If you have a dog that likes to hide toys, chews, or bones, you will be familiar with the process. Some dogs like to ‘bury’ items in their beds or the couch, using their nose to ‘cover’ it up.
Other dogs like to do things properly and hide their items in a large, freshly dug hole in your yard. So why do dogs bury bones?
Creating a cache
Whether your dog digs a real hole in your garden or a pseudo hole in the bed, your dog is tuning into their distant ancestor’s natural instinct. Before they were domesticated, dogs would hunt or scavenge for food.
As there were no guarantees when they would get their next meal storing excess food made sense. By digging a hole and burying their food, dogs not only helped to preserve it, but they also protected it from canine rivals and other interested parties.
The soil kept the food cool and ensured that there would be a food supply to fall back on when food was scarce. In fact, our dog’s natural instinct to dig and bury food ensured that the ancestors of our modern dogs survived. Although most of our dogs today can be sure of regular meals, it is a behavior that is still favored by many dog breeds.
A caution about caches
It’s worth noting that most animals that create cache sites will guard them aggressively. From wolves through to foxes and our domestic dogs, hoarded objects are precious.
Even if your dog is not hungry, most will feel protective over a buried bone. If you do need to approach your dog’s cache site for any reason, do it cautiously or make sure to move your dog to another area before you do.
Dogs that are more anxious, shy, or fearful will hide food if they are not comfortable eating in a particular environment. This can happen easily in multi-pet households or busy or noisy family kitchens. Your dog may leave their food completely or remove food from their bowl and save it by taking it to another part of the house to eat later.
If your dog doesn’t look comfortable at mealtimes, try feeding in a quieter area of the house where they won’t be disturbed. Monitor your dog’s behavior and check if the hoarding stops.
Preventing food hoarding
If you do find that hoarding is an issue, then there are steps you can take to minimize it. Not all dogs will show guarding behaviors, but it’s probably best to manage the behavior before it becomes a problem;
- Feeding several small meals a day rather than one large one can help. Once your dog walks away from the food, remove it to prevent your dog from trying to store it for later.
- Stick to a feeding routine so that your dog gets used to a regular supply of food at certain times of the day
- Ensure that your dog is not over-fed. If your dog is not hungry when food or treats are offered, they are more likely to store the food for leaner times.
- Choose a quiet location for your dog’s bowl. Somewhere that your dog feels comfortable and safe
Preventing toy hoarding
Not all dogs bury food. For some dogs, their most valuable possessions are their toys. If you have a toy hoarder, then you may be used to lumpy sofas, buried treasures in the bed, and chewed toys in the laundry basket.
There is nothing wrong with your dog having a variety of toys. Lots of dogs will be happy with one or two favorites stashed in their beds with them. However, if your dog is constantly burying toys or moving them from place to place, it can become an obsessive behavior that creates a guarding issue;
- Remove all toys apart from two.
- Training a reliable ‘give’ or drop it command is invaluable
- If you remove a valuable item from your dog, always offer a valuable item in return.
- Swap toys regularly so that no one toy becomes more precious
Why do dogs bury bones?
The urge to bury bought bones is a behavior brought forward by wild dogs. Despite having regular access to food, our dog’s desire to bury things is a survival mechanism and remains common in many dogs.
If you have an anxious dog or live in a multi-pet household, you may find that your dog is more likely to hoard than others. Although hoarding isn’t an issue in itself, it can lead to unwanted guarding behaviors. So even if you think that it is harmless, keep an eye on your dog to prevent future problems.