Ever witnessed your dog meticulously hiding bones or absconding with items only to stash them away later? While this habit of your furry friend can come across as charming or peculiar initially, the charm often dissipates when it starts impacting your lovely flowerbeds or leaves your freshly laundered clothes in a mess. You may find yourself grappling with questions like, why does my dog bury bones, treats, and dog toys in the backyard, or among piles of clean laundry?
This behavior of your dog, while perplexing to us humans, is deeply rooted in their canine instinct, tracing back to their wild ancestors. The practice of burying and unearthing is essentially a survival tactic passed down through generations. When food was plentiful, wild canines would hide excess dog food to preserve it for times of scarcity. This instinctive behavior has prevailed in domesticated dogs even though their meals are now regularly provided by their human caregivers.
Dr. Kristyn Echterling-Savage, a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founder of Beyond The Dog, explains that dogs might dig and bury items for a variety of other reasons. For instance, dogs might engage in this behavior out of sheer boredom, especially if they are not receiving adequate physical or mental stimulation. Digging can also be a way to gain access to a neighboring yard that arouses their curiosity or to find a way to escape from an area.
All in all, while the practice of burying might be annoying for you, it’s simply your dog following their natural instincts. Understanding this behavior can help you handle it better and find constructive ways to channel their energy elsewhere.
Ever wondered why your dog takes so much pleasure in hiding their bones, whether under a pile of laundry or deep in your garden soil? This behavior is not as puzzling as it might seem and dogs will bury nearly anything they regard as valuable, intending to retrieve it later. This might shed some light on why your Dachshund seems keen on secreting toys under its dog bed or stowing away bits of kibble in the couch cushions.
Here are some potential reasons behind this widespread canine behavior:
- Attachment to an object: According to Dr. Echterling-Savage, bone burying could be related to the perceived value of the object and a dog’s propensity to guard resources. Essentially, dogs are wired to safeguard anything they consider valuable, protecting it from possible predators and other potential thieves. If you own multiple pets, you might observe this behavior more often; dogs who sense competition could have a heightened impulse to hide their cherished possessions.
- A playful streak: For some dogs, burying bones or other objects can be a fun game or a source of entertainment. Veterinarian Dr. Tehreem Puri explains, “Some dogs may engage in this behavior simply because they find it enjoyable and stimulating. Digging can serve as an appealing activity that channels their energy and piques their curiosity.”
- Anxiety-driven behavior: In certain instances, digging and burying can be a coping mechanism for dogs dealing with anxiety or stress. Dr. Puri explains that “This behavior could be more prevalent in dogs that are left alone for extended periods or those suffering from separation anxiety.”
- Breed-specific traits: The breed of your dog may also contribute to their digging habits, notes Dr. Echterling-Savage. Certain hunting dogs, specifically bred to pursue prey into underground burrows, might exhibit an increased tendency to dig. Some dog breeds known for their digging inclinations include Miniature Schnauzers, Terriers, Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Beagles, and Bloodhounds.
- Innate love for digging: Sometimes, your dog’s digging may not be driven by a clear motive. That’s perfectly fine! Many dogs simply find the act of digging in dirt extraordinarily enjoyable. This behavior could merely be a favorite pastime, providing your pet with a fun-filled activity to while away the time.
Understanding these motivations can offer you a clearer perspective of your dog’s behavior and help you manage it more effectively, without undermining their natural instincts.
Is your dog’s penchant for burying things a holdover from their ancestral behaviors?
According to Dr. Echterling-Savage, the answer is yes. Though domestic dogs have evolved significantly from their wolf ancestors, some behaviors, such as burying, have persisted throughout their evolution.
Wild dogs, in their natural habitat, practice a behavior known as “scatter hoarding” or “food caching.” This involves stockpiling items in various locations rather than in a single cache. The primary objective of this behavior is to ensure a reserve of food during times when prey might be hard to come by.
While our pets don’t need to stash food for survival, they might still continue the practice of burying items due to deep-seated instincts. Dr. Puri explains, “The behavior has likely endured in dogs because it offers them a survival advantage in certain scenarios. Although food shortage isn’t an issue for most domestic dogs, they instinctively continue to bury bones.”
There are further survival benefits to this behavior in the wild, beyond merely concealing food from other scavengers. Burying food also helps to preserve it, keeping it fresh by protecting it from direct sunlight and heat. As a dog digs deeper, the soil becomes cooler, effectively turning their underground store into a natural “refrigerator.”
So the next time you see your dog digging and burying objects, remember, it’s an instinctual survival tactic ingrained in them over centuries of evolution, even if it’s not necessary for their current domesticated lifestyle.
While burying bones is a natural behavior for dogs, there are situations where it can become problematic. If your dog engages in excessive digging that results in paw injuries, digs in areas with toxic lawn chemicals or sharp objects, or causes damage to your yard or furniture, it may be necessary to discourage this behavior. Here are some recommendations from our experts:
Should You Stop Dogs From Burying Bones?
- Provide alternative outlets for digging: Offer food-stuffed toys or interactive puzzles to redirect your dog’s digging instinct towards more appropriate activities. These can help alleviate boredom and provide mental stimulation.
- Rotate toys: Introducing new dog toys and rotating them periodically can help prevent boredom and keep your dog engaged. This can reduce the desire to bury items out of sheer monotony.
- Introduce a digging puzzle toy: Consider using a digging puzzle toy, such as the iDig, which simulates the digging experience while containing the mess and protecting your yard or furniture.
- Secure your fence with chicken wire: If your dog’s burying behavior is accompanied by escape attempts, you can attach chicken wire to your fence and secure it in the ground to deter digging and prevent potential escapes.
- Ensure sufficient attention and exercise: Dogs may resort to digging out of boredom or excess energy. Make sure to provide your dog with plenty of attention, interactive playtime, and regular exercise to meet their physical and mental needs.
- Seek professional guidance: If the digging behavior persists or becomes a significant issue, consider consulting a veterinarian or certified pet behaviorist for personalized advice and guidance tailored to your dog’s specific needs.
Remember, it’s essential to strike a balance between discouraging problematic digging and respecting your dog’s natural instincts. Redirecting their behavior and providing suitable alternatives can help channel their energy in a positive direction while ensuring a harmonious living environment for both you and your beloved canine companion.