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 Yorkie 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!
Yorkie’s 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 Yorkie? Of course, we know that they don’t need to save any nuts for the winter, but what is going through your Yorkie 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie (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 Yorkie’s 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.
If you are wondering why your Yorkie still does this even when they always have access to food it may be that they are doing it out of boredom, stress or anxiety,
It’s sad to think about, but if you have rescued a Yorkie 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 Yorkie’s who hide their food for these reasons. One of them said that after a few years when their Yorkie finally realized that he would always have enough food the behavior slowly went away. Another said that their Yorkie did this for their entire life.
As far as boredom goes, Yorkie‘s 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 Yorkie doesn’t have the habit of hiding their food all of the time, 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.
Think about what your reaction is when your Yorkie 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 Yorkie. Either way, it’s likely that your Yorkie 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie gets jealous has some good tips and tricks on how to help your Yorkie over come this behavior.
What if your Yorkie 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie Hiding their Things Could Cause Problems
Watching your Yorkie 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie 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.
If you are providing your Yorkie with the best high-quality food you can like this one on Amazon, (and I know you are because how much you love your Yorkie!) 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie hiding their food, but it’s something to think about.
I’ve talked to several owners who have had problems with their Yorkie 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie sensitive system.
If the problem is serious enough your vet may prescribe anti anxiety meds as wells as a behavior modification plan.
It may Promote Aggression
If your Yorkie’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 Yorkie’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.
Resource guarding is defined as “the use of avoidance, threatening, or aggressive behaviors by a dog to retain control of food or non-food items in the presence of a person or other animal”. (Us National Library of Medicine Definition).
If this is the case for your Yorkie you will want to work on fixing this behavior. If you do things like letting your Yorkie sleep with you (Link to article I wrote about Yorkie’s sleeping in your bed) it could possibly reinforce this dominant behavior.
It Can be Destructive
One of the problems with your Yorkie’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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie. If your Yorkie 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 Yorkie Hiding their Things?
Many Yorkie owners choose to do nothing. If you enjoy watching your little Yorkie 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 Yorkie’s 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 Yorkie, 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie 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.
What Not to Do about Your Yorkie Hiding Their Food
Make a big deal about it – Drawing attention to your Yorkie‘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 Yorkie 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 Yorkies 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie Take his Food Somewhere Else to Eat it?
It may be a bit puzzling when our Yorkie 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 Yorkie is taking it elsewhere so he can stash it for later. If you have more than one Yorkie (Should you get your Yorkie 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- Yorkies 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 Yorkie will get a mouthful of your food and follow you?
- Your Yorkie 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 Yorkie’s food on a paper plate or straight on the floor and see if that changes his behavior.