Why Dogs Hide Their Treats: The Art of Burying and Storing Rewards

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dog getting a treat

Have you ever noticed your furry friend burying their chewy bone in the sofa cushions or tucking their tasty tidbit in a secret corner? If you’re reading this, you’re probably scratching your head, wondering why dogs hide their treats. Well, you’re not alone! This peculiar canine behavior has piqued the curiosity of many dog owners worldwide.

So why exactly do our four-legged companions engage in this strange treat-hiding ritual? The short answer lies in their ancestral instincts. Just like their wild relatives, dogs often hide their food to protect it from other predators, ensuring they have a meal to come back to later.

But there’s a whole lot more to this fascinating behavior! So, if you’re intrigued and want to delve deeper into the mystery of your pup’s treasure-hiding antics, keep reading. We promise you’re in for a treat!

australian shepherd dog getting a treat
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Evolutionary Roots

Dogs’ tendency to hide treats finds its roots deep in their evolutionary history. Their wild ancestors, including wolves and foxes, often practiced a similar behavior, also known as ‘caching.’

During a hunt, if there was an abundance of prey, these wild canines would consume what they could and then bury the rest. By hiding or ‘caching’ extra food, they ensured a supply for days when hunting was less successful.

This instinctive behavior has been inherited by our domesticated dogs. Even though they’re now fed regularly and don’t have to worry about their next meal, this survival tactic still manifests, especially when they receive treats or food portions larger than they can consume in one go. It’s their natural way of safeguarding their resources, a fascinating reminder of their wild heritage.

dog balancing a treat on his nose
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Territorial Instincts

Territorial instincts also play a role in why dogs hide their treats. Like their wild counterparts, dogs are instinctively protective of their resources.

This behavior extends beyond food to toys, bedding, and even their favorite humans. In their minds, hiding treats is akin to securing their possessions in a safe place where others can’t easily find or access them.

This trait is particularly noticeable in multi-pet households where a dog perceives the need to protect its resources from others. So, you might be amused to find your dog hiding their treat under a pillow or couch, or even burying it in the backyard. These secret stash spots are your dog’s equivalent of a bank vault, a secure place to store their prized possessions.

This behavior reflects the actions of wild canines, who needed to hide their food to keep it safe from potential thieves. It’s a potent reminder that, despite their domestication, our furry friends still carry the survival instincts of their wild forebears.

beagle getting a treat
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Planning for Future Cravings

Studies suggest that the behavior of dogs hiding their treats isn’t merely an instinctual survival tactic, but also a sign of their cognitive abilities. Dogs, much like humans, are capable of anticipating future needs and acting accordingly. This behavior, known as delayed gratification, demonstrates that dogs understand the concept of saving something valuable for future use.

An interesting study published in the journal “Animal Cognition” demonstrated this behavior. In the study, dogs were given a choice between an immediate small treat and a larger treat that they could only have later. Many dogs chose to delay gratification for the more significant reward, exhibiting their understanding of future rewards.

Anecdotal evidence from dog owners supports this finding. Owners have reported their dogs saving a special treat for later, even when they had the opportunity to eat it immediately. This behavior indicates that dogs can think ahead and make decisions based on future predictions.

The act of hiding treats not only displays a dog’s survival instincts but also showcases their cognitive abilities – another testament to their intelligence. Understanding these behaviors can help pet owners appreciate the depth of their dogs’ thought processes and foster a stronger bond with these intelligent creatures.

a labrador retriever balancing a treat on his nose
Photo: chalabalaphotos

Sensory Influence: The Power of Smell

Dogs possess an incredibly acute sense of smell, which plays a vital role in their behavior surrounding treats. Their olfactory capabilities are estimated to be between 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than humans’.

This heightened sense can make any treat, no matter how small, an olfactory explosion for a dog. Also, the smell of the treat can linger long after it has been eaten or hidden, making the process of hiding and retrieving treats a highly stimulating experience for them.

Such an advanced sense of smell also contributes to their innate burying behavior. By nature, dogs are hunters and scavengers. In the wild, their predecessors would bury surplus food to mask its scent from other potential predators and competitors.

This instinct is still present in modern dogs. When given a treat, they may instinctively want to secure it by burying or hiding, ensuring its safety by masking its smell.

Therefore, a dog’s behaviors around treats are highly influenced by their senses, particularly the sense of smell. Understanding this can provide dog owners with a deeper insight into why their dogs might choose to hide their treats, and serve as another fascinating glimpse into the complex sensorial world of our canine companions.

brittany dog catching a treat
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Hiding Treats as a Coping Mechanism

In addition to the sensory influences, dogs also exhibit the behavior of hiding treats due to emotional reasons.

Just like humans, dogs can experience a range of emotions and stress, which might influence their actions. For instance, when dogs encounter situations that cause fear or anxiety, they often resort to behaviors that provide comfort and a sense of security. Hiding treats can be one such behavior.

When dogs hide or bury their treats, they are essentially creating a ‘reserve bank’ for themselves. This act could be equated to the emotional comfort humans derive from having savings in the bank for a rainy day.

It gives dogs a sense of security knowing they have a stash of food, comfort during stressful times, and something to look forward to. This behavior can be particularly noticeable in rescue dogs or those with a history of food insecurity, as they might hide treats as a survival instinct from past experiences.

Understanding this aspect of treat-hiding behavior can help dog owners create a secure and comfortable environment for their pets, reducing any stress or anxiety they might be experiencing.

As owners, it’s essential to respect this behavior, while also ensuring it doesn’t become a symptom of excessive anxiety that may require professional intervention.

dog eating a treat
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Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the act of dogs hiding their treats is a complex behavior that can be influenced by a variety of factors, from simple instincts to emotional coping mechanisms. It’s a testament to their wild roots and innate survival instincts, as well as their ability to cope with stress.

As pet owners, it’s crucial to observe and understand these behaviors, providing a safe and nurturing environment that caters to their needs. Remember, if your dog’s treat-hiding behavior is causing concern, don’t hesitate to consult with a professional to ensure the well-being of your furry friend.

The most important thing is to ensure that our beloved pets feel secure and loved in their homes. After all, understanding and looking after the mental, emotional, and physical health of our pets is the cornerstone of responsible pet ownership.


Can dogs remember where they’ve hidden their treats?

Yes, dogs have a keen sense of smell and can remember where they’ve hidden their treats. This is due to their natural instinct, as in the wild, they would need to remember stash locations to survive.

Do all dogs hide their treats?

Not all dogs exhibit this behavior. It often depends on their individual personality, past experiences, and environmental factors. While it’s relatively common, not every dog will feel the need to hide their treats.

Does the breed of the dog influence treat-hiding behavior?

While any dog, regardless of breed, can exhibit this behavior, it is more common in breeds that have a strong hunting or foraging history. These dogs may be more inclined to hide their food out of instinct.

How can I discourage my dog from hiding treats?

If you want to discourage this behavior, one approach is to give your pet small treats that can be consumed immediately. Making sure they feel safe and secure when eating can also help.

Is treat-hiding related to the dog’s age?

Treat-hiding behavior can be observed in dogs of all ages. However, it’s often more noticeable in puppies who are just learning about their environment and in older dogs that may have developed the habit over time.

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