Some dogs are archaeologists. Meaning they like to bury their chewing bones or other possessions and later dig them up. Burying isn't an uncommon behavior among canines. But why do dogs bury bones and other things? Here are a few reasons, as well as some tips on how to stop your dog from digging.
Why Do Dogs Bury Things?
Burying is a behavior that dates back to our canine companions' ancestors. Domestic dogs came from wolves and wild dogs with "feast or famine" diets. These diets involve gorging themselves when they find food, since they may not have access to nourishment again for days. Because of this, wild canines also won't waste food. Instead, they bury any leftovers to preserve them, later returning to dig up the meat during a "famine" phase of their diet. So, despite being fed regularly, many our domestic dogs still have this natural instinct.
Pro Tip: Keeping food in the dirt allows meat to last longer by protecting it from the sun and insects above ground. The smartest hunters dig deeper holes, so the food is preserved in cooler temperatures and the scent is harder for other hunters to detect.
Canines are also protective animals that guard things they find special or valuable (a tendency commonly be seen in resource guarding). Burying bones and other things can also be a way to protect their valuables. This is also something their ancestors do in the wild, as food is considered highly valuable and can be scarce.
Interestingly, some breeds are more likely to bury their possessions than others. Owners of hunting breeds seem to observe burying more than those of non-sporting and herding breeds. One theory is that dogs bred for hunting may have a greater desire to preserve their resources. Another theory is that breeds that used digging to search for small prey still exhibit those tendencies. All this being said, any type of dog has the potential to dig, no matter the breed.
Boredom Or Attention-Seeking
If your dog isn't getting enough mental stimulation or physical exercise, he or she may resort to other (often more destructive) behaviors to expel the extra energy. Burying possessions and digging can be signs that your dog is bored or asking for attention.
Some dogs bury things out of stress or anxiety because digging can be a soothing behavior for dogs. For instance, a dog may bury their food or treats if they don't feel safe in the area they were fed. They will then eat their goodies later at a time or place that feels safer and more comfortable.
Is Burying Harmful?
In general, burying is not harmful to your dog. But some dogs become so compulsive about it, they dig until their paws are raw or have sores. And in rare cases, a dog's paws can be exposed to chemicals in the soil, causing issues.
Burying can, however, be destructive to your house. Dogs who bury their things outside can destroy your backyard or garden, while those that dig inside can ruin your furniture or decor.
How To Stop A Dog From Digging
There are several ways you can resolve destructive digging behavior:
- Limit the number of goodies you give your pup. If you dog has fewer valuable resources, he or she will have fewer to bury. If your dog buries toys, try giving one or two at a time (and rotate them to pique interest and reduce boredom).
- Don't give your dog chewing bones or bully sticks on a full stomach, if he or she likes to bury them.
- Make sure your dog is getting enough mental stimulation and physical exercise, in case the behavior is born out of boredom. Try regular and scheduled walks, playing together or giving your dog brain games.
- Use the behavior for training, teaching your dog to bury and retrieve on cue. This turns the behavior into a game, which is mentally stimulating and reduces boredom. It also gives you the opportunity to bond by playing together.
- Give your dog a sandbox or dirt box, if you have the space. This provides them with their own digging space to play in and bury belongings, instead of your garden.
- Train your pup to stop. Do so by interrupting your dog's digging behavior and redirecting him or her to another activity (don't just walk away after halting the problematic behavior).