Does your dog keep going down to the basement of your home? Some dogs seem to retreat and even hide in cellars, basements, crawlspaces- or other areas where they can be alone.  If you are wondering how to prevent this behavior, it helps to first know why they are doing it. Sometimes, this is a sign of an underlying issue that merits veterinary attention.

Why does my dog keep going to the basement?

If your dog keeps going down to your basement, first assess the pet to rule out a potential medical issue first. When normally social dogs hide, it could be from fear, anxiety, or pain. If your dog has recently experienced a traumatic event, like an accident or injury, or if your dog has been frightened by a loud noise, storm, or fireworks, they may choose to hide.

Do not assume your dog is trying to get away from you; here are a few reasons why they may be hiding in your basement:

Eye Issues

If your dog has an eye issue, like cataracts or uveitis, bright light could be causing them pain. They might retreat to the basement, particularly if it is dim or darkened.  

Anxiety or Fear

When dogs want to isolate, it is often due to fear or anxiety. Many dogs suffer from anxiety due to a range of traumatic events, fears, or a lack of socialization as a puppy. If your dog pees on the floor of the basement or you notice them trembling or whining when they are in the basement, they are scared of something. Talk to your veterinarian to pinpoint the problem.  

Depression

When a dog becomes depressed- yes, dogs can suffer from depression- they may hide in the go to the basement. If your dog has recently lost a human or furry companion, this can cause them to be depressed. Some other signs of depression in dogs are changes in appetite and restless behavior.

Heart Disease

Heart disease and heart issues can cause a dog to look like they are being antisocial and isolative. When the heart does not work properly, the deprivation of oxygen can cause coughing, gagging, loss of appetite, fainting, and lower stamina. If you notice any of these symptoms in addition to hiding out in the basement, schedule an appointment with your vet.

Pain

Pain is another reason why your dog might keep going to the basement. Chronic pain from arthritis, injury, muscle aches, joint issues, dental pain- all can cause your pet to withdraw and hide out. Dogs that experience difficulty and discomfort keeping up with their human owners may retreat to the basement to rest and abstain from the activity.

Age

As your pet ages, they may experience some cognitive decline that causes them to be confused or become lost. They may not realize that they keep going to the basement, or they may be looking for their humans.

How do I keep my dog out of the basement?

You may be able to train your pet to stop hiding under things, but it will require patience and treats. Experts recommend that you ignore your pet when they hide in the basement or under your bed, but reward them when they don’t; that is, if they lie in a different spot, give them a treat. This will keep them from hanging out in the basement over time.

Here are some other things that may help keep your dog out of the basement:

Veterinary Care

Make sure that your dog is not ill or injured before treating this as a behavioral issue. Your vet will likely conduct a battery of tests and take blood, urine, and fecal samples for lab work. Expect an x-ray to rule out trauma or fracture, which could also explain the tendency to hide in the basement.

Medical Treatment

If your vet determines that your dog has an illness or medical issue that is causing them to hide in the basement, treatment may include therapy, surgery, medication, or a special diet. If your dog is a senior, treatment may include creating a safe environment that won’t exacerbate pain or an injury, such as using non-skid treads or mats on slippery flooring.

Emotional Treatment

If the issue is more emotional in nature, like anxiety or depression, treatment may include medications or changes to the home environment. If your pet is lonely and depressed, sometimes a change in routine, increased physical activity, or a new furry addition to the family can help.

A Dog Room

You could always embrace the situation and turn the basement into a dog room. A dog room is a space designed with your four-legged friend in-mind, that is safe, practical, and comfortable. This provides your pet with their own area to play, rest, and hide-out from the rest of the household. This is also a good place for pets to retreat or be contained when there are visitors or events happening that are not dog-friendly, perhaps like a dinner party.

Some tips for transforming your basement into a dog room include the following:

  • Make sure that the basement is dry and has decent lighting. Always prioritize safety, health, and your pet’s comfort when evaluating the space.
  • Confirm that the pet has no access to the outdoors from the basement, and that there are no exposed wires or outlets within reach.
  • If you have a lack of natural light in the basement, consider full spectrum lights which offer this kind of illumination more so than traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.
  • Dehumidify the basement if it seems damp. If the space seems too musty, it may not be healthy for your pets to spend time in.
  • Cover the floor, especially if it is concrete. Carpet is not a great choice for the floor as it can hold in dirt and dust, as well as be problematic to remove and clean. Opt for something that can be wiped down or mopped with ease, if possible.
  • Provide plenty of creature comforts like favorite blankets, pillows, toys, and comfy dog beds for snoozing. If you are putting kennels or crates in the dog room, remove the doors to ensure the pet does not become trapped. Always keep fresh water available and use stainless bowls, which keeps the water cool for your pet.

Always keep an eye out in your dog room for any choking hazards or risks, like cords or things that could be accessed and chewed.

Why does my dog hide in the basement?

If your dog is hiding in the basement, you should take them to your vet to ensure they are not suffering from some medical issue. After a clean bill of health, consider these other reasons why your dog may be hiding out:

Poor Social Skills

Has your dog been socialized? If you rescued your dog as an adult, you may not know how well they were socialized. Socialization is key in preventing a wide range of anxieties, fears, and behavioral issues later-on.

Changes in Environment

Some dogs will hide out when there is a change in their home environment, such as a new family member, a death, or a move. In these cases, a dog might hide in the basement to take a break; they will return when they perceive things have quieted down.

Some Privacy

The basement may seem like a quiet, peaceful place for some dogs. Give your dog a spot that they can retreat and hide when they feel like it. As long as it is a healthy environment, let them feel safe relaxing there.

Fear

When a dog is afraid of something they tend to flee, which may be why they keep hiding in your basement. As long as there are no dangers or hazards in the basement, let them have this hiding spot to feel safe during times of stress or duress. You may be able to change this behavior by giving the pet a treat every time they want to flee, such as if someone rings the doorbell or during fireworks which may encourage them to find you at times of stress, for a treat and some comfort.

Mischief

If your dog has found something that they should not, they may hide in the basement to enjoy it. This could be a naughty treat from the floor or trash, or a toy that does not belong to them.

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.