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Why does my dog hide its food?

Hiding food may be more than just an annoyance. In the process of “digging,” your do may ruin rugs, carpeting, or furniture. You might also discover an unpleasant mess in your sofa or bed or may not know it’s there at all until the food starts to rot and the smell hits you! While you may not find it pleasant, others pests will be attracted to it. The mold and rot can also damage your belongings. And if your dog runs with food in its mouth to hide, it risks choking on that food.

Why does my dog hide its food?

The most likely reason why your dog hides its food is that your dog is saving food for later. Dogs have evolved to instinctively hide food. Their ancestors would hide food to ensure another meal because there was no guarantee that food would be readily available. Although your furry friend can always look forward to its next meal, this behavior still occurs.

However, if your dog previously lived in an environment where food was scarce or stolen by others, it may be even more likely to hide its food. Both hoarding and puppy breeding mills can encourage this behavior in dogs. The same goes for hunting dogs.

Plus, dogs like to hide the things they value most. Your dog hiding its food is similar to burying its brand-new bone or ball in the yard. Some dog experts refer to this behavior as “caching.” 

Another reason why your dog may hide its food is because of anxiety, especially anxiety about sharing food or mealtimes with other pets. Dogs may also experience anxiety if the room where they eat is bustling with activity. Fortunately, switching to a routine feeding schedule can help with anxiety and another reason dogs hide their food–overfeeding!

Finally, dogs may hide their food as a way to seek attention from its human family members. It’s less likely that your dog will hide food for this reason. However, it may explain why your dog hides your possessions.

How to stop my dog from hiding its food?

Identifying why your dog hides food is key to ending the behavior. If you suspect anxiety is the reason, you can move your dog’s food dish to a quiet area away from other pets and people in the household. It’s up to you to adapt to your dog’s needs. Do not force your dog to eat in uncomfortable conditions or mess with its food as a way to discourage anxiety. Even if you don’t think your dog is anxious, moving its food dish to another room (or to the spot where your dog places its bowl) or feeding it at separate times from other pets may help stop your dog from hiding food for later.

The next step is to remove any leftover food so that your dog can’t hide it and put the food dish away. If you leave food out all the time, known as free-feeding, switching to scheduled mealtimes may be the only option to stop your dog from hiding food. Dog expert Cesar Millan recommends taking your dog for a walk before meals to tire it out. Return home, bring out the food dish and bowl, and command your dog to sit. Your dog can only eat after following this command.

It can take a few weeks to get into a feeding routine, but it has benefits far beyond ending food hoarding. For example, scheduled feeding ensures you’re not over or under-feeding your dog and informs you if your dog’s appetite has decreased.

No Leftovers Means No Food to Hide

If you’re feeding your dog the right amount of food, there shouldn’t be many leftovers. If there is, reduce the amount of food at each mealtime. The proper amount of food provides your pup with all necessary nutrition and energy without it being too hungry in between meals. Remember that feeding guidelines on food packages are just that–guidelines. If your dog is less active than the average dog, you may need to decrease the serving size. The opposite is also true. Your veterinarian can help you determine how much food to feed your dog.

You should also take care when giving your dog treats. Ensure that your dog eats the treats immediately rather than saving them for later. Similarly, be watchful of your dog around human food if you don’t want to discover disgusting remnants hidden around your home.

Curing Boredom and Unwanted Behavior

Giving your dog more attention and engaging it in activities that are both physically and mentally challenging can reduce boredom if that’s its reason for hiding food. Foraging and puzzle toys are a great way to stimulate your dog mentally without requiring much participation from you. Smart toys such as the Furbo allow your dog to fetch without needing your help. After retrieving the ball, your dog places it back in the Furbo, which will shoot it out once more.

If you cannot provide enough time or stimulation to your dog, consider hiring someone who can walk or play with your dog or a doggy daycare or boarding facility while you’re at work to tire out your pup.

When to Contact a Professional

If none of these steps stop your dog from hiding its food, it may be time to talk to a professional. A veterinarian can rule out physical conditions, while a dog behaviorist can work on anxiety, fear, and training to end this unwanted behavior.

Is it normal for dogs to hide their food?

Although you may be worried that hiding food is a sign that your pet is sick, this isn’t usually the case. Hiding food is a fairly normal behavior. Dogs who refuse to eat because of illness don’t tend to hide food.

While this behavior may be quite common, it may be a sign of a bigger problem that you should not ignore. For example, dogs with anxiety or possession aggression may hide food. However, there you may notice signs of possession aggression besides hiding food if this is the case. These signs are known as resource guarding and may include:

  • Growling
  • Biting
  • Baring teeth
  • Staring
  • Stiffening the body
  • Showing the whites of its eyes
  • Lifting lips

Food isn’t the only item that dogs may resource guard, however. Treats, beds, favorite people, and even chosen spots on the sofa can lead to resource guarding.

Why does my dog bury food in the couch?

As mentioned earlier, dogs have instincts both to dig and to hide things of value. If your feed your dog inside, as many pet owners do, there is no dirt in which to dig. Thus, your dog will look for an alternative, whether that be a shag carpet or between the couch cushions. Hiding food because of anxiety can similarly result in you finding food that your dog has buried between the couch cushions or someplace else in your home.

Why does my dog hide his food bowl? 

Sometimes dogs don’t just hide their food–they take the entire bowl with it. This behavior stems from the same instinctual or anxious reasons mentioned above. Plus, a smart dog may figure out that its bowl can be used to further hide its food.

However, there’s another reason why dogs might hide their food dishes, and that has to do with a pup’s craving for variety. In this case, you might notice your dog nudges its bowl toward you or even brings its food dish to you if you leave the room after feeding it. The easy solution to this problem is to stay near your dog while it finishes a meal or to feed your pup closer to your activities.

Some dogs experience anxiety when they see an empty food bowl even if they’re not hungry. Look for telltale signs such as pushing the food bowl and thumping its tail. Removing the empty dish after your dog finishes a bowl may be all you need to do to discourage it from moving or hiding its bowl and forcing you to chase

Finally, dogs may have preferences for one food bowl over another. Experiment with different materials of bowls of different sizes. An elevated food bowl may also stop your dog from moving its food dish once and for all and can help your dog eat more slowly and prevent throwing up or other digestion issues that eating too quickly may cause.

Why does my dog bury its food?

The reason why your dog buries its food is likely to be that it is feeling full and it is trying to save some of its food for later. This would be more likely if your dog tends to bury its food more when it has already eaten. In this case, it would help to avoid letting it have human food during the day and it could help to feed it less frequently.