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Dog Training Update: Hiding

After nearly 7 years, it still makes me sad to see Lilly slink off to “hide” when she is upset or afraid or nervous. The other day, I found her wedged behind the toilet in the master bathroom. I joined her, and this is what I found.

I can see what Lilly likes this unlikely spot. It’s dark. It’s cool. It’s quiet. So, I sat down on the floor next to her. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t fuss on her or pet her. I just sat there in the dark and gave “hiding” a try.

While I don’t particularly like that Lilly potentially feels terrible when she hides, I can see why she finds it soothing perhaps. Maybe it helps her cope.

For me? It gave me just a few minutes to simply be. I tried not to feel, just be.

And, so we sat.

Oddly enough, Ginko came looking for us. And when he found us, he gave my cheek a quick kiss, circled around, and plopped down on the bathmat.

With a big sigh, he promptly went to sleep.

best dog blog, champion of my haert, pea pod graphicThe three of us, peas in a dark pod, hung out for a while, and I have to say it helped.

Perhaps there’s more to hiding than we think. Perhaps it’s a better coping mechanism than we assume.

Made me wish I had a crate of my very own.

 

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

the zoo - August 8, 2011

My JD stays right with us when hes scared. He tends to keep his eyes on us normally but gives us privacy in the bathroom, when hes scared he’ll march right in the bathroom. He only has thunderstorm issues. We try not to coddle him, just to let him know its ok and we like storms. Hes a worrier though.

    Roxanne Hawn - August 9, 2011

    That’s interesting, The Zoo. It depends on what Lilly is reacting to … sometimes she seeks me out for comfort; sometimes she hides. And, don’t worry about “coddling.” That’s one of the big myths of dealing with fearful dogs. You cannot reinforce fear (an emotion with biological roots). The best analogy I’ve seen for this is the idea that you should not “coddle” someone who is drowning because it might encourage them. Often, our fearful dogs are drowning, and we need to throw them a lifeline.

Lindsay - August 8, 2011

Cute idea to join her. My foster dog Cosmo hides when he’s feeling stressed. And he likes to rest in cool, dark, quiet corners of the house for most of the day. He also likes his crate. Sometimes I’ll sit down next to him, but I usually end up petting him. Next time I’ll try sitting there and just letting him be.

Roxanne Hawn - August 8, 2011

I understand, Rae. I’m sure it gives you a distinct perspective on fear reactions that seem “irrational” or over the top to outsiders. I hope your pups help with your PTSD. And, yes, Lilly is famous for hiding in the bathtub too.

Leland - August 7, 2011

Beautiful…. I put in a little windowseat in my library for just such curl up occasions… and when it thunders and lightnings, or when we’re just feeling contemplative, you’ll find both the dogs and me there, and sometimes even the cat….

    Leland - August 7, 2011

    Except, of course, when Angelo decides to CHASE the thunder away… which he does with some frequency… and he almost always wins eventually….

    Roxanne Hawn - August 8, 2011

    Terrific, Leland, that you built in a spot for this. I’m sure there are many around our house too, if I just dedicated them as such.

Kyla - August 6, 2011

I think you’re right. All hiding aside, I do think dogs do not necessarily sit in their hiding spots in pain. Perhaps once the fear or pain subsides, they do find peace and solace in their spots. I was just thinking about how I wished I had a crate with a towel on top of it to chill out in. Maybe I’ll build one!

    Roxanne Hawn - August 8, 2011

    I hope so, Kyla. I hate to think of her hiding and suffering.

Pamela - August 5, 2011

I had a very anxious childhood and I liked hiding places too. Outside, the dog house was a favorite.

Inside, the bathroom was always a safe place. No one would come after you there. And the linen closet was good too.

I guess we have to find our comforts were we can and it’s good that Lilly found one for herself.

Carol @ Carol's Critter Corner - August 5, 2011

I wonder why the toilet is so popular? My terrier gets nervous sometimes but he doesn’t hide. A small condo and not many places to hide. When he has done something that I don’t approve of he comes up and licks me. Kissing up maybe! So cute.

    Roxanne Hawn - August 5, 2011

    Yes, Carol, Lilly has “kissing fits” when she is upset as well. It’s just another form of anxiety.

Ann Brandt - August 5, 2011

Every dog and every person need a get-away to be quiet and alone–maybe not behind a toilet, but somewhere just for us. Our old dog Lucky had her crate; it was open any time she wanted to go in.
We can learn a lot from our animals.

    Roxanne Hawn - August 5, 2011

    Exactly, Ann … I tried not to think of it as hiding and more like meditation, and it was nice.

      Pamela - August 5, 2011

      Crate meditation. I like that. What a lovely thought.

Hilda - August 5, 2011

A couple of years ago, I was trying to tame a feral kitten I’d trapped in my driveway. I had her confined to a bathroom, and as soon as I entered the room she would try hide in that spot behind the toilet. And I would do the same thing you did — just sit there, on the floor, with her. She was terrified of me! Eventually, I had to block that spot behind the toilet (I used pillows) so she had to be out in the room with me, getting used to me.

    Roxanne Hawn - August 5, 2011

    So, kitties do it too. Interesting.

sara - August 5, 2011

My feaful dog’s hiding place is behind the toilet as well.

I often find him there even when he’s not “hiding”, so it must feel like a good place.

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