Why do dogs go under the bed? Sometimes, my dog disappears for a while. When I go looking for him, I find him under the bed. Often, he’ll be sleeping, but occasionally he just lies there watching everything that moves with perked ears and eyes wide open. The reasons dogs choose hiding spaces like this can be as harmless as searching for some warmth and privacy. Or, it can be a sign your dog is feeling scared, unsafe, or something else. In this guide, I’ll take a closer look at the most common reasons why dogs will retreat under your bed, and how to make sure your pup is okay.
- Why do dogs go under the bed?
- Lacking their own private space
- To warm up
- Injury or illness
- They’re hungry
- Breaking the rules
- Stress and anxiety
- The behavior is reinforced
- Should I let my dog sleep under the bed?
- How to encourage your dog not to go under the bed
Why Do Dogs Go Under the Bed?
Whether it’s the bed, a table, or any other piece of furniture that offers cover and shelter, some dogs like to crawl into dark and tight places. This can be a temporary behavior or it could go on for weeks and turn into a habit. Sometimes the dog would start to exhibit this uncharacteristic behavior after you bring home a new pet. Or the dog might start to prefer solitude and secluded places out of the blue.
As complicated as a dog’s behavior is, finding the reason that they like to hide under the bed will help you address the problem and find a solution quickly. Here are the main possible reasons your dog prefers to crawl under the bed and stay there.
1. They Don’t Have a Private Space
If the house is full of pets and the dog doesn’t have a private space of their own, they might seek the available space under the bed in search of some privacy. Because the bed is stationary and the bedroom has less traffic than other parts of the house, your dog might prefer this secluded area to get some rest. Usually, they would get out from under the bed on their own after they’ve got their relaxation time.
If it’s coming into winter time but you don’t have your heating on yet, your dog might seek out warm, sheltered spots in the house. Particularly if most of your house is quite open and airy. Our dogs have lovely fur coats to keep them warm, but hiding or sleeping under your bed when it gets particularly chilly in the home is a no-brainer.
3. Injury or Illness
Another reason your dog might be hiding under the bed or in a secluded corner is that they’re not feeling well. If your dog is feeling vulnerable due to their health condition, the dark space under the bed can offer them a sense of security and a way to cope. When they recover, they will go back to their normal selves and spend their time over the bed rather than under it.
4. Your Dog is Hungry
Your dog’s ancestors, the wolves, are formidable hunters. But after domestication, dogs found that begging for food is much more rewarding than hunting. This is why your pup will follow you to the kitchen and wait under the table for you to share your food with them. Before you get up in the morning and give them breakfast, they might wait for you underneath the bed, so they’re ready the minute you’re up.
When this becomes a pattern, the dog will associate hiding under the table or bed with feeding. It’s a habit that is easy to unlearn.
A new pup in the house is more likely to get scared easily. When dogs get scared, they run and hide. Since there’s nowhere to run in the house, the dog will do the only logical thing to get away from the scary thing. They will hide under the bed where they’re least likely to be found. Anything can trigger this reaction. A loud car alarm, thunder, fireworks, or the neighbor’s big, scary dog.
You can help to get your dog out from under the bed in this case by removing the source of the fear if possible. Use a calm voice, and some of their favorite toys or treats once they’re back with you, to reinforce that they don’t need to be scared.
6. Breaking the Rules
Dogs have a great understanding of the rules you set for them. And for the most part, they follow these rules. With consistent, positive training, you can leave a cake on the table and tell them not to eat it and they won’t go near it. But for the untrained dog, if you drop a sausage on the floor, the temptation is too high. They’ll grab it and run to the first hiding place to enjoy it by themselves without it being taken away. This is an instinctive behavior and doesn’t imply a serious psychological issue.
7. Stress and Anxiety
If your dog is feeling anxious or they live in a stressful environment, they will cope with this stress and anxiety by spending more time in dark and tight spaces. If you don’t intervene and fix the problem, this could become a pattern and the dog could develop physical and psychological health conditions. Speak to a behaviorist if you’re not confident fixing this problem alone.
Positive reinforcement is a great way to train our dogs whilst strengthening the bond between us. But, a lot of people don’t realize just how subtle positive reinforcement can be. If you’ve seen your dog hiding under a bed and thought he looked adorable, you might give him a little scratch behind the ears. Or, you might tempt him out with a treat or a toy.
These are all types of positive reinforcement! So, your dog will go back under the bed in the hopes of getting some more. If you want to prevent your dog from going under the bed, you should never use punishment. Instead, restrict their access to the bedroom, and make being with you in the other parts of the house much more appealing!
Should I Let My Dog Sleep Under the Bed?
If your dog tends to crawl under the bed once in a while to get a nap or when it gets scared, this shouldn’t be a reason for concern on your part. It’s typical for puppies to seek shelter and a hiding place in these situations. They might be trying to be close to you and being under the bed is the second best option, especially if sharing the bed with you isn’t allowed.
On the other hand, a puppy sleeping under the bed night after night could be a symptom of psychological problems such as trauma, fear, anxiety, or stress. You should try to find out why your dog prefers to sleep under the bed instead of in their own bed. Go for a checkup at the veterinarian, or call a behaviorist that specializes in anxiety and positive reinforcement.
How to Encourage Your Dog Not to Hide Under the Bed
Oftentimes, the new behavior of the pup spending more time under the bed is temporary and would go away on its own. But if this continues and turns into a habit day in, day out, try one of the following solutions to tackle this problem.
1. Get Your Pup a Crate
It’s normal for puppies who have just moved into a new place to feel insecure and a little anxious. The change of environment and settings can be overwhelming and pushes the pup to seek a place to hide. Get a crate for your pup and keep it in a secluded corner with dimmed light to offer them a sense of security until they get used to the place.
2. Desensitization Training
Desensitization training involves exposing the dog to the thing or things that cause stress and anxiety in small doses. This could be exposure to another pet, persistent loud noises, new persons, or changes in the environment. Introduce your dog to the new, scary thing slowly and with lots of positive reinforcement, so they learn over time that there’s no reason to panic. This process is also known as socialization for very young puppies.
3. See the Veterinarian
Observe your dog hiding under the bed and other small spaces and document their behavior especially the times of the day or night when this happens and whether it’s triggered by an event. Then take the pup to the vet with this information. The vet will be able to diagnose the issue and recommend the best solution. If anxiety or trauma is the cause, they may prescribe your pup anti-anxiety medication.
Why Do Dogs Go Under the Bed? A Summary
Dogs like to crawl under the bed for various reasons. They might have done something they shouldn’t, or they might be stressed, scared, or just need a private place to relax for a while. If this behavior is persistent and is accompanied by symptoms of anxiety or distress, you should take the dog to your local veterinarian for more help.
More Dog Health and Behavior Guides
- Can dogs eat grass?
- How much peanut butter are dogs allowed?
- Bathing your Labrador
- Using smells to help potty training
- Paci, P. (et al), ‘The Case for Animal Privacy in the Design of Technologically Supported Environments’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2022)
- Grigg, E. (et al), ‘Stress-Related Behaviors in Companion Dogs Exposed to Common Household Noises, and Owners’ Interpretations of their Dogs’ Behaviors’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2021)
- Sargisson, R. ‘Canine Separation Anxiety: Strategies for Treatment and Management’, Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports (2014)
- Stellato, A. (et al), ‘Effect of a Standardized Four-Week Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning Training Program on Pre-Existing Veterinary Fear in Companion Dogs’, Animals (2019)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website