If you’ve ever seen a dog burying a bone in the yard or under a pile of blankets, you may have asked yourself, or someone else “Why do dogs bury things?” This peculiar behavior may be one that evolution hasn’t gotten rid of. Much has changed since dog were domesticated but this behavior might be one that has just lingered. There are some reasons why dog’s still bury things - we’ll explore them all and what to do to stop or modify the behavior.
Five reasons why dogs bury things
- Obsession or compulsive behavior
- Too many toys
Dogs burying bones may be an instinct that is leftover from before dogs were domesticated. Wild dogs would bury extra food to keep it from spoiling and so they could come back to enjoy it later. Our pets may still have this instinct and may bury or hide bones, toys or even yummy treats that they want to save for another time.
Digging, and/or burying could be the result of anxiety or chronic stress for your pup. If you’ve recently rescued your dog, changed your schedule or theirs or moved, all of these things can be stressful for a dog and make them anxious. If none of these have happened recently you’ll need to play detective and try to understand what could be stressing your dog out?
Some dogs are prone to compulsive behaviors whereas others develop them out of stress or even boredom. If this is the case and your pup is digging and hiding things you’ll want to address the behavior. You don’t want the remote or your keys to go missing!
Burying things could just be a fun game your dog likes to play. If you’ve ruled out stress, anxiety, and compulsion your dog might just be burying things because they think its a fun game. As long as your pup seems to be having fun and stops when they’re told this behavior is fairly harmless. As long as your dog isn’t being destructive or digging up your garden you have nothing to worry about here.
You love your dog and want them to have all the best toys. If you give them too many toys all at once, they may feel the need to bury a few favorites for later. You can give your pet a few favorites at a time to prevent excessive burying.
How to prevent a dog from burying things
- Regularly swap toys and limit treats If your dog is burying toys and treats, limit how many you’re giving at one time. This way, your pup will play with the toys they have and won’t be tempted to save or stockpile treats for later. While this is not a surefire way to stop the burying it should help you see less of it than if your dog has too many toys or treats.
- Interrupt the behavior and redirect your dog
- Give your dog enough mental and physical stimulation
If you see your dog digging, you can interrupt the behavior. Telling your pup not to dig is not enough though. What you want to do is direct your dog to the kind of behavior you do want and reward it. That way you’re reinforcing the good behaviors and not giving any attention to the less desirable behavior. If your dog knows you’ll always pay attention to them when they dig, they may be starting to dig to get the attention. Call your dog away from whatever they’re digging and offer another activity. This could be using a snuffle mat, puzzle toy or something to chew on. You could even offer a brief game of tug or do a short training session if your dog likes to learn tricks or is working on some basic obedience. Keep the session short and fun and use some high-value rewards.
A busy dog won’t have time to burry things. If your dog is getting enough mental and physical stimulation they will be less likely to engage in this behavior. The amount of mental and physical stimulation your dog needs may be different than the needs of other pups. Some dogs need more and some need less. Consider your dog’s age and breed. Some breeds like Border Collies or Australian Shepherds need to have jobs others like the Cavalier King Charles may be more content to spend the day snoozing. A few things to consider include making sure your dog is getting enough of the right kind of exercise. Some dogs do fine with a few longer leash walks where other pups need time to run and play or socialize like at a dog park. You can also do some training sessions or use puzzle toys to let your dog work its brain. If you’re running out of ideas, its smart to consult a trainer. A knowledgable trainer will have tons of fun ideas to keep your pup’s brain engaged. You could even try learning a dog sport like agility or rally or get your pup’s nose going with some scent work.
If your dog is digging up the ground or couch and burying things and you also see some negative behaviors like compulsions, aggression or resource guarding you’ll want to address this behavior with your dog’s doctor as well as a trainer or animal behaviorist. These behaviors could signal a mental or physical health issue. A vet will do an exam to check for underlying medical issues and a trainer or behaviorist can help you modify your dog’s behavior. These professionals may need to work together to help you get to the root of the issue and find a solution so your dog can live a happy healthy life!
Most digging and burying is not a big deal and can just be a result of your dog’s natural instinct or a way for them to play. However, some dogs bury things due to health or behavioral issues like an obsessive compulsion. If you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior don’t hesitate to get it checked out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.