Why is my dog hiding under the bed, under the couch, in the closet, in a dark corner? How many dog owners have asked this question at one point or another? Probably more than a few. You may also have witnessed your dog hiding bones, toys, and other stuff in the backyard, under a pile of dirty clothes, or under the couch’s cushion. This page discusses some of the common reasons for hiding, hiding things, and ways to stop this behavior.
Reasons for Dog Hiding Behavior
Some pet owners like to play around with their dogs. Others like to cuddle up with them while watching TV. When a dog thus decides to hide under the bed or couch for hours at a time, it becomes a point of concern. Understanding why your pet keeps hiding is important as it will help you decide whether or not a vet’s attention is required as well as take respective measures to stop the behavior. Below are some of the most common triggers for dog hiding and related behaviors:
Dogs most commonly hide because of fear. You will know your dog is afraid if it shows signs such as trembling, enlarged pupils, excess panting, and growling when approached in his hiding place. You may also notice the dog hiding its tail as it runs under the bed or couch, into the closet, into stuffed animals etc. Fear may stem from on the following factors:
Strange People and Guests
Your dog may be scared of a guest in your house that it is not used or a scary person passing along your backyard and scamper for safety under the bed or couch, in dark corners, or in the closet.
Loud music and sounds such as sirens, falling objects, vacuum etc. can scare dogs and make them hide in areas around your house or yard where it feels safe.
Thunderstorms are also notorious for triggering fear in dogs and often cause them to hide. According to says San Diego-based veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang, dogs are routine animals and you should thus not be surprised when your do responds normally to a doorbell but run into hiding upon hearing thunderstorms.
Fireworks also tend to frighten dogs and could be an explanation for dog hiding behavior. It comes as a no surprise therefore that July 5th is usually a very busy day at animal shelters throughout the United States as the American Humane Society reports. The glamor marking the celebrations on Independence Day – July 4th – culminates in fireworks at night and many frightened dogs turn on the instinct to run away, eventually getting stranded on the streets.
Abuse and Bad Experiences in The Past
Although some dog breeds are timider than others and therefore more likely to hide when scared, there may be a historical perspective to certain cases of fear in dogs.
For example, a dog that has been abused in the past may become timid and tend to hide from the pet owner when they grab an object the dog associates with the bad experience. This could be a squirt bottle, for instance, if the dog was sprayed with water as a puppy.
For new dogs that experienced abuse in the hands of the previous owner, you may notice a tendency to hide in suitable places where it feels are dark and safe enough for the first couple weeks or so.
Your dog can also hide from the vet over the fear that he/she might do something painful to her e.g. inject her as in the past.
Anxiety may also be the answer to the question, “why is my dog hiding under the bed?” A classic example involves dogs and children. When unusually many children come visiting and tease the dog, it may respond by hiding in the closet, under furniture and in other suitable places that are devoid of light for as long as the children are around.
Certain breeds are more susceptible to anxiety than others including Chihuahuas, poodles,
German shepherds, Labradors, and boxers.
Relaxation and Safety
If your dog keeps hiding under the bed, it may as well be just because she feels comfortable there. Chances are that your pooch finds the temperature there warmer or the carpet feels more comfortable because it is less worn out compared to the rest of the house. Some breeds e.g. terriers, also enjoy spending time in burrows and the poorly lit area in the closet or under the bed may simulate such environments.
Other than comfort, your dog may hide under the bed and in other places for safety reason, e.g. when you are moving furniture around or there are children playing around in the house. By hiding, the dog feels safe knowing that nothing will drop on them and nobody will accidentally trample on them. Small dogs such as Chihuahuas are particularly likely to hide in such circumstances.
If your canine friend doesn’t show any signs of fear, pain or anxiety, there is no cause for concern about the hiding behavior, uncles, of course, she spends many hours or even days there.
Illness and Injuries
Poor health may also explain why you see your dog hiding under the bed or in the closet, more so it if simply won’t come out or eat. Before they were domesticated, dogs living in the wild knew that appearing injured made them and their pack vulnerable. Instinctively, they tried to hide their injuries. In cases of severe pain or illness, dogs would resort to hiding in the bushes. Even with domestication, dogs still shows this instinctive behavior of hiding when sick.
