As a kid, you may have asked, “Why do dogs bury bones?” – especially after an old cartoon showed this behavior without explaining it.
If you’ve seen your best friend burying food or even toys in the garden, you might wonder why this behavior is triggered or if it’s harmful. It’s not like you’re going to take their food away, so where does this need come from?
We’re here to answer that age-old question, and provide you with some tips for stopping the behavior.
Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?
Creating Their Own Food Storage
The days where their ancestors had to create a den in the ground to keep the pack safe might be far behind them, but dogs have remembered tricks from their wolf cousins.
Burying food near their den protects leftovers from being stolen by other predators. Your dog sees the garden as property of their pack, and might take it on themselves to start ‘securing’ food or beloved toys from outsiders who might take these away.
While the behavior doesn’t cause much harm, apart from a few holes in the ground, dogs without access to a garden might start hiding things around the house. Carpets make an ideal ‘underground’ spot, as well as pillows.
The reason why dogs bury bones can lie in self-preservation. If they share a living space with other animals, some of whom they view as a threat, they can begin to horde.
It’s a common occurrence when introducing a new playmate to the house, as the hierarchy hasn’t been decided yet. Older animals that don’t eat as quickly might find they’re losing their meals to a younger, faster pack mate.
Be sure to resolve any food disputes as they arise. Often times, moving food bowls further apart from each other is all that’s needed.
If you allow your dogs to bury their food in the garden, or hide their treats under pillows, you risk allowing the other pets to find and eat these, making the original starve.
Make no mistake – they will spend time hunting these food stashes down to score an extra meal.
A Cry for Quality Time
Sometimes you will find it’s your shoes or sweaters that go missing. This is an extension of a dog’s wish to keep their goodies safe.
Your precious ‘toys’ may be stolen by outside animals too, so your pet is taking steps to safeguard these items.
Keep in mind that your dog isn’t doing this out of ill will. Odds are, they’ve been feeling lonely and just want some quality time with their best friend.
How to Stop Dogs from Burying Their Bones
Now that we understand the motive behind these actions, it’s time to ask, “How do we stop dogs from burying their bones?”
If you’re not bothered by Fido stockpiling their food in your garden, you should still be aware the behavior could escalate. Their secret food stash seems cute now, but piles of rotting food do not add to the charm of a garden.
The first step is identifying their exact motive, as shifting around food unnecessarily can induce stress, or mediating the politics of your pack may be a waste of time.
The three reasons we have mentioned all come with a different solution, so don’t rush; take time to assess the situation.
They Are Hiding Excess Food
If you find that your dog often has leftovers from a meal, or accepts treats without immediately eating them, odds are, these will end up in your backyard.
The dog is not afraid you will stop providing food, but instinct is driving them to be safe rather than sorry. This is a sign that you can safely cut back on meal-time quantities.
If your dog exhibits other strange behavior, check to see they are sick. They might be trying to hide their illness from you, so a watchful eye is recommended.
If the hoarding has commenced after the arrival of a new dog, Fido might be feeling threatened. Creating separate food areas can help ease the transition.
If jealousy is a motivator, keep a close eye on their interactions, and reassure your dog that you still love them by having private play times, where the two pets aren’t motivated to compete for your attention.
They Want Attention
Often the easiest cause to fix, a cry for attention can be solved by spending more quality time with your dogs.
Check your recent timetable to see if you’ve been spending less time at home. When dogs can’t see you, they want to be reassured by your scent.
Nicking your beloved items can be compared to having a picture of family members on your desk. Reassure your pets of your love by organizing more playtimes, and take care to give them the attention they need to be happy.
Mostly triggered by evolution, dogs start hiding their food and treats for a variety of reasons. Hiding objects usually doesn’t cause trouble, but it’s always a good idea to know what your pet is up to.
If the behavior escalates without a visible cause, consult with your vet to find out what is troubling your dog.