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It’s the source of numerous funny youtube clips, and the reason for many dog owners’ despair as they look at their once gorgeous lawn.
So while lots of us work hard to train this habit out of dogs, the fact remains they love to bury their bones! But have you ever asked yourself: Why do dogs bury bones?
Is it in The Genes?
According to Dr. Wailani Sung, even though our beloved domestic pets are a long way from their wild ancestors, their survival instincts are still there and have been inherited from generations ago.
With predecessors like wolves, domestic dogs have some very strong genes that will still influence the behavior of even the calmest and most caring pet.
Wild dogs buried food when it was plentiful and easy to find, so they had somewhere to return to if times got tough. The survival instinct to store and find safe-keeping for food can also be seen in many other wild animals such as squirrels, who hide and store their nuts ready for the winter months.
Pack mentality also plays a key role in this behavior – when wild dogs successfully caught a large animal, it wasn’t just other predatory animals they had to fight off, it was also the other dogs in their pack.
Domestic dogs will often bury favorite bones in the same area of a garden for this reason too. Historically, wild dogs would bury food close to their dens so they could easily monitor and find it again.
Why Don’t They Just Hide it Above Ground?
There are two main reasons why scientists believe dogs choose to bury their bones in the dirt, rather than just hide them in the garden or house:
It Masks the Smell
If other dogs or animals can’t smell where food or treats are hidden, there is no chance of them stealing it while your dog is busy doing something else. Burying bones well means they’re stored safely for whenever they return.
This is something that can also be seen fairly prominently in households with more than one dog – sharing isn’t something most dogs enjoy, so if you give them a treat, they’ll want to keep it to themselves.
Dirt Can Keep Food Cool
A dog’s survival instincts are stronger than you might realize; They are aware that food will rot over time, especially in the heat.
Yes, this isn’t the same situation with bones, but when your dog buries a bone, the desire to keep it fresh and edible for when they get the chance to return is still very strong.
You may find this behavior is more common if you’re feeding your dog too much. The instinctive fear that the food may run out will mean they choose to bury items once they‘ve had enough to eat, so they have a nice stock just in case!
But It’s a Dog’s Life!
Don’t worry, having a dog that keeps burying bones doesn’t mean people will think you aren’t feeding them enough. The fact is, you can feed your dog plenty and make sure they have all the attention in the world, but the instinct for them to bury will still be in the back of their minds.
Remember that burying could actually mean you’re slightly over feeding your dog, as they may be hiding ‘spare’ food to come back to later.
If your dog is making a particular mess of your garden, there are ways for you to train your dog to help them stop this habit, but don’t be concerned about the behavior in itself, it really is the most natural behavior for your dog to display.
It’s all Fun and Games
Another reason many dogs like to bury bones, is quite simply because it is fun! I
f your dog becomes bored or gets lonely while you’re out or at work, digging and burying things is one way they might try burn off some excess energy, or to occupy their minds.
If you think attention seeking may be an issue leading to bone burying for your dog, be warned it might not be just their bones they are burying.
Clever dogs will start to notice what items are precious to you, and may see burying it as a chance to get you to come outside and ‘join in’ with their game.
So, can you stop your dog from burying bones? Yes. With good training, you can stop any behavior you feel disruptive or destructive in your home.
Natural instincts are very strong, but it’s possible to teach your dog that there is no need to bury and hide bones.
The main thing to remember, though, is to be patient with your dog, and don’t worry when you start noticing them burying bones in the garden. To them, it simply is the most natural behavior in the world.