We used to give a bone to Summer, our kids’ first dog, when she was still a puppy.
Who would have thought this tiny shih tzu pup would “bury” the bone under the Christmas tree? We all thought only big dogs like Scooby Doo will bury a bone, right?
But we found lots of items hidden under that Christmas tree: toys, denta sticks and other treats, and yes, even Doraemon, her favorite stuffy toy.
So why do dogs bury bones?
There are at least four reasons, said Tabitha Kucera RVT in “Why Dogs Bury Bones and Other Objects” in thesprucepets.com.
“Many dogs like to hide things in safe places and often dogs are predisposed to bury items that belong to them, and sometimes items that do not,” said Kucera.
The dog may have inherited the strong survival instinct of a line of ancestors of wild dogs and the gray wolf.
“Food was not always the easiest to come by and to make the most of the food they had, these wild dogs would often bury the excess in the ground near their dens. The soil acts as a natural refrigerator by keeping the meal away from direct sunlight and the temperature of the earth decreases with the depth of the hole, keeping food fresher longer, so the animal can retrieve it later when nourishment is scarce,“ Kucera explained.
Some dogs may bury all items they consider as very important due to their natural instinct to keep these items safe and protected.
There are breeds that are predisposed to digging and burying.
Kucera identified some of these breeds: Terriers, Dachshunds, Beagles Basset Hounds and Miniature Schnauzers.
The Carin Terriers, for example, were originally bred to hunt small game, and they have excellent digging skills.
“Since these breeds are bred specifically to dig, they may also have a heightened desire to save their resources, and therefore are more likely to bury bones. This is a normal behavior for them,”Kucera said.
But regardless of breed, all dogs have the instinct to dig. Not all dogs though will dig all the time and bury stuff.
Dogs get bored too and may seek your attention.
“Dogs need stimulation and outlets for their energy every day and when humans do not provide it for them, they will find their own ways to occupy themselves. An example may be the fun game of stealing a tv remote and burying it to get your attention (an attention seeking behavior) and to add some variety to their routines,” Kucera said.
Anxious dogs may find burying things a very calming thing to do.
“Stress and anxiety can play a part in this behavior as well. Some dogs that are feeling anxious may bury items to calm themselves since digging is a self-soothing behavior,” Kucera said.
“If a dog does not feel safe at the moment or in the area they are fed in, they may bury their food to eat in a more comfortable place or time,” Kucera added.
Burying items is observed in multi-dog households, or among dogs who grew up in a place with scarce resources like in a puppy mill.
The dog may stop digging and burying if he already feels safe, and knows he will get fed on a consistent schedule.
If the behavior continues despite a regular feeding schedule and a safe place, ask for advice from your vet or a dog behavior expert.
How to Stop Burying
Provide your dog scheduled walks, play time, positive training techniques, and other appropriate outlets for a dog’s energy to lessen if not eradicate the behavior.
Give your dog his fun toys to keep him busy when you are away. Puzzle toys work wonders to stimulate the mind and keep the dog busy.
Rotate the toys so the dog doesn’t get bored.
“You can also convert the whole act of burying into a fun indoor game that you play a few times during the week with your dog. This is recommended because it's your dog's natural instinct to bury, so you are providing appropriate opportunities for your dog to bury what you ask him to (rather than your tv remote controller). This game will enrich your dog with a new learning of what is okay to hide and what is not,” Kucera said.
If your dog is bored, you can call your dog’s name to get their attention in an upbeat tone, then redirect your dog to an “appropriate” digging area, or a game he likes.
“Lastly, limit your dog’s access to their toys so that they become interested in the toys that you leave out for them. By limiting the quantity and providing variety, you may lessen your dog’s urge to take their treasures out into the yard and bury them,” Kucera said.
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