A dog’s action of burying bones and toys has perplexed owners for generations! It makes many of us wonder, “Why do dogs bury bones?” So today, I’ve decided to answer this question once and for all to help you better understand your pup.
But before diving into the reasons, we must consider whether it’s harmful. It’ll provide some context and help you determine if this behavior is worth correcting. From there, figuring out your next steps will become much more manageable.
Is Burying Bones a Harmful Behavior?
Your dog’s burying habit is an ingrained behavior that often doesn’t need correcting. In other words, burying objects is natural to them and shouldn’t be discouraged unless necessary. But it’s vital to manage it correctly as specific issues can present themselves.
The bones themselves are problematic with their sharp fragments. So a dog chewing on the bone will ingest these fragments. Then, the shards could pierce or cut various parts of the digestive system, especially the intestines and mouth.
It’s a painful and costly experience that the pet or owner wants to avoid entirely. Therefore, actual bones shouldn’t be a part of your dog’s toy collection. It’s not worth the potential risks to their health and other consequences.
Outside of the problematic bones, obsessive digging can promote some alarming issues. Your dog’s paws and nails may become damaged, opening room for infections.
For instance, I wasn’t keeping my Beagle’s digging in check, and he badly cut up his paw pad. I had to take him to the vet and get some antibiotics. A costly visit that could’ve been avoided by simply paying better attending and managing his digging habits.
Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?
The urge to bury bones is a natural instinct ingrained in a dog’s DNA. Dogs have always been known for burying bones and food. It’s just what these adorable creatures were created to do when being placed on Earth.
However, the reasons behind this habit can be varied. But it often comes down to four potential causes: protection, preservation, boredom, or anxiety/stress. I’ll discuss each in more detail in the following sections to ensure you can understand what’s behind your dog’s burying.
Dogs have an ingrained habit of protecting their food and treasured items. It stems from their wild dog ancestors who had to scrape and claw for every luxury or piece of food. However, they often needed to store their caught food somewhere. It’s not like they would eat their entire hunt in one eating session.
So these wild dogs (African Wild Dogs, Dingoes, Wolves, etc.) bury their food to protect it against other animals. It’s a rather impressive technique as they can save a little food for when their hunts aren’t successful. Those lean weeks or months end up seeming manageable.
Of course, domestic dogs don’t have these issues. They have their human owners to feed them whenever hunger arises. But it doesn’t strip them of the instinct to bury what they deem treasure-worthy in the soil.
It’s a way of protecting what they deem valuable from other dogs and pets. In other words, it has nothing to do with staving off hunger but guaranteeing they can keep their prize. It allows them to ensure their favorite bone is ready to be enjoyed whenever needed.
This aspect sure drove my Beagle’s obsessive digging. He used to bury his toys and other valued possessions to stop my Pitbull from tearing them apart. As you can imagine, my backyard looked like a groundhog had torn it apart.
Preservation is another primary reason for burying bones and other items. In the wild, dogs don’t have a fridge or other storage area to keep their food safe. So they have to settle on using the soil beneath them to store leftovers from their hunts.
You’d be surprised by how effective ground storage is for wild dogs. It does an excellent job keeping the meat fresh and spoil-free. After all, it’s an effortless way to keep away pesky sunlight that quickens spoilage.
In this way, it functions much like our first reason for burying. It’s an instinct that stems from their need to get through those periods of lean hunting. Due to this, they’ll always have a way to feed their family and pack.
Furthermore, the Earth’s organic content would positively impact their stored meat. It works as a natural marination to ensure future meals still taste fresh. The smell would be covered up in these deep holes, so other scavengers or hunters wouldn’t find it.
So your dog burying a bone in the backyard is tapping into this instinct. They assume hiding it will preserve its freshness and keep it enjoyable for many chewing sessions. It may seem incredibly gross to their owners, but it makes complete sense to them.
Aside from instincts, dogs can turn to digging/burying when they feel bored. Considering how fun it looks to tear apart a backyard, it’s easy to see why. Plus, it’s an excellent outlet for all the pent-up energy that builds up when staying inside all day.
A lack of stimulation and outlets can be very unpleasant for domestic dogs. These animals need a constant way to occupy themselves throughout the day. Otherwise, they’ll find other ways that their owners won’t enjoy. Some examples include digging in the backyard, tearing up furniture, pulling on the blinds, or eating your shoes.
So you’ll need to find a way to provide stimulation and outlets during the day. It becomes essential to keep them occupied if you are away from them constantly.
4. Anxiety or Stress
Anxiety and stress can do quite a number on our favorite puppers. Sometimes, your dog may feel so stressed that they try something to calm themselves. One activity that brings calmness is digging and burying since they’re self-soothing behaviors.
In fact, this behavior is common among shelter or puppy mill dogs who fight over resources. They bury their food or other items, so they can enjoy them when in a comfortable area. It’s common to see this behavior even in well-established multi-dog households.
Some dogs prefer privacy when playing with toys or eating their food. Burying those items ensures they can have it and not become overly stressed by the presence of other dogs.
In any case, the behavior should improve when your dog feels more at home. They’ll start getting used to the routine and stop burying toys/food. If it doesn’t improve, a vet consultation should probably be your next step (I talk more about managing this behavior in a later section).
