Have you noticed a treasure trove of untouched dog food or treats in strange places? Maybe under the living room rug, in the corner of the bathroom or better yet under your pillow or on your bed?!
Maybe you are wondering how on earth it got there, or maybe you have seen your sweet little Chihuahua with a mouth full of food on a mission to stash and dash!
If you are wondering why they do it then you are in the right place!
Chihuahuas are instinctual hoarders, when they have an excess of something or fear that food or treats might be scarce in the future they will find places to hide it for later. This is not only a natural behavior but can be caused or amplified by stress, anxiety, or possessiveness.
Squirrels do it, Birds do it, and even beavers do it, so why not your little Chihuahua? Of course, we know that they don’t need to save any nuts for the winter, but what is going through your Chihuahuas head when they are furiously looking for a great hiding spot…… and should you stop them from doing it? Continue reading to find out.
Reasons Why a Chihuahua will Hide its Food, Treats, or Toys
Our dogs seem so well adapted to our families and living in our homes that sometimes we forget that at some point in their past their ancestors, whether they be wolves or wild dogs, had to survive the wild and gather food on their own. This trait has been deeply rooted into the survival instinct of a dog’s brain they don’t easily forget that there could be a need to save some kibble for later.
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By hiding his food your dog is ensuring that he will still have a meal when times get hard and food is scarce. If he is trying to bury it in the bedsheets, or backyard this is his instinct to keep it away from other animals or out of sight of competitors that may be searching for an easy meal.
Anxiety, Stress or Boredom
If you free-feed your Chihuahua (leave their food dish down all day) then you may wonder why they still feel like they need to hide it.
Since it is in your Chihuahuas nature to save some grub for later, it makes sense that after a while they would figure out that their food is never going away and they don’t need to save it for a time when it may be scarce.
Some Chihuahuas will still continue with this habit even though they don’t need to out of stress, anxiety, or boredom.
It’s sad to think about, but if you have rescued a Chihuahua from a previously abusive home he may have some experience to draw on that proves to him he could end up going a few days without any food available.
The anxiety or stress of previously going without food is enough to keep him fixated on this habit of storing food for later. I talked with some owners who have Chihuahuas who hide their food for these reasons. One of them said that after a few years when their Chi finally realized that he would always have enough food the behavior slowly went away. Another said that their Chi did this for their entire life.
As far as boredom goes, Chihuahuas love a good game of hide and seek and it could be their way of entertaining themselves with hiding their food and then going back to it later as a bit of a surprise meal for them. Unfortunately, sometimes they may hide it with that intention, but then they forget to go back to it later.
No Appetite or Upset Tummy
Another reason they may be saving it for later is if they are just not feeling up to eating right at the moment. This is likely the case if your Chihuahua doesn’t have the habit of hiding their food but may do it every once in a while.
Often they will hide it for later and then forget about it or choose the to go for the fresh stuff from his bowl once his appetite is back.
If you notice your Chihuahua having more gas than usual check out this article for help!
Think about what your reaction is when your Chihuahua hides his things. It can be absolutely adorable and cause you to ooh and awe and tell all your friends how funny he’s being, or maybe it’s super annoying, frustrating, and possibly causes you to scold your little Chi. Either way, it’s likely that your Chihuahua has gotten a reaction from you. This can oftentimes encourage the behavior.
Dogs are attention seekers and will do things around us or to us that get them noticed. If they get noticed by you for hiding their food, toys, or even your personal belongings chances are you are unintentionally reinforcing this behavior and they will continue to do it.
If you have other pets in the house your Chihuahua may feel a bit of competition with them. If he routinely hides his toys or food it could be that he is trying to claim them as his and keep them in a safe place away from others.
This article I wrote about why your Chihuahua gets jealous has some good tips and tricks on how to help your Chi over come this behavior.
What if your Chihuahua is the only pet?
She could still be hiding her things if she thinks that someone in your household may be a threat. Do you have a toddler who has recently become mobile? We all know how much little ones love trying out doggy toys and food! This could be a trigger for your Chihuahua as well. Check out this article I wrote about getting your toddler to leave the dog alone) for tips and tricks on that!
