Seeing your dog run for cover under your bed can be disturbing, especially if it's a new behavior. While in most cases this is natural, you might want to talk to your veterinarian if the problem worsens or if hiding is interfering with your dog's normal eating and playing behavior. Fortunately, you won't need to be a pet professional to help your dog overcome this habit and feel good interacting with you in its home environment.
Back to basics
In the wild, dogs — especially the young and the weak — survive by adapting to den behavior. While it's difficult to think of your cuddly pup as being connected to his wild ancestors, the den instinct is still alive in many dogs. Small covered spaces feel safe to dogs; hiding under the bed recreates this.
This explains why many dogs hide under the bed when they are stressed, scared or confused. They believe the space is safe from what's scaring them. Part of your job will be determining what's scaring them and eliminating this fear. In some cases, it's not fear that causes the dog's behavior — the pet may just want some privacy, explains the American Kennel Club. The explanation might be as simple as it's cooler under the bed, especially if a vent blows on the dog or the floor under the bed is wood or tile.
Reasons for hiding
There are many reasons for a dog to hide under the bed, including illness, fear, comfort, the search for a safe sleeping area, the need to avoiding punishment, or simply being upset due to changes in the household. Sudden changes often indicate a more serious problem.
For example, your dog might be hiding under the bed to avoid being picked up, which could be related to pain or fear. Dogs with serious phobias to noise and change could take to hiding under the bed to escape loud noises. Try to look for patterns that send your dog under the bed, which will help you address the issue that causing this behavior.
Alternatives to hiding
If your dog only hides the bed once in a while, you might consider just letting them do it. Once the stress wears off, they'll come out on their own. If he or she is hiding under the bed constantly and you find the behavior troublesome, try providing a dog crate near the bed with a comfy bed inside to see if they'll adopt that as their own den. Add a favorite toy or one of your own shirts so the dog feels more comfortable and safe.
Other ways you can help
If your dog is hiding under the bed because of fear, you can try "blocking" the cause as much as possible. For example, if he's hiding because of loud noises, try turning on the radio or TV to block out the sound. You can help him associate a more positive place with safety. Feed dogs certain treats when they retreats to their crate or sleeps on their bed rather than under yours.
Talking with your vet or a pet behaviorist, you might be able to find the cause that's sending your dog under the bed and re-create it in a less-threatening manner. For example, if you have a loud AC unit or other mechanical appliance in the house that scares the dog, try holding him when the unit kicks in and touching the unit to show the pet it's not a threat. If an owl outside the window is causing the fear, open the door, go outside, and look for the bird while holding the dog. Avoid yelling at or punishing your dog, and instead try positive reinforcement to change your dog's behavior.