My puppy Pony was four months old. She could not finish her treat of a pig’s ear. She took off from our home and tried to dig in the hard-packed earth near the river Avon. She whined so much that I got a shovel and dug a hole for her. Her instinct was to bury her remaining treat. This instinct was more powerful than my ability to ignore Pony’s whines.
Why do dogs bury bones or other treats? Granted, not all dogs will bury their food but the vast majority will. Dogs bury their treats for a variety of reasons.
Saving It For Later
Dogs have only been house pets for the last couple of centuries. Before that, they often had to rustle up their own grub. