Dogs like to bury things. Sometimes that means finding a bone or a toy under a fresh pile of dirt in your backyard. Other times, it may mean discovering the TV remote at the bottom of the laundry basket under all your dirty clothes, or wondering how your phone got under the couch cushion.

Though these things may seem different, they are all really signs of the same thing: your dog’s natural instinct to keep “his” things safe and protected — regardless of whether or not they’re actually his. Why do dogs do this?

Short answer: because it used to be necessary for their survival.

Wild Dogs and Hidden Treasures

A wolf burying a bone in the snow.

Generations ago, when dogs’ wild ancestors roamed the wild in packs, they had to hunt for their food. It often took a lot of time and energy to catch and kill something, and then as soon as they managed to do that, other animals would be after it if they smelled the meat. And, of course, there were also occasions where a hunt might have gone too well and the dog simply wasn’t able to finish his entire meal. What was the solution to both problems? Bury the food.

By burying carcasses and bones, dogs were essentially creating natural refrigerators for them. The dirt prevented other creatures from smelling and finding their bounty, maintained freshness longer by keeping away sunlight, and also “marinated” the food with the tastes of the earth. Yum.

Why Do Domestic Dogs Bury Things Now?

A small brown and white dog digs a hole in the grass to bury his toy.

Obviously, your dog doesn’t have to worry about going hungry. So why does she still bury things? A number of reasons:

It’s a Dog’s Natural Instinct

Even if you know that your dog is never going to have to worry about food, and even if you’ve been feeding them every day for years, that doesn’t remove a dog’s urge to ensure their future needs by squirreling things away for later. 

You’re Giving Them Too Much

The other side of the instinct to bury things has nothing to do with fear of starvation or protecting their food from predators. If you’re overly generous with your pooch in terms of toys or treats, burying them is a way for them to say “Cool! I’ll save this.”

Sometimes they may even want to bury items because they’re too good for them to eat all at once — they want to save them so they can enjoy them again later.

Burying tasty things, for dogs, is a way of keeping food fresher longer, rather than letting it sit out where it could go bad or get stolen by wild animals or other dogs!

It’s a Game

If your dog is bored, lonely, or simply wants to get your attention, it’s not uncommon for them to bury things to get you to “play” with them. Often, these stolen items will be shiny things like jewelry or watches, or objects they know are “valuable” to you, like a shoes or TV remote.

The best way to curb this urge to bury things is to minimize your dog’s access to the objects they covet and rotate toys to provide variety.

From Wild to Tame: What Dogs Bury Today

A golden retriever digs a hole to bury something in the yard.

A dog’s burying behavior, as we’ve discussed, stems from a natural urge to bury their food. Domesticated dogs tend to bury a few specific things, including: 

Bones

A dog burying bones is a classic image, and it’s something that many modern dogs actually do. Dogs will bury bones to save the bone and any leftover meat for their next meal, or they might bury bones to keep them from other pets.

Their Food

Whether they’ve had too much to eat or want to make sure they have enough for when they’re hungry later, your dog might bury their food to keep it safe and fresh. Burying food can be a good sign that you’re overfeeding your dog.

Their Favorite Toys

In general, dogs will bury items to preserve them. The same is true for when they bury toys. You might find that your dog buries older toys that they have gotten attached to. This is often because they want to keep their favorite chew toy safe!

How to Discourage Your Dog from Burying Things

A husky digging up sand on the beach.

Even though burying behavior is natural, that doesn’t change the fact that constant digging can destroy your yard and be indicative of anxiety or compulsion. Many dogs may bury things on occasion, but when it becomes a habit, dog owners are more inclined to put a stop to it.

If you want your dog to stop digging holes to hide things in your yard, here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you’re not over-feeding your dog 
  • Limit the number of toys they have access to
  • Regularly rotate the toys you make available to your pup
  • Give them attention by playing with and walking them 

You can also hire a dog trainer to assist with obedience training if your dog continues to dig and bury bones or food.

If you have trouble stopping your dog from burying things outside, you may want to talk to your vet. Why?The chemicals that many of us use in our backyards can be a health hazard that gives her diarrhea or an upset stomach.

Why Do Dogs Bury Bones and How Do You Stop Them?

A dog lying on the kitchen floor with a bone.

The reason your furry friend likes to bury treats, food, toys, and more in your backyard is surprisingly simple: it’s in their DNA! While this behavior isn’t exactly necessary these days, most dogs can’t shake the instinct to hide their favorite things underground.

If your dog is tearing up your yard and burying things, you should evaluate how much food you give them and how much time you spend playing with them. Make sure they get plenty of exercise and have a few toys to choose from at a time. And if that doesn’t work, contact a dog trainer or your vet to see what you should do next.

What’s the strangest thing your dog ever buried? Tell us in the comments!


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