What is Hiding?
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.
Common reasons may be:
- Illness or injury
- Noise anxiety
- Protection and safety
- Storm phobia
- Visiting strangers
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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.
Often, dogs who are sleeping under the bed or couch or in small corners aren’t necessarily hiding due to negative emotions, but may simply be finding a nice quiet place to spend some time undisturbed or to take a nap. This type of denning behavior is seen in canines of all sorts.
Storm phobia is one of the most common of canine phobias and may have multiple triggers that cause fear and discomfort for your canine companion. Although the noise that thunder creates is a large part of most dogs trepidation, both the electrical energy that is generated and the flashing of the lighting contribute to this severe fear.
Many dogs may become nervous when new animals or people are introduced to their territory. If that is the case with your dog, you may be able to curb this behavior using deconditioning training.
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 behavioralists 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.
Cost of Hiding
The cost for treating your pet for hiding behavior will depend on his response to the therapy. A thunderstorm phobia may range in costs around $450 while the average expense for noise sensitivities is $350.
Hiding Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi, my 11 years old dog always was patient about hiding, bu suddenly she started to go out every 10 min 5 - 6 in rotation, also she does it at home, small bogs... It seems that she have some trouble of pathways (I am not sure is that correct word :) ) Should I have to visit her to veterinary? Some weeks before, she had a cancer in her ear and it was removed.. Can it be common?
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I have a shitzu, his brother lives next door and we share dog sitting when going out of town etc.. my dog now avoids his brother and hides upstairs and will not interact with him at all. The only thing I can think is a problem is his brother often poops in the house and they have gotten in trouble bc I wasn't sure which one did it. They have been seeing each other since birth at least once a week.
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