Does your Dachshund bury those expensive dental chews you buy him? Maybe your Standard Schnauzer hides pilfered socks under couch cushions or in blankets on your bed. It’s natural to wonder why your dog is burying something you know he likes. It can also be frustrating if he’s made a molehill out of your backyard. So, why do dogs bury bones and other items?
Domestic dogs’ ancestors, including wild dogs and the gray wolf, lived on a “feast or famine” diet. (Modern wolves still live on this diet.) While they may need meat every day, they don’t always find it. So, when they do, they will feast and gorge themselves because they know they may not have another meal for a couple of days. This also means they don’t want to waste food by leaving any extra that can’t fit into their bellies immediately. Instead, they bury the food in the dirt. This helps the meat last longer, as the dirt protects it from the sun, which causes meat to go rancid quickly. The wolf can then return to that treasure spot and dig up the meat when hunting is scarce, and he is in need of a meal. Think of it as the wolf’s pantry.
Of course, your Dachshund is fed every day without fail, probably twice a day. Obviously, he does not need to squirrel away his food, toys, or treats for a famine day. But just like herding, hunting, and tending, burying resources is part of a dog’s natural instinct, and some exhibit it more than others. It’s interesting to note that owners of hunting breeds seem to witness this behavior more than owners of herding or non-sporting breeds. Now that you know where the instinct comes from and its relation to hunting, this tendency for some dogs to dig makes sense. Dogs that are bred for hunting may also have a heightened desire to save their resources as part of their hunting instinct and, therefore, are more likely to bury bones.
Too Many Resources
Since you know now that your dog’s urge to bury his bones comes from an instinct to save surplus resources, you can help curb this behavior by making those resources more scarce, thus saving your garden. For example, if your dog has a tendency to bury his toys, give him just one or two at a time. You can rotate toys weekly to keep your dog’s interest and fend off boredom. Also, avoid giving him a bone right after he eats, when his stomach is already full.
If your dog really seems to enjoy the hide-and-seek aspect of burying, you can turn it into a trick where he “buries” a toy or bone on cue in a pile of blankets or pillows. Then give him a cue to retrieve. This turns it into a game that you and your dog can play together that won’t destroy your yard. If you have the space, you can also give your dog his own dirt box to play in, where he is welcome to bury toys and treats to his heart’s content while staying away from your freshly planted flower garden.
At the end of the day, providing your dog with a way to dig and bury his bones and toys can really enrich his life, since it satisfies his natural instinct. And now you know where to look the next time you can’t find your TV remote!