We all know that our dogs love a good bone. The love affair between dogs and their bones has even been immortalized in the English language thanks to the phrase, “like a dog with a bone.” We usually say that when someone can’t seem to let something go. And it’s the perfect simile too because there nothing tougher than trying to get a bone away from a dog. My friend almost lost a finger in the park when her Jack Russell found an abandoned KFC bucket full of chicken bones in the bushes. When she tried to get them away from her dog, the cheeky little thing snapped. It’s a dangerous business trying to get a bone away from a dog. Still, it’s also so adorable to see how happy they are when you give them a nice big bone to chew on for special occasions like Christmas or their birthday. We would always give our dog Bonita a bone every year for Christmas. She was always so excited. But there was something weird that she would always do. She’d happily chew on the bone while inside the house, but as soon as she was allowed outside she would immediately set off on a quest to find a place to bury it.
But it wasn’t just my dog who had a habit of burying her bones. It’s a pretty common behavior amongst all canines. But why is that? Why do dogs feel the need to bury their bones in the dirt? We’ve probably all wondered this at some point, but now we have the answers.
The most common and obvious answer to their behavior is food protection. Out in the wild many animals will bury their goodies to keep them safe from other animals. Dogs descend from wolves who are hunters. While hunters will consume the majority of their kill, any leftovers are safely stored away for future meals by being buried in the ground. It’s no different from that Chinese takeout we’ll order on a Friday night. Sure, we’ll eat the majority of what we’ve ordered, but there’s always that small container of fried rice that we can’t finish. As a result, we’ll stick it in the fridge for a midnight snack. And that no different from what our dogs are doing. The only difference is they’re using the dirt instead of a refrigerator.
Speaking of refrigerators, they can also bury their bones in order to preserve them. We humans aren’t the only ones clever enough to think of cooking enough for food for the week. While we have refrigerators or freezers to keep our food fresh, canines only have nature. In the wild, it’s not uncommon for canine hunters to store leftovers for future times of famine. Burying the carcasses of their hunt in the ground is the natural way of them preserving the meat by keeping it out of direct sunlight. Our dogs burying their bones are just doing what came naturally to their ancestors. And sometimes it’s not just bones that they’ll bury. Sometimes our dogs will bury other food items if they’re not hungry or if they think that they’re going to need food at a later date.
And it’s not just food that dogs will bury. Sometimes they will bury non-food items that they deem to be valuable. Digging a hole and putting their “treasures” in the ground is the way that they keep things safe. It’s like the doggie version of a safety deposit box. It’s a place where food won’t spoil or get consumed by non-burrowing insects or other predators. Normally dogs will bury food, but the dogs that do bury non-food items are almost like doggie hoarders who don’t want to part with their stuff.
But digging and burying stuff in the yard isn’t harmful to dogs. It’s a natural instinct. However, it can cause problems in terms of your garden. Your plants or lawn might suffer as a result. Also, digging and burying can only be harmful to your dog if you garden using certain chemicals. But other than that, their actions are just reminders of their long, long ancestral history.