Why Your Chi Hiding their Things Could Cause Problems
Watching our Chihuahuas scurry around looking for a place to hide or bury their food can be quite entertaining, funny, and endearing.
A lot of owners have no problems with allowing the behavior to continue and may even encourage it by unintentionally providing attention and positive reinforcement. However, there may be some reasons you want to curb the behavior. Here are some things to think about.
Whether your Chi likes to hide it under the couch, behind the door, or in their kennel, it’s likely that they won’t be keeping their buried treasure in just one location.
Part of their instinct is to have multiple areas to go to in case one gets found out or lost. It can get quite messy when your Chihuahua starts hiding dog food all over the house.
If you are not aware of all the hiding spots or can’t keep track of them after some time the food may start to mold or stink and could cause other problems like attracting rodents or ants into your home.
One Chihuahua owner had admitted to their Chi bringing their wet food onto the bed. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty gross to me.
If you are providing your Chihuahua with the best high-quality food you can like this one, (and I know you are because how much you love your Chi!) it can get quite expensive for them to hide their food and potentially waste it or let it spoil before they eat it.
Luckily our Chihuahuas eat very little so it’s not as big of a waste if a larger breed where to have this habit, but it does add up.
It Can Cause Health Problems
This might not be the first thing to comes to your mind when you notice your Chi hiding their food, but it’s something to think about.
I’ve talked to several owners who have had problems with their Chihuahuas rubbing their nose across the floor so much they end up with carpet burns on their nose. Also if this becomes an obsessive behavior for your Chihuahua it could lead them to even more health consequences such as Compulsive disorder.
Compulsive disorder is defined by a repetitious, relatively unchanging sequence of activities or movements that has no obvious purpose or function. Hiding their food may have an obvious purpose to them, but if it makes them engage in repetitive behavior like rubbing their nose on the floor, or digging relentlessly you will need to take them to the vet for a consultation.
Another potential health problem is if your dog is burring its food or treats outside and then digging it up later and eating it. Sitting in the ground for some time can not only cause it to mold and go rotten, but it can soak up chemicals or fertilizer from lawns or gardens ant that could be dangerous for your little Chihuahuas sensitive system.
If the problem is serious enough your vet may prescribe anti anxiety meds as wells as a behavior modification plan.
Another health issue you might encounter might be your Chihuahua eating things that they shouldn’t like grass, rocks or dirt. If you notice that read this article for tips and ideas to help.
It may Promote Aggression
If your Chihuahua’s food hiding is accompanied by any kind of aggression like growling or nipping then it may be cause for concern. If this happens when someone gets close to your chihuahua’s food or toys then allowing them to hide their food could be promoting and reinforcing that. This would be a huge red flag and could indicate that your dog has problems with resource guarding.
It Can be Destructive
One of the problems with your Chihuahua’s affinity to hiding their food is that in the process of finding their perfect hiding place they don’t really seem to care what they bulldoze over.
Luckily they are small so the damage may be limited, but you might be surprised at how much tenacious Chihuahua is really capable of. This may include chewing, scratching, or digging which can be very destructive.
It’s not fun to see your pretty petunia patch turn into a digging ditch for your little Chihuahua. If your Chi isn’t causing destruction with this behavior now it’s something you will want to keep an eye on and watch for in the future.
What Should you do About your Chihuahua Hiding their Things?
Many Chihuahua owners choose to do nothing. If you enjoy watching your little Chi’s antics and it doesn’t seem to be hurting anything or bothering anyone that’s quite all right!
But if you have experienced some of the negative side effects that were mentioned above and want to improve your and your Chihuahuas quality of life here are some simple tips and tricks that may help you in the process of getting your pooch to curb their desire to hide their delectables!
- Give them their meals on a schedule –
This means not giving them free access to their food all the time.
