Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?

By Tom Matteo

Time and time again, after giving our dog a new bone, he immediately wants to bury his newest treasure into the ground like a pirate hiding his booty. Sometimes our dog even shakes his booty before burying it! LOL.

If he's in the house at the time he'll hide his chew-bone in the couch or behind something, then he forgets about it like he's never been given one! What brings on this strange behavior? Let us investigate the causes in an attempt at digging up some answers that stem from some of your dog's wild and crazy ancestors!

From Genetics Through Evolution

A great deal of your dog's behavior is buried in their genetic memories from the past when they hunted in packs like wolves.

(On a side note: Some say dogs are actually a domesticated form of a wolf. A theory which remains in debate if you consider how feral dogs do not revert back to a wolf-like state when left in the wild for a long time!)

Times were tough back then when pack members were sent out in different locations to find food. As soon as prey was cornered the pack regrouped and attacked in unison. Their huge pack numbers could bring down animals many times their size, so afterwards, if food was leftover and they didn't care to share with other scavengers, dogs had enough evolutionary sense to bury their food and save it for less prosperous times.

The Marrow, The Marrow... It'll Be There Tomorrow!

But why bury? Burying food slowed down decay and in really tough times dogs could dig up the bones and break them apart for the bit of marrow inside which would sustain them until hunting again became prosperous!

Also, in these lean times competition within the pack was fierce. When a dog managed to catch some prey, protecting that catch became priority in order to keep it safe from other pack members.

Hoarding

But other pack members weren't the only concerns. Dogs had to contend with such predators and scavengers like jackals, hyenas and some very big cats who could overtake them and their food in an instant. Dogs had to smarten up in order to protect their food. They could do only one thing - bury their food and return for it later.

In bountiful times when food was plentiful and hunting was good, dogs still would bury their leftovers and save it for another time. This "hoarding" instinct wasn't unusual in the animal kingdom nor was it favored only to dogs. Other animals practiced the same behavior. Squirrels buried their nuts in preparation for a hard winter and leopards carted their kill into the trees for safe keeping.

Nowadays dogs seldom have to hunt for their food in order to eat. Meal time for them is routine and kibble is delivered right to them in their bowls. But over feeding or not feeding them enough can trigger the hoarding instinct and make them plan for the future by burying what they now have!

Old Habits Die Hard

So you would think dogs would no longer need to bury their food but as we all know old habits die hard! As a matter of fact, some of those treasures they've previously buried may stay just that - buried!

Instincts rule in a dog's world and burying items, whether it's theirs or their owners, is a part of their world.

Some dogs are more or less compulsive regarding this behavior but you'll see a version of this burying and hoarding in virtually every breed to some degree. Have you ever discovered your dog sleeping in your wrapped up blanket or carrying around one of your socks?

This is the result of your canine's natural survival instinct, so be easy on your dog when attempting to curtail this instinct which has been embedded in their genetic memory for over a thousand years or longer.

That's a long time remembering something. I can't remember what I buried two days ago!

By Tom Matteo