Dogs hide for a multitude of reasons, and in most situations, it is nothing more than an occasional inconvenience. In many cases, it is perfectly natural for a dog to find a cozy space to nap or a place to hide from things that frighten them. If the behavior becomes chronic or interferes with the dog’s enjoyment of life, then behavioral conditioning or medication may help alleviate the behavior. If your dog is hiding and showing any additional signs of pain or discomfort, they may be ill and require medical intervention.
Every dog is an individual with their own unique traits and personalities, and some dogs are very outgoing and proactive about wanting to meet and say hello to everyone they pass, whilst others tend to be shy around everyone other than people they know very well.
A good example of this is if your dog suddenly starts hiding or retreating to a snug, enclosed space from which they can’t be tempted out with ease if this isn’t the sort of behaviour they usually display and they’re not simply heading off for a nap.
A dog hiding away will usually be doing so for a reason, and generally, leaving them to it and not disturbing them is the best approach. However, there are some situations in which your dog might be hiding away from you that warrant intervention, as this can mean that something is amiss, which means that learning why your dog is hiding is important.
Why Hiding Occurs in Dogs
Hiding is a normal response for canines in a number of situations. In some cases, however, the issue may be a behavioral problem or even an illness or injury.
Dogs who have been abused or neglected tend to be understandably nervous and fearful and small places, like under your bed or in your closet, feel comforting and safe to most canines. Dogs who hide in response to fear should not be treated roughly or aggressively as fear can sometimes turn to hostility if the animal is provoked.
Illness or Injury
Canines may also hide if they are feeling unwell. If your dog starts hiding on a regular basis with no apparent provocation, particularly if it is combined with lethargy, loss of appetite, indications of pain and discomfort, retching or vomiting, a visit to your veterinarian may be a good idea.
Many dogs are fearful of loud or sudden noises and will bolt and hide when they occur. Some common causes of noise anxiety in dogs include vacuum cleaners, construction noises, gunshots, and fireworks. Phobias to noise generally intensify with repeated exposure and in severe cases may require anti-anxiety drugs to resolve.
Protection and Safety
In some situations, your dog may simply be trying to find a safe place to stay out of the way or to avoid something that appears to be dangerous. This type of response is responsible for dogs hiding when furniture is being moved or when they are in an unfamiliar environment. It is also sometimes responsible for dogs hiding during fires rather than escaping, so it is important to let fire department personnel know if you have a dog in the event of a fire.
What to do if your Dog is Hiding
If your canine companion is simply looking for a small place to get away and rest for a while, there really isn’t anything you need to do as this is perfectly normal behavior for most canines. If your pet is hiding out of fear, however, your first instinct when you see your pet cowering in their chosen hiding spot is to comfort them.
Some veterinary behaviourists recommend ignoring the dog until it is calm in order to prevent the behavior from being reinforced, while others condone comforting the animal in a calm and reassuring manner. If your dog appears to be in distress or in pain, your veterinarian should be consulted to determine the next course of action. It is important in these situations to coax your pet out of its hiding spot gently if at all possible. This is to avoid either injuring the dog or causing the dog to bite in fear. If the behavior is interfering with the dog’s enjoyment of life, a behavioral therapist may be able to help you to create a treatment program based on counter-conditioning training. In severe cases, medications may be prescribed to help alleviate the dog’s anxiety.
Prevention of Hiding
Although hiding in and of itself is not a behavior to be concerned about, chronic or anxiety related hiding may become disruptive to everyday life. In order to prevent natural hiding behavior from becoming chronic, you will want to expose the animal to as many new experiences as they can handle as early in their life as possible. If you are bringing a new animal home and you suspect that abuse may have been a part of their previous lives it may take quite a bit of time and effort to teach them how to trust again, but having a calm and balanced environment from the beginning at their new home may help start things off on the right foot.
Other prevention methods can depend on the underlying cause of the anxiety that is triggering the hiding behavior. Examples might be calming herbs or medications prior to having visitors, increasing exercise levels, or putting a thunder shirt on a dog before a thunderstorm hits
Dogs will usually head for their beds or sleep where they are lying if they’re tired, but if this is not possible or your dog is finding that area too loud, bright or busy, they might seek a quiet hiding spot for their nap. This is particularly likely to be the case if something is a little different to the norm, such as if you have friends over for a nightcap or something unusual is going on that makes your dog want to seek out somewhere quiet or hidden for their nap.
In the doghouse
Finally, a dog might retreat to a hiding place if they’ve been told off, or sent out of the room for being naughty or being a pain.
In such situations, dogs do indeed often go off somewhere to hide and stay out of the way of the person who they have annoyed, either because they want to avoid a further telling off or because they’ve been trained to go to a certain place when told to; or a bit of both.