Have you ever stepped on a hard, dry piece of pizza crust? My Chihuahua left this surprise for me tucked under a rug in the bathroom. Last week I found a biscuit in his bed, and he has a habit of digging in the yard and hiding his toys. If he were a person, he’d surely be a banker—saving his assets in long-term accounts and safe deposit boxes.
Is my dog mad? Does he think I’ll steal his stuff? As with most strange dog behaviors, the tendency to hide food and belongings relates to natural instincts. Life in the wild (or on the street for some unfortunate dogs) is full of challenge, the biggest being keeping safe and fed. Although my dog can depend on regular feedings every day, he still understands that the content of a dog dish or the occasional treat is very valuable.
While some dogs will eat anything and everything that is placed in front of them, others know when they are full and stop eating. These dogs, like mine, often try to hide or bury their leftovers to eat as a snack later on. If your dog has access to a yard (possibly through a doggy door) he or she may carry food outdoors and bury it. Housebound dogs will improvise. They secure away their treasures under furniture, in a rug, or in a corner. My dog uses the edges of the stairs as a popular food depository.
Your dog may enjoy the “game” of food stashing, investigating his or her surroundings and leaving tidbits in the most unexpected places. Of course this habit can be a bit annoying, but it is generally harmless. Exceptions include a dog who is too sick to eat his regular meal. Watch out for the dog that hides food and is lethargic, has a temperature over 102 degrees, or is moody. Check with your veterinarian if you notice these conditions. A change in appetite can be related to something as simple as hot weather, but it can also indicate serious illness that requires immediate treatment.
Stopping the Behavior
If this game is not to your liking, you can try some simple techniques to change the behavior. First, slightly reduce the amount of food you give your dog. Try to determine the exact amount that satisfies his hunger but denies him leftovers. Also, try to ignore the situation when your dog is present. Attention to the food dish or treats might encourage him or her to seek your attention via the food game. If your dog typically moves the bowl and all, try a crock or any heavy bowl that would be more difficult to move with a nudge. Most importantly, keep your sense of humor. A found treasure can bring a smile to your face, and your little Pirate can live up to his name.
For further reading on this peculiar behavior, read our article on “Why Does My Dog Eat His Food Away From the Bowl?”