that as a fun game.
Some pet owners might feel more comfortable getting a trainer’s help.3
Tips to help stop your dog from hiding food or treats
Look for anything that might trigger your dog’s behavior. Here are some tips for getting started:
- Get a clean bill of health from your veterinarian, especially if this is a new behavior.2
- Make sure you’re not overfeeding your dog.2
- Consider setting up baby gates so she can’t take the food anywhere else.2
- Do more fun activities together.2
- When you’re away, leave lots of interactive toys.4
- Feed your dog in the same room where you are, in case he’s lonely.8
- Set up a dependable feeding routine so your dog knows when food is coming.3
- If you have more than one dog, try giving them treats or food in separate rooms.4
- Since the sound a metal bowl makes could trigger your dog to take food somewhere else, try changing the bowl and see if it helps.8
The bottom line
Hiding food or treats is a natural instinct for many dogs. Whether it’s a problem that needs intervention depends on the individual pup. That’s why it’s so important to spend time with your pup so you can better understand what makes them happy.
From Pets Best
But even the most attentive pet parents need help from their veterinarians. At Pets Best, our dog insurance plans can help cover the expenses of regular checkups. Pets Best policyholders can speak to a veterinary expert anytime through a 24/7 Pet Helpline.
1Coelho, Steph. (2022, December 15.) Why Your Dog Loves to Bury Bones, Toys, and Anything Else They Can Get Their Paws On. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/pets/why-do-dogs-bury-bones
2Kearl, Mary. (2019, November 6.) Why Is My Dog Hiding Things? American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/why-is-my-dog-hiding-things/
3Miller, Jenny. (2022, January.) Why Do Dogs Hide Treats and Toys? BARC London. https://www.barclondon.com/blogs/news/why-do-dogs-hide-treats-and-toys
4Kucera, Tabitha. (2022, March 25.) Why Dogs Bury Bones and Other Objects. The Spruce Pets. https://www.thesprucepets.com/why-dogs-bury-bones-4580377
5Miller, Jenny. (2022, May.) How to Recognise Signs of Depression in Dogs. BARC London. https://www.barclondon.com/blogs/mindfulness-wellbeing/signs-of-depression-in-dogs
6Rodgers, Linda. (2022, November 7.) Why Is My Dog Not Eating? Reader’s Digest. https://www.rd.com/article/dog-not-eating/
7(2020, December 9.) 8 Signs Your Dog May Have Dental Pain. Angel Pet Hospital. https://www.angelpethospital.com/8-signs-your-dog-may-have-dental-pain
8Smith, Melissa. (2019, September 4.) 4 Reasons Your Dog May Be Carrying Their Food Away. Petful. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/why-dog-carries-food-away/