This is the easiest way to monitor what they are doing with their food. Consult with your vet on how often you should feed your Chihuahua, but usually, 2 or 3 meals a day will suffice.
You will want to watch them to see if they leave the area where you feed them, where they go and where they put their food.
When they are done eating take the food away until the next mealtime.
- Give them a specific place to eat their food -- If your Chihuahua is leaving the area to eat then having them in a large playpen or restricted to a small room that has no hiding places for their food will take away their ability to hide their food and encourage them to eat it instead of stash it.
- Keep their minds engaged – If your Chihuahua seems to be hiding their food as a game then these food puzzle toys or this Snuffle Mat from Amazon (affiliate link) may help to fulfill that need. Giving them plenty of playtime and training them commands and tricks will help them feel valued and establish worth, which will in turn help them feel more secure in their environment.
- Put things away – Instead of leaving all their toys out all the time put them away in a specific place, like this adorable basket from Amazon at first, you may need to keep them in a place where your dog can’t access them.
You can rotate her toys to keep her from getting bored.
It’s also a great idea to work on training your dog to put her toys away in that specific place after she’s done playing with them.
This is a great replacement behavior because they can learn that when they put their toys in their special box (instead of hiding them) they will know where they are and not be in danger of losing them or having someone else take them away.
Check out this fun video on how to train your dog to put their toys in a box.
What Not to Do about Your Chihuahua Hiding Their Food
Make a big deal about it – Drawing attention to your Chihuahua’s behavior is a sure way to reinforce it. Whether it’s good or bad attention Dogs are smart and they know when something they are doing is affecting you and getting a reaction. Sometimes that’s about as smart as they get though.
There have been some studies done that suggest dogs learn in a way that is very similar to how children learn.
It’s been my experience that sometimes our dogs may act like mischievous children as well, and that includes being smart enough to know how to push your buttons just to get your attention.
Use Harsh Punishment – Yelling, spanking, or hitting your dog to try and get them to stop a behavior will only make them try to hide the behavior from you.
You may think it has worked because you don’t see your Chi hiding their stuff anymore, but they will most likely still be doing it behind your back.
This also breaks the trust and bond you have with your dog and will harm your relationship in other aspects.
Especially for small dogs like Chihuahuas who have a tendency to develop nervous and cowering behaviors more easily than big dogs.
Turn it into a Game – If you are trying to chase your Chihuahua down to retrieve the food, or working to get at their stash in front of them they may interpret that as you playing a game with them. This could make the behavior even more appealing because it’s fun!
Why Does My Chihuahua Take his Food Somewhere Else to Eat it?
It may be a bit puzzling when our Chihuahua picks up a mouth full of food and runs across the room to sit down and eat it, or what about when they go to another room altogether. Why do they do this?
It really boils down to the pack mentality and instinct. Your dog is either preserving his food for later, keeping competition down, wanting to eat near you, or trying to make sure he’s in a safe space before eating.
- Saving it for later – After reading this article it should be no surprise to you that your Chihuahua is taking it elsewhere so he can stash it for later. If you have more than one Chihuahua (Should you get your Chihuahua a Friend) this could possibly be to avoid confrontation.
You may think it’s the very dominant aggressive dogs that will do this, but it’s often the more anxious, quiet, or reserved dogs who feel like they need to do this in order to preserve their piece of the pie without getting into a fight.
- They don’t want to eat alone- Chihuahuas are social and always want to be near us, that goes for mealtime as well. Have you ever noticed that if you are in another room your Chi will get a mouthful of your food and follow you? If you want to understand more about how much your Chi loves you and how social they actually are check out these two articles I wrote.
- Your Chihuahua doesn’t like the bowl- Some dogs prefer to eat things off the floor and not out of a metal or plastic bowl. In the wild dogs don’t use plates or bowls, so it’s not too surprising that they may not enjoy it in our homes too.
Sometimes it’s the feel or texture of the bowl and other times it’s the sound it makes when their dog tags hit it and clank. Try putting your Chi’s food on a paper plate or straight on the floor and see if that changes his behavior.
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