Does your dog hide his toys or try to burry his favorite bone in the yard? You might be wondering where this behavior comes from and why dogs think it is so much fun to dig holes and bury things!
Why do dogs bury bones?
This may be a holdover behavior from before dogs were domesticated. Wild dogs would bury their food to save it so it didn’t get eaten or stolen. This is especially true when they found a good, large meal and couldn’t eat it all. Another benefit of storing things below ground - temperature control. The tasty snack that they buried would not get cooked in the sun on a hot day!
Now, this holdover behavior might just be an instinct your dog has. You may see it more in a house with multiple dogs as your pups might be trying to hide their treats or toys from each other. Even if every dog gets the same amount of treats and toys, they still may try to hide things to save for later and make sure they aren’t stolen by a jealous sibling.
How do you prevent your dog from digging?
If you have a dog that is prone to digging you may wish to minimize or eliminate this behavior, especially if your dog is destroying your yard or garden. If your pup likes to dig up plants or flowers make sure not to plant anything toxic to dogs like tomato plants or onions. If you do plant things your pup shouldn’t eat make sure to train him not to snack from your garden! You might consider restricting access to your garden so your dog doesn’t get any ideas. If your dog is digging in places you can’t restrict him from, here are three tips to try:
- Don’t give your dog too many toys or treats at a time
If you give your dog too many toys or treats this might kick up the digging instinct as your dog might try to save things for later. Instead, allow your dog only a few toys to play with at a time and rotate them weekly. Try not to give your pup a bone or big treat right after a meal as he might decide it is worth saving it for later. You can disregard this tip if your pup is particularly food motivated and will still devour a bone after a meal!
- Re-direct your pet to another activity
This will only work if you catch your pet in the act! If you find your dog digging a hole re-direct him to another activity. This could include playing tug with you, playing with another toy or participating in a training activity. Anything to break his urge to dig. You want to make sure you aren’t just telling your dog to stop digging. While your pet might be clear that you don’t like it when he digs, they don’t know what you do want them to do instead.
- Provide enrichment opportunities
One of the big reasons dogs today will dig is boredom. This might be especially true if your dog spends a large part of his day in a crate or with limited activity (like while everyone is at work or school). If you don’t allow your pup to get bored, you might not have to deal with digging. You can give your dog a puzzle toy or make your own, take a walk or hike, or do some training. For some dogs, the opportunity to use their noses can be a lot of fun. You could try some scent or nose work activities to keep things interesting. The additional physical and mental stimulation will help you make sure your pup doesn’t even have time to dig!
If your dog seems to enjoy the hide-and-seek aspect of burying, try this tip from the American Kennel Club: 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.
When should you get medical or behavioral treatment for your dog if he’s digging excessively?
If your dog suddenly starts digging when it is a behavior they did not do before, you might want to check with your vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical issue. Any behavior change is worth discussing with your vet to make sure your dog is happy and healthy. Your vet can help you understand why your pet’s behavior has changed. They will probably do a quick exam and ask you some questions to help get a better handle on the issue. Make sure to mention any changes in your pet’s diet, routine or your lifestyle. For example, if you moved to a home with a bigger backyard recently - don’t forget to share that detail with the vet.
Another time to be concerned is “If your dog does become obsessed with hiding food or a toy, to the point that you can’t interrupt him or he does it for long periods, then you may need to consult your veterinarian,” says Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP in an interview with PetMD. “There could be an obsessive-compulsive component to his burying.”
Your vet can help you troubleshoot any issues and come up with an appropriate treatment plan to get your pup to stop digging.
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.