Every time we give one of our dogs a bone she runs off into the garden and buries it. It’s a little frustrating because we want her to enjoy it at that moment, not leave it buried for days. So why do dogs bury bones, and should we be concerned?
9 Reasons dogs bury bones
1. It’s a leftover instinct from their wolf ancestors
All dogs are descendants of wolves. Wolves hunt in groups and may bury extra food to keep it safe from other animals or pack members..
This is food-caching and is common amongst other canines like foxes and coyotes. Food scarcity was common among pack animals. Wolves learned to store any leftovers by burying them.
“When you don’t know when you’ll find your next meal, it makes sense to hide leftovers.” Teoti Anderson, professional dog trainer and behaviour consultant
2. Certain breeds are prone to digging and will bury bones
Dogs bred for digging have a natural inclination to bury bones. Nordic breeds, like the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute dig in the snow to find food or shelter. These breeds will also dig in warmer climates to keep cool.
People train many breeds of dogs to hunt and dig for small animals. In addition, they train Basset, Dachshunds and other scent hounds to hunt rabbits by following them into their burrows.
3. You are feeding it too much
It gives us a lovely feeling when we hold our hands out and produce a tasty bone for our dogs. So, it’s easy to see why some dog owners overfeed. One sign your dog is burying bones is they’re too full to eat them.
Vets advise treats should not exceed 10% of your dog’s total diet. So, if your pooch is putting on a few pounds and burying bones, cut back on their food and treats.
4. They are food possessive
Does your dog growl if you attempt to take their food away? You should be able to remove anything from your dog’s mouth without getting bitten.
Dogs become possessive for different reasons. Households with multiple dogs can produce possessive behaviour. Rescue dogs who haven’t learned to trust their owners yet can be possessive over food.
5. Stress and anxiety produce this behaviour
Burying and digging is a soothing activity that calms dogs down. If your dog has suddenly started burying bones or stashing away food or toys, it could be a sign of anxiety. Dogs often self-soothe by digging, burying or chewing.
This behaviour can be typical of puppies purchased from puppy mills. Conditions are dire and food scarce. It is also associated with multi-dog households, where some dogs are food orientated. Separation anxiety is another cause of burying bones.
6. It’s their favourite bone/toy
Some dogs bury bones because they want to save them for later. It’s like humans only wear something for best or have a favourite item of jewellery. Dogs can be the same with bones.
This bone is so amazing and precious they want to save it for when they can fully concentrate on enjoying it. You’ll find other dogs that bury their toys for the same reason. They either want to save it and stash it away or they want to protect it.
7. Dogs get bored with bones
On the other hand, we often find old bones or balls either under the sofa or out in the garden. Once the initial excitement has worn off, dogs become bored with bones that have been around for a while.
If you give your dog a delicious ham bone every day, the novelty will wear off. Try mixing up their treats and only giving big, expensive bones as treats once a week. Remember, treats are exactly that, treats, not everyday occurrences.
8. Your dog might have come from a large litter/rescue centre
Pups from a large litter must compete at an early age for their mother’s milk. Much like multi dog households or puppy mills, the dog learns that food is not always available. When it does get food, it saves some by burying it.
We don’t always know the history of rescue dogs, but in cases of abuse dogs bury bones for security. As with large litters, burying bones not only guarantees food for a later date, but burying reduces anxiety.
9. They are bored and need more stimulation
Dogs need daily exercise, not just for their physical health but their mental well-being. Imagine being stuck in a house all day and when your owner comes home, they toss you a bone. Your dog is saying a bone won’t cut it.
They want more attention from you. Giving them treats isn’t the same as a wonderful walk, full of enticing scents and sounds. One reason dogs bury bones is because they’re bored. Try upping their daily exercise, or playing with them for half an hour in the garden and see if the behaviour stops.
Dogs bury bones for many reasons. Some are instinctive, others can be a sign of stress, boredom or possessiveness. It’s important to work out why. If this behaviour has happened suddenly, ask yourself if anything has changed in your routine. If your dog has always buried their bones, it’s probably not a cause for concern. We hope this article has helped narrow down the reasons.