Your furry, four-legged best friend is probably so overly domesticated that they're spoiled. However, no matter how spoiled your dog is, when you notice they're often digging, you’ll probably start asking, “Why do dogs bury bones?”
So, why do dogs bury bones? Even though your furry friend lives in the lap of luxury compared to their distant ancestors, this doggie behavior has to do with your pup’s survival instincts.
Why do dogs bury bones? The answer has to do with your dog’s genetics. Dogs like to protect things they define as important. Much like its ancestors did before, your dog digs to make holes for safekeeping doggie treasures.
Before dogs were domesticated, they were wolves. Wolves spent a lot of time in the wilderness, finding food, catching food, and killing prey.
However, once a wolf has killed its prey and started eating it, it knew it couldn’t eat the entire carcass in a day. So, wolves would eat some fresh meat and store the rest of their catch to eat later by burying the food. By hiding their food, wolves are preserving their score for a later time when they might not find available food as efficiently.
This instinct has been passed on pretty much completely intact to dogs.
When food is scarce, most members of the dog pack compete for it. So, the most successful hunting dogs would catch and kill something quickly, making sure to feed their immediate family. Once the family was done eating, the remainder was buried for later consumption.
For most dogs, burying food is a survival instinct since they want to make sure they have a reserve stash when food gets scarce.
There's more to the answer for “why do dogs bury bones” than just hiding food from competitors. Another reason has to do with food preservation. When dogs were wolves living in the wild, they had instinct enough to plan with their food resources.
When food is abundant, wolves are intelligent enough to store their leftovers. The ancestors of dogs knew the difficulty of surviving times when food is scarce.
So, today's dogs know that burying food for later is a way they can preserve their food. After all, there are no refrigerators in the wild. The best way a dog can store food in nature is to bury it. If you think about it, hiding food isn’t a wrong way to preserve it.
Burying food means the food stays out of direct sunlight and is kept at a cooler temperature inside the earth. Many dogs knew this and dug deep holes to keep their food safe over the long haul. When there was another food shortage, a dog could go back to its burrow and get a meal.
Food as A Treasure
Another answer to “why do dogs bury bones” has to do with how dogs view food. Our domesticated pets get the commercial food they need from us to survived. So, they don’t need to hunt for survival.
Most dogs know the food in their bowls will be replenished. Because of this, they don’t often worry about where food comes from daily. What’s interesting here is that even the most spoiled dog that always has a full bowl of food might still bury bits of kibble around the house. That’s because domesticated dogs are still governed by their ancestors’ food instincts.
While it can be annoying to find bits of dog food in your couch cushions or your bed, this is a very typical behavior for your dog. Your dog might not go outside and dig a hole to bury its treasure, and might have plenty of food. However, that doesn’t mean the instinct to hide food doesn't still rule your dog.
Burying Other Treasures
While most of what your dog buries will probably be related to food, it won’t always be. Dogs consider all kinds of things as valuable, and they’ll hide just about anything they want to save for later.
Have you ever found dog toys buried underneath your clothes or under your blankets? Have you ever seen your TV remote hidden in your dog’s bed? That’s because dogs will bury anything they want to save for later, not just things they can eat.
Dogs bury all types of things to keep their treasures safe, which is part of their natural canine instinct. Some dogs hide items more often than others, but most dogs have a bit of a hoarder mentality. They usually like to bury things that aren’t even edible so they can play with them later.
If you’re still wondering, “Why do dogs bury bones?” then know much of the reasoning for dogs has to do with ability. If you own a dog that’s a hunting breed, you might wind up witnessing the burying instinct more often.
That’s because dogs that are hunters often want to bury part of their catch and store it for later. Since hunting is an instinct and hiding one’s prey is also an instinct related to hunting, you can see why hunting breeds are more prone to buried treasures.
Too Many Resources
Your dog is burying his bones because his instinct is telling him to save a surplus stash for later. But as we explained with "treasures," this instinct applies to more than just food. If you are giving your dog too many resources, like toys, you might be promoting this burying behavior without even realizing it.
If you make the resources more scarce for your dog, then your dog will be less likely to start burying things. It’s a good idea to give your pup a few toys at a time, and rotate them out. If your puppy has too many toys around it, it’ll probably start burying them to save for later.
How to Deal with Dogs that Dig
Honestly, your dog digging and burying items is a natural behavior, and it doesn’t mean you have anything with which to worry. However, as we already mentioned, some dogs dig more than others. So, if your dog is creating several pits in your backyard or excessively stashing items on your couch, then you might want to try to curb the behavior.
Remember, you can curb the behavior by giving your dog fewer resources to bury. If you catch them digging, don’t just stop them from digging and walk away. Instead, try to redirect your dog into a different, more productive activity.
You should avoid punishing your dog for digging. After all, your pup's digging response comes from their instincts. Your dog won’t learn or understand why you are yelling at them. Instead, if you punish your dog for digging, they might become afraid of you.
Remember, by stopping your dog’s digging activity, they now know you don't approve. Instead of just leaving your pooch without a clue, redirect him and give him something you’d like him to do. For example, you can hand him a toy and play some fetch with him.
By redirecting your dog’s behavior, your pooch will learn to focus on your preferred activities for him.
Digging, Instinct, and Training
Why do dogs bury bones? Your dog’s actions have a lot to do with their ancestral survival instinct and desire to preserve and protect food. Since our dog’s ancestors had to survive in the wild with very little help, they learned they could bury food to keep it.
Your dog’s ancestral instinct drives him to bury his treasures either in holes, couch cushions, blankets, and other areas of the house. It would be adorable if they'd stop making the darn remote control disappear!
Does your furry friend bury bones and other treasures? What have you done to redirect their ancient instincts? Let us know in the comments!