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Canine Behavior/dog under bed


Lately our fox terrier, about 10 years old and in good health, has been trying to get underneath our bed at night while we are sleeping. We blocked the space underneath with pillows, etc., but sometimes he manages to burrow underneath. Is there any explanation for this type of behavior?

Without more detail, I can't speak with any certainty. But generally dogs will seek out small spaces such as under the bed when they are trying to feel safe. It suggests that your dog may be feeling nervous, anxious or downright scared about something. I know many, many dogs were hiding under the bed during the fireworks this past Thursday night.

Does the behavior predate 4th of July celebrations? Was anything happening in the house or neighborhood when the behavior began such as fireworks, gun shots, car backfires, construction or other loud noises that occur with little predictability? Thunder or other weather related changes can also bring about such responses.

The thing to remember is that your dog is choosing that space because he feels safest there in the moment. Your job is to help him feel safe before he feels compelled to hide. If he is hiding just allow him to stay there until he feels safe enough to come out. You might speak softly, offer super yummy treats first tossing all the way to him and then luring him out with a trail of treats when he demonstrates he's comfortable enough to come out, or just leaving him there until he's ready to come out.

The thing to avoid is reaching under and pulling him out as this will only escalate his fear as now even his safe place isn't safe and you're physical force (taking hold and pulling him out, no matter how gently you're doing it) makes you a potential threat which can result in a fear motivated bite.

I think I would leave the space available to him unless there's a real threat to his safety being under the bed. By eliminating that safe space, you are creating an environment where he doesn't feel he has a safe place to go - this could cause greater fear in the moment.

To help, the first thing to do is see if you can determine what is making him nervous enough to want to go under there and then we can work on counter conditioning to help him feel more comfortable with that stimulus so he no longer feels so scared that he needs to hide.

On the other hand, it may be something as simple as there's a nice breeze due to air current and in the hot summer nights, it feels good under there. Without observing in person and doing a bit of detective work, I can't know for certain. I encourage you to be a detective and listen to the environment, think back to the first time he did this, and look from his perspective (actually get down on the ground and look around from his eye level) and feel the spaces - is it soft, is it cozy, is there a breeze, etc.

NOTE: fear is the easiest emotion to instill in a dog and lasts the longest. It's possible that it was a single event that happened, for example, just as you called him to bed one night. It could have been startling enough that he made an instant association of that scary thing with the call to go to bed and now the call to go to bed is just as scary as that initial scary event. So the problem trigger may no longer be present, which can make it more difficult to determine the WHY of the behavior. But if you can recall the first time he did this behavior, you may be able to recall an incident.

Also NOTE: any time there is a sudden and/or dramatic change of behavior, it's worth while to have a complete vet exam including blood work. Dogs cannot tell us when something doesn't feel well or if something hurts. At 10 years old, he's officially a senior dog and so may be having some joint pain at the end of the day and or some cognitive deficits that are causing fear due to confusion. There are a number of medical causes for unusual, fear-like behaviors. Treating the medical condition will often resolve the behavior change. I am strongly of the mind that I'd rather spend the few hundred dollars to get a clean bill of health, than skip it and later discover that there was something medical I could have treated.

Please feel free to followup with more details about when the behavior started, what the environment is like in the house/neighborhood/room, how is behavior appears aside form choice of location - can you call him out from under the bed easily, is he shaking, avoiding eye contact, licking his lips, showing teeth, vocalizing at all while under there... and any other details of the behavior that you can think of. I'd be happy to try to help you narrow it down. Also, if you can pinpoint a trigger, I will provide an overview of a counter conditioning protocol to help him feel better about that thing.

Los Angeles Behaviorist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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