You shower your Fido with toys and treats.
But one day you noticed a lot of these piled up under the couch.
Is your dog hiding their possessions from you?
If you’re curious to know why your dog does this…
Read on to discover:
- Dangers of stealing and hiding stuff.
- 7 reasons why your dog puts things under the couch.
- The most common objects in the house that dogs tend to hide.
- 5 tips on how to stop your dog from putting stuff under the couch.
- And many more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog put stuff under the couch?
- 7 reasons why your dog puts stuff under the couch
- 5 tips on how to stop your dog from putting stuff under the couch
Why does my dog put stuff under the couch?
Your dog puts stuff under the couch because of their hiding instincts. It could also be due to anxiety caused by past experiences. Possessiveness and attention-seeking are possible reasons too. Maybe they’re bored and like the scent of the items. Or, you’re encouraging the behavior inadvertently.
7 reasons why your dog puts stuff under the couch
Domesticated dogs inherited their burying and hiding instincts from their ancestors – the wolves.
The latter are known for their hunting skills.
Have you heard of surplus killing?
It’s when wolves kill more prey than they can eat. And either they’d store or abandon the leftovers. This was also common due to food scarcity.
Fact: The behavior is present in many mammals. Such as foxes, killer whales, polar bears, raccoons, and domestic dogs.
A study in 1976 also observed the food hoarding behavior among wild wolves. It’s a behavior where they’d bury their prey to preserve its meat.
Dog trainer Teoti Anderson says that dogs bury stuff to save it for later.
It’s their instinct telling them they need to save food. Especially when they don’t know when or where they’ll find their next meal.
The cool soil serves as a refrigerator. It keeps the food fresh longer, allowing the wolves to return and eat it later.
By burying their food, wolves also protect it from sunlight and other wild animals.
Wolves have a strong sense of smell. So burying helps mask the scent of the food. As well as prevented other animals from locating it.
But this behavior isn’t only limited to food.
That’s why toys and other stuff can trigger that same hoarding instinct in domesticated dogs.
“But Petya, I’m always feeding my dog and providing toys. Why do they have to hide them under the couch?”
Even though you care for your dog well, this survival instinct remains.
But it’s not always the reason why your dog acts this way.
Sometimes hiding is a dog’s way of savoring stuff they like. So they can enjoy these things again later.
Do you have a rescue dog?
Your dog might put their treats and toys under the couch out of anxiety.
Bad experiences could trigger them to hide stuff away from other animals. They’ll show such behavior especially when you have other pet dogs.
This is because they might have come from backyard breeding or puppy mills. Where they had to compete with other dogs for limited food or resources.
The main takeaway here is that not all breeders are responsible. Some don’t care for the health of the puppies and of their biological parents. It’s only important to them to sell these fur babies for a profit.
In 2016, there was a puppy mill raid that happened in North Carolina. The Humane Society of the United States assisted the officers in the operation.
They were able to rescue almost 130 canines. And found out that the dogs had been in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
Their cages were caked with poop. The water bowls were dirty. There wasn’t enough food. The breeders kept them in a dark basement where the canines couldn’t breathe fresh air.
Here’s a short video that shows this sad reality:
Such bad experiences could affect your dog’s behavior. Your pooch wouldn’t realize immediately that they’re safe and you’ll always feed them.
That’s why they’d put their stuff under the couch. They perceive it as a safe spot. This is to prevent other pet dogs from stealing it.
“Petya, I’m curious. How would I know if I got my dog from an irresponsible breeder?”
According to Dr. Deb, these are some of the signs that you’re dealing with a backyard breeder
Not screening potential buyers
A responsible breeder wants to make sure their puppies will be in good hands. They’ll be asking a lot of questions.
It’s because they don’t want their puppies to be mishandled. Just because the breeder is selling them, doesn’t mean the person doesn’t care.
Selling on eBay and Craigslist
Dr. Deb says that breeders who care for their puppies wouldn’t sell them on eBay or Craigslist. Based on the platform’s policy, live animals aren’t allowed there.
Plus, most of the responsible breeders rather have websites. These serve to educate dog parents and potential buyers. They also provide face-to-face information about their puppies.
No veterinary records for the puppies
Your puppy should come with veterinary records. Make sure that you get the vaccination history, and a record of any medication prescribed.
Between their 6-8 week of age, puppies should’ve got their first vet visits. As well as shots and dewormers.
If the breeder shows none of these, then they’re not committed to the dog’s welfare.
Not offering lifetime return policies
Responsible breeders would ask buyers to return their puppies. It happens when the person who took the pups can no longer support their needs.
A good breeder would rather take the puppies back than letting them live in a shelter.
Not allowing you to see where they keep the puppies
This is pretty straightforward.
When breeders are responsible, they have nothing to hide. They’d be willing to take you where the puppies were born and raised. So you can check the living conditions for yourself.
Some dogs are more possessive than others. Especially when they live in a household with many pets.
