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Why Dogs Bury Things

Why Dogs Bury Things

Does your dog bury his bones, or even his favorite  toys, in the backyard? Or even worse, does he sometimes dig them up and bring the muddy mess back inside…smiling and wagging his tail all the while? According to pet expert Arden Moore in The Dog Behavior Answer Book (Storey, 2006), thousands of years ago, dogs did not know where their next meal would come from, so after a kill they would bury any uneaten food to hide it from scavengers. When they were hungry again, they would return to their cache and dig up their leftovers. The dirt also helped keep their food fresher longer by protecting it from sunlight. Your dog is just following that ancestral urge. Even though you feed your dog every day, you can’t take that “must stash food for a hungry day” mentality out of him. The same goes for those extra toys he stashes away. He may even take other household items like the TV remote or your wallet–both have been known to disappear from many a home!

If the burying urge becomes a problem for you, keep in mind that dogs tend to bury extras, not essentials. Patrol your house and pick up any spare dog bones or toys. Limit his access to one bone and one toy at a time. Vary the type of dog bones and toys from time to time to keep him interested. By limiting the quantity and providing variety, you may lessen his motivation to take his treasure out to the backyard. Make his favorite digging spots less attractive by covering them with chicken wire or bricks or other objects that are not paw-friendly. And try offering your dog a less-destructive indoor option: Show him how he can bury his favorite toy under a blanket instead.

Does your dog bury treasures? Has he or she buried anything surprising? Share your stories in the comment field below.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

93 comments

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12:12PM PST on Mar 6, 2014

Our lab doesn't bury anything. He just likes to dig holes. His snow holes are absolutely huge. It wasn't so bad when he was a youngin', but when he hit 8yrs old he's gone frantic. Our vet said it's just like humans liking to run. So we leave him alone. And fill his holes for next dig.

12:04PM PST on Mar 6, 2014

My dog will bury anything. When she does not go outside and bury things, she will bury them in the bed covers, in clothes, in the couch, under the couch, or wherever she can get it. I think she does it because she is selfish. She doesn't want anyone touching her toys. She can be outside and if you step on one and it squeaks- she will run in the house and get it.

8:54PM PST on Dec 1, 2012

My dog once buried a ham bone in the backyard. He was extremely upset when my cat promptly dug it up and finished the leftover ham still sticking to it!

Moral of the story, doggies - never bury anything where a Siamese cat can find it...

Oh, and there was that time a feral cat I was trying to tame killed a bird, ate it, the dog found one of the legs and buried it in my grandmother's blankets, and we found it while changing the sheets... my grandmother was somewhat freaked and spent the next 10 minutes exclaiming, "Oh, ish! Ish-a-may!"

6:31AM PST on Dec 1, 2012

interesting

5:08PM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

I have a 4 year old german sheperd who loves to bury my clothing articles on a daily basis. If she can't find something of mine laying around, she will get into my wicker clothes hamper and pull out my dirty clothes. She'll walk around the house with it in her mouth until she decides where she plans to bury it. I find things burried quite tightly under the cushions and in the corners of my sofa and chairs. I have to give it a good yank to retreive it out. She also hides things behind my sofa pillows and under throw rugs. Oh by the way, my dogs name is Heidi, (suits her perfectly) LOL!. Thank heavens she hasn't resorted to bury any food yet!

2:32AM PDT on Jul 11, 2012

Thanks for another great article.

8:27PM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

Planning ahead.

3:51PM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

Thanks for this information!

11:49AM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

I don't actually have a dog, but this is an interesting tidbit to learn about them. Thanks.

7:14PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

my dog doesn't bury stuff, but he sure digs holes for the heck of it!

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