Why Does My Dog Hide Beneath the Sofa?

By Chris Miksen

Your little guy's reasons for crawling under or behind your sofa may range from him finding the area to be totally awesome to seeking shelter from something scary. Let's examine the possible reasons, and then you can determine what to do next.

This is Kinda Nice

If your pup doesn't appear to be ducking behind the sofa out of fear, he might just find it super comfortable back there. Dogs are instinctively drawn to enclosed, den-like spaces where they can feel safe and secure. He may view it as a haven where he doesn't have to worry about being accidentally stepped on where he can escape from pesky animal (and human!) siblings playfully pouncing on him when he'd rather relax.

Fear

When your pup's afraid of something, he's left with two choices: stand there and fight or get the heck out of there. If the fear stems from a living thing, such as another dog or child, your dog might stand his ground. But there's no fighting thunder, fireworks or other loud noises, so his first response is usually to flee. The area behind your sofa is small and somewhat dark, so he instinctively feels safe. If he's scared of something, he may lower his tail, tremble, have enlarged pupils, pant excessively and may even growl if you come near him. Note that his fear doesn't always stem from something obvious, like a loud noise. If you squirted him with water as a puppy, he may take off behind the sofa each time you grab the squirt bottle. New dogs, especially those coming from bad situations, can also appear very fearful for the first week or two, hiding behind your sofa for comfort.

Positively Reinforced

Maybe your pup ran behind the sofa once when he was scared as a youngster, or he scouted it out one day to see if it was comfortable. If you came by and hugged him, told him he was just the cutest thing or otherwise positively responded to his behavior, an alarm went off in his mind. He went from thinking the area was cool and secure to believing you want him back there and he gets awesome rewards for pushing himself into that area. It's in the same vein as training him in basic obedience. If you reward him for sitting, he's more inclined to sit in the future.

What to Do

There's often no harm in your pup sneaking beneath or behind your sofa for a little rest and relaxation, but you may want him to stay out of the area because he's destructive or because of exposed cords. Whatever the reason, the best option is to push your sofa closer to the wall, although that might not be possible depending on the setup of your room. Get your pup a dog bed and use the aforementioned positive reinforcement techniques to show him his bed is where he should lie. Lure him over with a treat and toss it in his bed, then give him lots of attention while he's sitting or lying there. You might also want to spray the lower back half of the couch with something your pup will avoid, like bitter apple. If he's scared of something, determine what it is and attempt to counter-condition him. In the case of a pup who came from a bad situation, be patient. He needs time to adjust to his new surroundings.

By Chris Miksen

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About the Author
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.