6 min read

Why Do Dogs Go To A Private Place To Puke?

"Who wants to be around people and other dogs when they are throwing up?"

Every dog needs a little privacy sometimes. Especially if they're feeling a little woozy.

In fact, most dogs will make a beeline to an isolated patch of the house when they're feeling the telltale rumble of an unhappy belly.

No one knows for certain why a dog would rather be alone when he needs to vomit, instead of having you rub his back and tell him everything's going to be alright.

"Many dogs do like to retreat to a private place when they vomit, and some even try to bury the vomit under dirt when outside or with household items that are laying around when inside," Jodi Thompson, a veterinarian at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, tells The Dodo.

"It could be an instinct to not show weakness, especially in front of predators," Thompson says. "It could be that the dog feels bad for making a mess and doesn't want to get into trouble. For some dogs, it could be a way to stay clean or cover up the smell."

Some experts suggest dogs may still be wired for a pack mentality, a social order established when the animals ran wild.

"That's why they appear so vulnerable and unsure when pooping," Amy Klein, who works with dogs through Marley's Mutts, tells The Dodo. "Their defenses are down. They won't make eye contact with you. They don't want to be challenged when in weaker moments."

"Any type of appearance that they are weak makes them targets."

And not just targets for predators, but Rob Halpin of MSPCA-Angell says other dogs who want to be at the head of the pack.

"Dogs are pack animals and dominant male dogs will always look to disturb the pecking order within the pack," he tells The Dodo. "And an obviously sick dog may lose his status in the pack unless he's doing what he can to hide from others the fact that he's sick."

A dog's habit of finding her own space when feeling sick may stem from those ancient times when the pack had to run and stay strong - or fall behind and become easy targets for predators.

But there may be something human-ish about puking alone, too.

"I don't like to humanize things too often," Shelby Semel, a trainer and behaviorist at Shelby Semel Dog Training, tells The Dodo. "But this is kind of like, who wants to be around people and other dogs when they are throwing up?"

"There is definitely a feeling that isn't natural and comfortable and you don't want people petting you, stroking you," she says. "I don't want to be near anyone when I am puking and think a dog thinks similarly."

"I do appreciate them going off to the side and not doing it on my bed," she adds.

Because that doesn't always happen. Some dogs, notably puppies, don't care what the pack thinks.

"The other day a puppy walked onto my lap and vomited on me," Semel says. "I thought, that's unusual."

Of course, a vomiting dog shouldn't be ignored either. For dogs, an upset stomach happens for reasons similar to those in humans: mainly, eating something that didn't agree with them. Or - a common issue for dogs - it happens after they eat their food too fast.

But frequent vomiting could also suggest the presence of poisons of parasites.

"This habit doesn't necessarily indicate that something is immediately wrong with your dog," Thompson at DoveLewis suggests. "But if the vomiting seems unusual or continuous, you should always check with your veterinarian to be on the safe side."