By Cesar Millan
Is your dog a hoarder? Does she hide food around the house? Has she collected up toys and stood guard over them? Like a lot of issues with dogs, hoarding is a behavior that has roots in a dog’s oldest instincts, which clash with a modern lifestyle around humans.
In the wild, dogs weren’t guaranteed a meal every day, and when hunting was good and there was plenty to eat it made sense to hide away some extra so there would be food on the days the hunting didn’t go well. For dogs, the most natural thing was to dig a hole and bury the leftovers.
This creates a couple of problems in a modern home. Most of us feed our dogs well, and we feed them regularly. But because dogs live in the moment and don’t really have a conception of the future, they don’t understand that tomorrow you will again put a bowl of food out for them. And the next day. And the day after that. So you might catch your dog grabbing a mouthful and running off to another room to hide it away.
And this leads to problem number two. You know that it was an expensive rug or nicely upholstered sofa, but to your dog it feels soft — just like dirt — so she will quickly start “digging” through it. It doesn’t take long for your home to suffer some serious damage.
Hidden food will quickly start to smell — which is not only unpleasant but is like a welcome mat to rodents and insects. You can see why this is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately when it begins!
Hoarding toys may not be such a health risk, but it can quickly lead to aggression if your dog is guarding them. The best way to deal with this is to gather up the toys your dog is hoarding and put them somewhere out of reach. Then let her have just one or two toys at a time. Without the extras there, she will focus on the things she has — and will not hide them, because then she wouldn’t have anything to play with.
Here is my recommendation for dealing with a food hoarder. You need to take control and create structure around mealtime. It should always begin with taking your dog for a long walk, both to tire her and make her work for her meal.
When you come home, prepare the food and make your dog sit before you put it in her bowl. Do not put the bowl down until she can sit quietly and show you calm, submissive energy. As soon as she stops eating and walks away from the bowl, mealtime is over. Pick up the bowl and do not feed your pet again without first repeating all of these steps.
Taking away the bowl promptly means she cannot come back and take food to hide away. This way there is always enough food for her needs, but without extra to save for a rainy day!