You should suspect illness or injury if your normally friendly dog suddenly stops playing around and socializing with people (e.g. meeting them at the door) and/or shows other signs of illness and injury. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive sleeping
- Excessive licking and grooming on specific areas
- Growling or crying when you pick her up or come near her hiding place. This is the dog’s way of communicating to you that it hurts when you touch her.
- Heavy panting for no reason
- Pale, blue, or dark red gums: according to Dr. Gene, veterinarian, an expert at justanswer.com, normal gums should be pink and moisture laden.
If your dog keeps hiding and won’t come out and also shows one or more of these signs, it is best to seek the attention of your vet. Other than illness and injury, dogs can hide due to pain after a surgery e.g. spaying. This normally happens after the anesthetic wears off.
A case in point: back in September 2014, Hope for Paws went to rescue a dog that had been hiding in a bush by the roadside along with her puppies. It had sustained an eye injury and only came out to look for food. The dog was ultimately adopted together with all her puppies.
Whatever the reason, extensive dog hiding behavior should not be ignored.
Your dog could be hiding behind the couch or under the bed because it thinks you like it when she does that. This could, for example, have happened when as a puppy, your dog explored the underside of the furniture or scampered there because it was scared, only to find you waiting for it with a hug, unknowingly positively reinforcing the behavior.
How to Stop Dog Hiding
The hiding behavior is not a cause for concern if it occurs occasionally but if your dog is hiding under the bed or in the closet constantly, then you will need to take measures aimed at calming your furry friend and eliminating the triggers.
You can also help your dog overcome its fear through behavioral therapies. One option is to use positive reinforcement techniques to guide the dog out of the hiding place and stop the behavior completely.
You could, for example, use a treat your dog likes to lure her out of the undesired place and then toss it in her bed. Once there, you could follow up by hugging and cuddling her up to show her that you are happy with her.
Negative reinforcement techniques can also help to stop dog hiding behaviors. For example, if you know your dog doesn’t like bitter apple or something else, apply it in all the preferred hiding points e.g. behind the couch, in dark corners, etc.
For thunderstorms and fireworks-related fear and dog hiding, a thundershirt can be helpful. A thundershirt helps to calm your dog by continuously applying gentle pressure on your dog’s body.
Playing soft music during a thunderstorm can also help to calm your dog and stop it from hiding.
Any measure aimed at making the hiding place inaccessible can also help to stop dog hiding behaviors. For example, if your dog keeps hiding behind the sofa, you may move it back so that it touches the wall if your room setup permits it. As for closets with doors, you can keep them closed.
What about dogs or puppies coming from a background of nasty experience with another pet owner? Your best bet is time. She will come around once she learns to trust you and the people around your house.
A new medication called Sileo has been developed to help stop panicking and the subsequent dog hiding behaviors. This prescription drug reportedly works by blocking a chemical called norepinephrine in the brain. This then stops anxiety and feat associated with events such as thunderstorms and fireworks. As Vogelsang, however, says, “The jury is still out because the drug is so new, but early results are promising.”
Why Do Dogs Hide Bones, other Foods, and Toys?
Dog hiding behaviors go beyond hiding themselves. They also occasionally hide treats such as carrots, bones etc. and toys in the soil, under piles of clothes, and in other ideal spots around your house and yard. This is especially common among Manchester Terriers, Airedales, Miniature Schnauzers, and Golden Retrievers.
This behavior stems back to the early days of canines. In the wild, food was a scarce commodity and the dog that was lucky in his hunting endear often encountered competition for his food from other dogs in the pack. It also often occurred that the prize was so large to gobble down in one sitting. In such cases, the lucky dogs buried their left-overs in the ground to keep it safe from other dogs.
This instinctive hoarding behavior still manifests in pet dogs when they feel they have excesses of food or toys. They hide them in safe places e.g. holes in the backyard, beneath piles of clothes, and under the couch cushions. Other than storing the excesses of kibble, toys etc. your dog may hide things as a game when bored e.g. when you are away.
To stop your dog from hiding bones, carrots, etc., avoid being so generous with treats. As for toys and other household items, rotating them may help. Keep in mind also that shiny objects such as watches and jewelry are a favorite for dogs’ hiding games.
In conclusion, dog hiding behaviors may or may not be a sign that your dog is sick or depressed. Just make sure to watch out for any tell-tale signs outlined above and if necessary, take your dog to the vet. You are better safe than sorry.