Doggy treats are elusive little things - they can magically disappear into a dog’s snout within seconds, or can somehow teleport all over the house, showing up later down the sides of sofa cushions, in the toe of your boot, at the bottom of the laundry basket or recovered, caked in soil, from your destroyed flower beds.
So why is it that some dogs hide their treats? Does hiding treats count as bad behaviour? And how do you get your dog to stop burying their treats everywhere, and so reduce the chance of sitting on a particularly pointy one as you settle down with a cup of tea?
Read on to learn more about this intrinsic doggy behaviour and understand the reasons why dogs hide their treats.
There’s a number of reasons why your pooch may sneak their treats to some favourite hiding places like they’re building up stocks for the winter. Here are the most common explanations:
Domestic dogs spend most of their time nuzzling their favourite toys, begging humans for tummy scratches and sticking their heads comically out of car windows; they aren’t exactly the wild, prey-sniffing hunting machines they used to be, like their cousins wolves or coyotes. Believe it or not, though, that instinct to hide their food does come from ancient canid behaviour.
Wild dogs used to travel and hunt in packs, and were highly territorial, meaning tight competition for food. Hiding a carcass or a bone for later was a way of making sure there was always a snack on hand should food become scarce. So funnily enough, when your pooch sneaks a treat down the side of the sofa, they’re acting on old, evolutionary instincts.
That said, if your pooch wants to hide treats rather than immediately eat them, it could be a sign that you’re feeding them more treats than they need. Ideally, your dog should want to gobble up a treat as soon as they’re presented with them, as they should know they only get a set number of treats per day.
Your dog’s past experiences may lead them to hide treats out of a sense of anxiety. Perhaps they live, or used to live with a number of dogs and food was a bit of a ‘free for all’; or a scary experience where they were deprived of food means they have lingering anxiety over when they’ll be fed next. Chat to your vet to discuss ways to ease your dog.
Hiding and finding treats might just be a fun game for your dog. As we mention below, lots of dog breeds are more prone to hiding and searching for food/treats than others, so will likely do it no matter the circumstances.
We all know the archetypal image of a dog burying a bone in the backyard - well, that stereotype is born from their real evolutionary behaviour. Dogs will not only hide treats around the house occasionally but even go as far as to bury them for later. Dogs bury food and treats for the same reasons they hide things:
It can also be a calming action for a dog to dig and bury something in the yard - so if your pooch feels stressed for some reason, grabbing a treat and burying it may be just what they need to calm down.
Let’s be clear - every dog may indulge in hiding a treat now and then. However, lots of dog breeds are more genetically predisposed to hiding their treats more than others. You’re more likely to see Dachshunds, Beagles, Basset Hounds, Miniature Schnauzers and Terriers clawing away at the dirt, or your sofa, to bury a treat into oblivion. This is because historically these dogs were bred for chasing and hunting small game, so they have an extra instinct to hide and search.
Then again, as we’ve already mentioned, all dogs have that evolutionary canine urge to hide their food for survival.
Hiding and burying food and treats isn’t necessarily bad behaviour - so long as your dog isn’t aggressively protective over food, they’re just acting on their natural animal instincts. However, we know it’s not ideal if your dog destroys the lawn or tries to carve a hole into laundry or furniture each time they have tasty dog treats to spare. So here are a few tips to prevent your dog from hiding their treats:
Is your dog leaving treats or food throughout the day? This could be a sign that you don’t need to be giving them the amount of treats that you do. Consider cutting back to see if your pooch eats their treats immediately rather than stockpiles them around the house.
Does your dog have enough toys and stimulation when at home? Does he go on enough walks? If your pooch has mental stimulation and lots to play with, they might be deterred from their shifty treat-hiding habits.
If you make a big deal out of finding a treat in the laundry or when it’s been buried in the yard, your dog might realise it gets a reaction and do it more. Calmly note that your pooch has been hiding treats again without showing any strong emotion.
It’s not always guaranteed to work, but creating spaces for your dog to hide things - such as their dog bed, a dog toy box, in a special dog blanket - can encourage your pooch to use those designated spaces instead of your pile of just-ironed laundry.
This technique is more likely to work if your dog is young, as significantly changing an adult dog’s eating area can be stressful for them. Once again, hiding treats needn’t be something to be concerned about, but if your pooch runs away with food or treats and it’s a real problem for you (perhaps because of the mess they make or they cause damage in the house), set solid boundaries for your dog around eating. Make sure you see your dog eat the treat you give them, and close doors and gates when you feed your dog anything to avoid them running away with it.
If you feed your dog a few treats throughout the day, try our range of natural dog treats - they’re not only meaty and tasty but full of specially chosen ingredients to keep your pooch calm and content.