You may notice that sometimes when you give your dog a treat or a new toy, it ends up buried somewhere in the backyard. Bones, chew toys, and even certain types of dog food can end up in these holes, and if you went out of your way to get that toy or treat, it may be a concern to you! The behavior doesn’t stop there for some burying dogs. You may one day find your television remote in a hole in the ground, or find your phone buried at the bottom of the laundry basket. If this has ever happened to you, or you find yourself wondering what all the burying is about, here are some reasons that your dog hides its bones six feet under.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs love to dig. It is a behavior that has carried on for countless generations, ever since dogs lived and survived in the wild. The simplest explanation for why your dog buries its food and its toys is that it is tapping into an instinct that has been passed down through dogs for centuries. When dogs in the wild caught prey to eat, they would bury the leftovers in the ground to come back to at a later time. This ensured that they would always have food to eat, even after unsuccessful hunts, and also ensured that other predators would not be able to find and steal the buried food. Today, dogs continue to bury food and toys, although not for survival purposes. The act of digging alone brings joy to a lot of dogs, and the instinct to bury food may be coming out for a number of different reasons. If you give your dog too many treats, for example, your dog may decide that it doesn’t want to eat the treat right at that moment. It may bury the treat in the backyard for a later time, when it will want to eat the treat. The same is true for toys. Too many toys, and your dog will play with them by burying them and saving them for later. Some dogs will bury food because they are too stressed by the environment to eat it comfortably. Digging helps calm the dog down and gives them a chance to eat at their own pace. When it comes to items not immediately related to your dog, like your television remote or phone, there may be a behavioral issue behind your dog’s burying habits. It is very clear to your dog which of your items you consider valuable. If you are spending too much time in front of the TV, or spending too much time on your phone, your dog may get jealous. Dogs will occasionally take to stealing and burying items that are important to their owners just to get their owners to play with them. This behavior could extend to children’s toys, jewelry, and even underwear. In these cases, the items won’t always end up outside. They may just end up at the bottom of a pile of sheets, or somewhere deep in the couch.
Encouraging the Behavior
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog becomes an obsessive burier, the behavior is known as food hoarding. This behavior can lead to a myriad of other behavioral problems, especially in guarding and dominant dogs. Though you may feel like you are treating your dog well by feeding them so much, so frequently, you may actually be feeding into your dog’s hoarding habits. When a dog has an excess of resources, they begin to hide all the excess and guard the locations of all of the stashed food. Managing all of these stashes can be stressful and detrimental to a dog’s mental health, leading to erratic and aggressive behavior. You can prevent or change this behavior simply by limiting your dog’s resources and giving it less toys and food to stash.
Dogs display a few different instincts and traits from their wild ancestors, but no dog in the modern world should need to worry about survival. If your dog is burying its excess food, the simple solution is to stop giving your dog too much! This will make your dog more comfortable and—as most people prefer—less wild in the long run.