What Breeds Are Known for Burying Bones?
Certain dog breeds are much more likely to bury bones and other items. Most have long histories of digging underground to hunt and catch small prey. As domestic dogs, it results in them burying bones, toys, or food.
So anyone overly worried about this behavior should account for it before getting one. Otherwise, their backyard may soon become a paradise for their buried treasures. Here’s a quick overview of breeds with a reputation for burying objects.
Beagles are well known for their love of burying objects. It stems from their natural tracking and hunting instincts that aren’t activated much as domestic dogs. So they often take bones and toys outside to hide them away for safekeeping.
As a Beagle-owner myself, I know all about their burying behaviors. I must be extra careful about giving him certain toys, or I’ll find a hole in the backyard. It’s not a situation he seems too fond of, but I’ve found ways to provide other outlets for his pent-up energy.
2. Basset Hounds
Another obvious inclusion would be the Basset Hound. They’re well known for an exceptional sense of smell that’s almost unmatched by other breeds. It has helped them track prey and even criminals for centuries.
Their use in tracking coincides with a natural instinct of digging and burying. So potential owners must think twice before leaving their Basset Hound outside without supervision.
3. Siberian Huskies
Huskies are constantly looking for ways to get exercise. Burying and digging are easy ways to meet those needs, especially if they aren’t getting it elsewhere. Many dog owners often underestimate how much activity these working dogs genuinely need.
As a result, anyone who intends to own a Husky should keep this in mind. If not, the new Husky may not adapt well to your home.
Dachshunds are a smaller hunting breed, but it doesn’t minimize their love of digging. All these dogs want to do is dig and find smaller prey like badgers. So it’s not uncommon for them to take their squeaky toys or bones outside and bury them.
Our last type of dog is a terrier. Of course, terriers are separated into various breeds, but all of them are known to love burying items. Their high-energy personality makes it a foregone conclusion that a toy or two will end up buried in the backyard.
Do Dogs Remember Where They Bury Their Bones?
Dog owners constantly worry about their pups leaving stuff buried in their yards. It’s hard to blame them, considering it could become problematic when mowing or doing other yard work. But thankfully, dogs do remember where they bury their bones and toys.
They’ll remember because their scent of smell makes it impossible for them to forget. A dog’s nose has up to 300 million olfactory receptors, which makes our noses look lousy. So they have no problem finding their buried treasures in the yard.
But this practice can become problematic, depending on what they’re unburying. If the object has spoiled or become infested with some insect, it’s not a good situation. Your dog will chew or eat the thing, causing their digestive system issues.
All in all, it’s best to manage this burying behavior as much as possible. It’s a simple way to ensure unneeded issues don’t present themselves.
How Can You Manage Your Dog’s Digging?
Managing a dog’s digging or burying habits requires some patience and time. But there are a few methods to help this process become more straightforward. Here are a few things to try when trying to manage your dog’s obsessive habit:
1. Find Other Energy Outlets
Owners have to turn this burying behavior into a more acceptable one. So the easiest way would be to schedule more exercise like walks or hikes for them to do. It could even be more playtime and socialization with other dogs. Basically, any activity that can get rid of the pent-up energy behind your dog’s burying.
In my case, I attempted to calm my Beagle down by teaching him more commands. It was a great way to keep him active while exercising his brain. From there, I also increased his walks and played much more with him.
His burying tendencies have gone away after these changes. So I’m happy to report no toys have gone missing or new holes have popped up in my backyard. It ended up being a win-win for both of us.
2. Reduce Stressors
Some dogs use their burying to indicate a need for privacy. They’re constantly feeling stressed out by having to share a space with other dogs or pets. So the need to protect their toy or treat comes out in the form of hiding it.
Owners can solve this issue by isolating this dog from the pack within certain situations. If you’re giving everyone a treat, take this dog to another room and provide them privacy. They won’t feel the need to bury it and protect it from others.
Another example would be during play sessions. Some dogs prefer to avoid constantly sharing their toys with their pack. So give them private time with their favorite toy to show them there’s no reason to bury it.
3. Redirect Their Attention
If you catch them in the act, redirecting their attention elsewhere is effective. You call their name and engage them with a different activity. It could be a favorite game, toy, or even treat. You can even set up an alternative spot for digging.
But the goal is to make them forget about whatever they are doing. After a few times, your dog will understand that burying or digging in a particular area isn’t allowed.
4. Limit Your Dog’s Access to Toys
The last trick to try would be limiting your dog’s access to all their toys. It may seem cruel, but dogs often have less interest in their toys if they’re constantly available. In their eyes, the toys aren’t special or a reward anymore.
However, limiting access to a few toys could bring back their interest. Your dog will then be less interested in getting them outside and burying them. After all, there’s no reason to protect them if they aren’t constantly available.
So, why do dogs bury bones? It often stems from their need to protect, persevere, fend off boredom, or a coping mechanism for anxiety/stress. Understanding where your dog’s need comes from is the first step in managing the issue.
You can then develop a plan for managing this instinct. But remember, it needs to be handled correctly, or there’s a risk of it worsening. So take some time and be patient with your dog to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Now, I’d love to hear how it goes in the comment section. Please feel free to use it if you want to continue the conversation or ask a question. Thanks for reading!