How can you correct canine hoarding behavior?
By Catalina Barrios
What does your pup like to collect?
Does your dog have a tendency to hide food around the house? Have you seen your dog stashing toys under the couch? How about burying bones in the garden? Have you failed in a massive search for the right half of your favorite pair of shoes only to find it weeks later tucked under a desk? Could this be hoarding behavior? Is it normal for dogs?
It is all very normal, instinctive behavior. The benefits of hoarding go back to the ancestry of dogs, when they were a wild species. Back then, dogs were not guaranteed to receive a meal every day. So, when hunting was good and food was plenty, it made sense for dogs to hide some of the extra as insurance against less plentiful times.
But hiding food is never a good idea!
“Fifteen thousand years later, the instinct to plan for a future need is still alive and well in the psyche of our well-fed buddies. They sometimes respond to their urges by burying food. Some pups address the age-old instinct by hiding toys or other favorite objects,” said Dr. C.Sue Furman who teaches future physicians and veterinarians.
The problem for the modern paw-rent, however, is that hidden food will quickly start to decompose, turning into a bad odor and attracting other decomposers, like insects. The best way to prevent your dog from hiding food is to create a routine around mealtime. This should start by going for a long walk so that the dog feels tired and works up an appetite.
After the walk, prepare the food and make your dog sit before you put the food in the bowl. Your dog will realize that in order to get food, they needs to sit quietly and stay calm. As soon as your dog stops eating, remove the bowl. This signals that mealtime is over. Making the bowl inaccessible teaches your dog that he can’t come back and take food to hide away.
What do you do to prevent your dog from hiding family belongings?
This is a normal behavior in dogs and your furry pal does it to get attention. Your dog may believe the “thing” is a toy and wants to play with it, or he may be snatching it to engage your attention. Dogs are very intelligent and know us well. Your dog observes which shoes are your favorite and be certain to grab these ones while you are looking, or hide them when you are not. You can easily solve this problem by giving your dog more attention.
Sometimes dogs can be protective of their hidden stash of toys and this behavior could turn into something called “resource guarding”. It happens when the dog becomes aggressive as someone tries to take something from their stash. The behavior needs to be corrected. Start by trading a treat for one of the items in the dog’s stash. While playing with your dog, offer a favorite treat as a reward when he releases the toy.
A final reason for your dog’s hoarding could be due to feeling bored, lonely or having excess energy that turns to stress. Imagine yourself in a house without any entertainment. You would try to keep busy with anything you find – even juggling with random round objects. Make sure your dog gets needed attention and exercise. Days can be long for your furry friend and you want them to feel entertained, not bored.
Does your dog have problematic behaviors that you would like our Get Leashed pet experts to write about? Leave us a message in the comment section and we’ll get to you next.