Why Do Dogs Hide Treats and Food?

Last Updated: October 19, 2022

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Dog hiding treats or food

You give your dog a tasty treat expecting them to gobble it down in seconds. But instead of doing that, they stare out it for a moment before grabbing, running off, and hiding it!

As a dog owner, you're probably used to seeing your canine companion exhibit a bunch of oddball behaviors. But this? This is something different. What gives?

This behavior is more common than you think. It might come out of the blue for your dog, but many owners have to deal with it. There are many different reasons why dogs hide treats and food.

Some reasons are innocent enough, but others could indicate more significant behavioral and mental issues you need to address.

7 Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Hides Treats and Food

This isn't an issue you want to ignore. Keep an eye on your dog's behavior. Understanding the potential reasoning behind their actions could help you address it.

#1.  An Instinctive Urge

One reason why your dog might be hiding things is because of their ancestors!

The modern domesticated dog has it easy. They're spoiled pups that don't have to use their hunting skills to survive. It's a far cry from their ancestors and current wild dogs.

Despite years of domestication, dogs still hold onto those natural instincts. It's why they seem to know how to swim even if they've never been around water, or how they always find dead animals and prey.

Most house dogs never have to use their survival instincts, but they're there just in case.

Sometimes, instincts come out when you least expect them to. Hiding treats and food is the perfect example.

Wild dogs never know when they're going to get their next meal. So when food is abundant, they often store some away for later. Think of it as stashing away leftovers! Canines typically bury the food in a safe spot for later.

Your dog might do the same thing from time to time. It's normal and usually not a cause for concern. But it can be a little annoying if you don't know where your dog's stash is.

#2.  Air Burying

Dog digging in the dirt to hide something

Air burying is a unique behavior that often stems from illness.

Don't worry! That doesn't necessarily mean that you need to take a trip to the vet. But it doesn't mean you should watch your dog closely.

When dogs get sick, they sometimes feel nauseous. You know the feeling: It's that sensation that you're about to start hurling everywhere.

Think of all those times you felt the same way. 

Foods you usually love suddenly make you want to blow chunks!

That's what happens with dogs, too. They will often get repulsed by treats and foods.

Most dogs will push their bowls away or start "air burying." That means that they're trying to get rid of the smell.

You might see your dog grab the food, rush it to somewhere far away, and bury it under some dirt. That effectively masks the scent, providing the nausea relief they need.

There's a good chance that your dog isn't feeling well when this happens. Monitor their condition, and provide support if vomiting occurs.

Usually, symptoms go away within a day. If not, you can go to your vet for guidance and treatment.

Related:  Smells that Repel Dogs

#3.  You're Providing Too Much

Some dogs will eat until they can't anymore! But others are more in-tune with their bodies. Many breeds will eat what they need and nothing more.

It's how they avoid extraneous weight gain and stay fit.

If you provide too much food, your dog might start burying it. There are a few reasons why. It might go back to instinctive behavior, as we discussed earlier.

Your dog is satiated and doesn't need the extra food. So, they hide it for later!

Another reason they stash it away is to get rid of the evidence.

Maybe you had previously scolded your pup for not eating its full bowl, or it doesn't want to offend you or seem unappreciative. So, your pup might hide the extra so that you think it cleaned the bowl.

#4.  An Anxious Response

Unfortunately, hiding treats and food might be a response to stress and anxiety.

Dogs can do many weird things in the face of confusing emotions like anxiety. They get fearful and try anything they can to get relief.

In this case, the hiding of resources might stem from negative past experiences. 

You're most likely to encounter this with a rescue dog or one that lived with many other animals.

Maybe they lost food because they didn't eat it right away, or they were in a situation where they had to fight to get meals and survive.

Whatever the case might be, the act of hiding food and treats is their way of coping.

Your dog is feeling a little dark, and they're resorting to old experiences. This concerning behavior will most likely stop once the dog gets comfortable.

Once they know they don't have to be so protective and proactive about survival, they can rest easy and not act so strangely.

Related:  Signs of a Happy Content Dog

#5.  A Call for Attention

Have you ever responded strongly to seeing your dog hide foods and treats?

That might create an unfortunate connection with your canine companion. Dogs love attention, and they'll get pretty creative to get it when bored.

Once your dog realizes that hiding food and treats makes you pay attention to them, they will keep doing it! It's like a game to them.

They don't realize that it's annoying or troublesome. All they know is that hiding things causes you to get up and interact with them. That's all your dog truly wants!

Be careful. If this is the reason why your dog is hiding foods and treats, it can quickly graduate to other items.

For example, your dog might start hiding TV remotes, shoes, jewelry, and anything else they can get their paws on!

Related: How Much attention Do Dogs Need?

#6.  Inadvertent Rewards

This reasoning is similar to the last one but is more common.

What was your response the last time your dog hid away its treats? Unless you already realized it was a regular occurrence, you might have gone back to get another one.

That's a standard gut reaction most dog owners would have.

You might feel confused about what just happened, not realizing that your dog quickly stashed it away. So, you get another treat to ensure they still get the reward they were promised.

Here's the thing: Doing that only reinforces the habit! You essentially rewarded your dog for something they shouldn't have done.

Your pup is more intelligent than you realize. They learned that hiding a treat nets them an additional one. Why wouldn't they try it again?

#7.  Possessive Behavior

We saved possessiveness as the last reason to talk about, but it's one of the most concerning.

Possessive behavior is not something that you can ignore. When this happens, dogs get borderline aggressive about what they believe is rightfully theirs.

You might notice this behavior occurring if you live in a multi-pet household.

The dog that starts hiding food and treats believes that the others will steal them. So, they will tuck those items out of site.

It could be in the cushions of your couch, underneath a piece of furniture, buried in the backyard, and more. The thought process is that the dog protects the item they hold dear.

The issue here is that resource guarding births aggression quickly.

Before you know it, your dog might start growling anytime you get close to its food. They might even resort to biting people! Eventually, that resource guarding extends to toys, beds, and more.

What You Can Do

The solution depends entirely on why your dog hides their food and treats.

You can make your dog feel comfortable if it's an anxiety issue. Remind it that there's no reason to hide resources because they'll always have access to what they need.

If the problem is providing too much food, consider rethinking your mealtime strategy. Your dog shouldn't have any leftovers or open access to food.

Portion meals accordingly, and this problem should stop.

For resource guarding and possessive behavior, we recommend seeking help from a trainer or behavioralist. Resource guarding can be a serious problem, so don't hesitate to get professional help.

Final Thoughts

It can seem weird to watch your dog hide food and treats.

 Most canines will gobble up anything edible you put in front of them, so seeing them "save it for later" can be a headscratcher. But as you can see from above, there are many reasons why dogs do this.

Watch your pup closely and put on your detective hat! Once you understand the "why," you can take steps to address the issue.

Also Read:  How Big Will My Dog Get?

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About the author 

Steve

Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.