They’d try to hide their treats in spots of the house which they perceive safe.
Including under the dirt in the backyard. Or, under the couch.
It could also be a symptom of anxiety.
It’s the case when possessiveness goes hand in hand with symptoms such as:
- Constant pacing.
- Reduced activity.
- Excessive licking.
- Lack of bladder control.
In addition, your dog will appear very nervous.
And they may become aggressive to the point of resource guarding. AKC says it occurs when they show behaviors like growling or biting over toys.
There are body language signs that you can look out for.
You’ll notice one or more of these when your dog’s attempting to guard their stuff:
- A hard stare.
- Lifting of lips.
- Low growling.
- Baring of teeth.
- Stiffening of the body over an object.
- Showing the whites of the eyes or ‘whale eye’.
Note: Nicole Costanza says that no certain breeds are prone to resource guarding. It depends on the environment they grow up in.
Dogs who have this behavior would be on high alert. They’ll show aggression, even though there’s no real threat.
When your dog’s not mentally stimulated, they’ll get bored.
So they’ll cope with boredom by finding ways to entertain themselves. But most of the time, you may not like their idea of a good time.
Because oftentimes, boredom results in negative behaviors. So you can expect your dog to pass the time by chewing, whining, or destroying stuff.
But some dogs will hide their toys. This could explain the bone in your coat pocket and other toys under the couch.
I remember a friend whose furbaby had it as a habit. It’d happen every time my friend arrived home from work. Then she’d notice the disappearance of some of her dog’s toys.
She found the toys hidden under the rugs, pillows, even in her shoes.
She then watched the pooch more closely. He would take a toy and hide it between sofa cushions. Or in the laundry basket.
When these hiding spots weren’t good enough, the dog would return and hide the toys elsewhere. This activity could go on for hours.
The dog’s natural guarding instinct made him become fixated on hiding their toys.
But the behavior itself could become an obsession. Especially when you don’t provide them enough physical or mental stimulation.
#5: To seek attention
Is your dog getting enough attention?
Dogs who don’t get much of it, tend to steal and hide their parent’s stuff. It could be your shoes, jewelry, and clothes.
It could happen when you haven’t played with them. Or, haven’t walked them in the park for a long time.
Dogs are more intelligent than you think.
Canine researcher Coren says that canines can understand more than 150 words. They can deceive other dogs and humans to get treats.
Did you know that they can even solve problems? This is because their cognitive abilities are close to a human child aged 2 to 3 years.
Fun fact: Dogs can count up to 5. They can understand basic arithmetic and notice errors. Such as 2 + 1 = 3 or 2 + 1 = 4.
With their intelligence, they can find ways to get what they want. Treats, toys, and of course, your attention.
It’s more likely to happen when they have easy access to your valuable objects. They learn that negative attention is better than no attention at all.
Warning: If your Fido does this, they may harm themselves if a stolen item is swallowed.
One case was when surgeon John Berg had a patient dog whose owners had a pool with decorative rocks. He reported that the dog swallowed 1500 of them.
He also performed an operation to take these out.
According to AKC, swallowing foreign objects causes gastrointestinal blockage.
What is gastrointestinal blockage?
Gastrointestinal blockage can happen in the stomach or intestines. It prevents the flow of nutrients through the gastrointestinal tract.
This happens when your dog ingests foreign objects. Such as bones, rocks, and toys. These objects can’t pass through their intestines.
As a result, the blockage decreases blood flow. And the items ingested cause perforation of the intestines.
Here are the symptoms of gastrointestinal blockage that you should look out for:
- Abdominal pain.
- Loss of appetite.
- Repetitive vomiting.
Warning: Never pull the item that’s protruding from your dog’s rectum. This can cause severe damage.
#6: Your dog likes the scent
Is it your used clothes that your dog puts under the couch?
Canine’s sense of smell is strong. Dogs rely on it to inspect people, other animals, and their environment.
A study says that a dog’s nose can be over 1,000 times more sensitive than ours.
But wait! There’s more…
Researcher Lu M. Yang also reveals that dogs have a favorite smell – their dog parent’s scent. So being around objects that have your scent gives them comfort and security.
Separation anxiety can be the reason that they look for items that remind them of you. Sniffing an item of yours helps them relieve stress when you’re not around.
This explains why they’d steal your used clothes and hide them in places. Your Fido might want to keep your clothes for themselves for a while.
That’s why you’d come home to a dog chilling under the couch. Lying on your clothes.
Look out for these other behavioral signs of separation anxiety in your Fido.
- House soiling.
- Chewing and digging.
Check out also: 7 Unexpected Reasons Why Dogs Sniff Your Clothes + 3 Easy Tips
#7: Encouraging the behavior
It could be that you’ve offered them treats to come out from hiding. Or to give back what they have hidden.
So your dog learned that hiding more of your stuff will get them a reward. If this continues, they’ll repeat the behavior.
