What does it mean when a dog tries to cover its food?

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

Have you been noticing your dog behaving a little odd lately?

Do you notice him hiding or covering his food?

Do you feel there is something wrong with him?

Well, I’ve got your answer:

If your dog has been covering up his food recently, that does not mean he has some kind of medical issues. It is just the way they behave when they are not comfortable in their environment and feel insecure. So, they hide their food to eat it later when they are feeling more comfortable.

So how do you stop this behaviour? Keep reading to find out more:

Why does my dog hide its food?

One day if you notice that your dog has started to hide or bury its food in the backyard or indoors, you don’t have to worry. It is nothing serious and is just normal behaviour of your dog. 

The burying act is part of their ancestral behaviour. It has been done before by all kinds of dogs and will continue because it is in their genes. 

Dogs are very intelligent animals and they understand as soon as they feel full. If they like their food or see leftovers in their bowls, they will try and bury it somewhere in the garden. Or if indoors, they will try and hide it under the rugs or furniture, etc. 

The many reasons why dogs behave in such a way that are listed below:

Environment

 Dogs may behave this way for a very basic reason, which is a change in their environment. If you have moved houses or are currently camping or vacationing somewhere new, your dog will be reacting to the change. 

It may not stop eating or anything, but it will surely feel a little insecure and scared of the environment. When he would react, he would start to hide or cover up the food to protect it. 

A change in environment causes dogs to lose their appetite, and the same might be the case with your dog. Just make sure to look out for any other problems so that you are aware if there is something wrong or if your dog is ill.

Anxiety 

If you have adopted your dog from the streets or a pet store, you may need to know their history a little. If your dog has had some negative experiences in the past and has suffered food shortages in its life, they may suffer from anxiety. 

When they look at the food, before thinking about eating it up, they will be worried about stacking up food for later. This is because they are unsure about their next meal. Mostly, such behaviour will solve itself on its own. 

Once the dog realizes the fact that it will be getting a good amount of food and does not need to store or hide it, they’ll stop doing it. But in case this behaviour continues for a longer period, you may have to consult a coach to help him get over his anxiety and his past experiences.

Illness

If your dog is going through an illness or is feeling nauseated, chances are that they will be found air-burying their food with the help of their nose. 

They will push away the food bowl or will start to bury it with their nose. In such a case, the owner may have to keep an eye out for any other problems and illnesses that your dog may be facing such as diarrhoea, etc.

Over-feeding

If your dog is not finishing up its meals and is hoarding or stashing it somewhere, then it means that your dog is being overfed. Dogs will usually stop eating as soon as they realize that they are full. And to get the same thing again, they may hide or cover it. 

You may have to keep an eye over the amount of food you are feeding your dog. Overfeeding will result in your dog hiding it and the food may rot and start to smell. So, make sure you are feeding your dog just the right amount of food with enough nourishment it needs to stay healthy. The amount of food to be fed will be better directed by your vet.

How can I stop this behaviour of my dog?

Typically, this behaviour should not be very irritating unless your backyard is getting ruined with all the digging. To stop your dog from repeating this behaviour, you may have to first try and analyse your dog properly. 

1. Test for any illnesses

You have to make sure that there are no medical issues to be taken care of. You have to rule out all the possible illnesses and evaluate every symptom, for example, lethargy, nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, etc. 

2. Feed them less frequently

Once you’ve tested them for all the symptoms and you are sure that there is no medical illness, you can try to feed your dog a little lesser than usual. Try and give him a lesser amount of food you usually do. This will ensure that your dog finishes every single bite of the food. When there will none leftover in the bowl, your dog will not have anything to hide or cover-up. 

3. Use a heavier bowl

If this still doesn’t help you out, you can try to get your dog a heavier bowl than usual. Get a bowl that is heavy and is difficult for your dog to move around. This way, when you serve your dog with its daily meals, he would not be able to move it at all. When he will be unable to move it around, he will feel the need to finish up the food or just leave the leftovers in the bowl.

4. Walk them before meals 

Take your dog out for a walk before its mealtime. Try and make sure that you get your dog a little tired before feeding him. Try to get him playing or doing a little exercise so that it will work up their appetite. This exercising and getting them tired will also make sure that your dog is left with no energy to take the leftover food and even try to dig a hole to hide it or anything. 

They will most probably eat all of their food and would not leave anything behind in the bowl. Also make sure that when you are feeding your dog, they are not very excited. If they are too chirpy and too hyperactive, they may not eat away. When they are calm, cool and composed, they will feed enough to fill up their stomachs.

Related questions

Do dogs remember where they bury their bones?

A dog’s nose is its best friend. Their noses help them sense where they have buried the bones unless it is buried too deep. 

Why does my dog push his food with his nose?

Initially, if the dog pushes or moves their bowl with their nose, their owner notices the behaviour and give them the meal. This action works as a positive reinforcement for them and results in them repeating this behaviour again and again.

What breeds of dogs like burying things?

Terriers, Dachshunds, Beagles, Basset Hounds and Miniature Schnauzers. These breeds are most likely to enjoy burying things and will generally hide things more frequently.

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