5 tips on how to stop your dog from putting stuff under the couch
#1: Rotate your dog’s toys
Their obsessive hoarding behavior could end as soon as you put their extra toys away. Rotate the toys so they have access to 2 or 3 different kinds at a time. Do it weekly.
For example, a dental puzzle toy your pooch can chew on. Such as the Dog Puzzle Toy 2 Pack, HIPPIH Interactive Dog Toys Ball for IQ Training.
If you decide, you can put small kibble inside it. This will stimulate your pooch to play. Plus, they’ll get a treat. So it’s a reward-based mechanism.
If you choose to put no kibble inside it, it’ll serve as a great chew toy. The benefit is clearing the plaque from your dog’s teeth. This is how I do it, and my dog loves it!
Another interesting type of dog toy is the Wobble Wag Giggle Ball, available on Amazon. As the name suggests, it makes giggly sounds. This is different from the usual squeaking toys.
These are just two examples of toys you can give your doggo. They’re bound to engage your furry friend. And prevent any type of boredom or unwanted behavior.
#2: Teach your dog the right behavior
Teach your Fido the “give” command so they can learn to return toys. It’ll help you establish the appropriate spots where to keep the toys.
Plus, it’s another way to bond with your dog.
I do something similar with my pooch, Lissa. Whenever I notice she has no task to do, I ask her to give me “the toy”.
She knows the phrase. So as soon as she hears it, she’s on her quest to find the toy. And bring it to me. From there on we start a tug session. Or I throw a ball in the apartment.
Lissa enjoys this a lot! For her, it’s nice that I’m involved in the process. My attention is rewarding enough. Because as soon as she brings me the toy, the game begins.
With this in mind, observe your pooch for hoarding behavior. If you notice the first sign, call them over. When they divert their attention to you and follow your command, give them treats.
#3: Prevent access to your items
Does your dog have easy access to your valuable objects? Such as your watch, jewelry, or shoes?
If yes, then it’s time for prevention.
You don’t want your items hidden, or worse… chewed up!
Plus, not being able to find them could be quite annoying.
There can also be a danger that comes with stealing your small items. Your Fido may accidentally swallow your stuff. Such as your jewelry.
Common pieces swallowed by dogs are necklaces and earrings. The backs of stud earrings and rough edges can pierce their gastrointestinal tract.
Swallowing such items can cause blockage. Rocks, coins, and leather items can also get stuck in their throat or intestines.
But you can avoid life-threatening conditions that can harm your dog. Make sure to close closet doors and cabinets. You should also store your small items in elevated storage areas such as drawers.
Your dog won’t think of these objects when you keep them inaccessible.
#4: Make the items your dog wants to hide smell unappealing
Take note of all the items your Fido likes to steal and hide. Place them in your storage area. Then sprinkle a tad bit of cayenne pepper onto the objects.
AKC says that cayenne pepper is not toxic to dogs when ingested. But, sniffing too much of it can burn their nasal passage.
To make it effective but less irritating, it’s important not to spray it too much onto the objects. A little whiff of cayenne pepper should be enough to discourage stealing behavior.
#5: Safely lock your dog in a room
Locking them in a room is acceptable when all their needs are met. This is a solution when you have no one to watch your dog. While you’re busy at work on weekdays.
But first dog-proof the room.
Make sure that there are no areas in there where they can hide stuff. For example, put small objects in closed spaces.
Don’t forget to provide chew toys to keep your doggo entertained.
For more information…
You might also want to read: 9 Tips To Safely Lock Your Dog In A Room + 5 Dangers
BONUS TIP: If all else fails, get a dog trainer
Reach out to a dog trainer to help modify your dog’s behavior. A dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement can help teach your Fido not to hide things.
It’s an ideal training method for your fur baby. Trainers agree that this has many benefits. Two of which are making your dog grow well-behaved and sociable.
It’s also important to know how positive reinforcement differs from negative reinforcement. As other trainers also use the latter method.
Positive reinforcement is when you focus more on developing positive behavior.
It involves using treats or praise when they show desirable behaviors.
According to a study, this training method boosts your dog’s confidence.
Because you’re making them feel good about learning new behaviors.
For example, how would a trainer use positive reinforcement in your case?
Giving your dog treats when they follow the “give” command is positive reinforcement.
You’re not going to make all the toys inaccessible to solve the problem. You’re training your dog using the “give” command. So they give back the toys and get rewarded.
You’re including something your dog enjoys to make a task more likely to occur.
Negative reinforcement is when a trainer inflicts pain on the dog. So the dog would.
This can happen in many forms. Such as through flexion of the toe or ear clamp. Or applying an electronic training collar.
For example, a dog is supposed to follow the “give” command of a trainer. When the dog doesn’t follow, electric shock is applied. As soon as the dog follows, the trainer turns off the shock.
Note: According to the study mentioned above, e-collars negatively impact dogs during training. Moreover, it wasn’t more effective than rewards-based training (positive reinforcement).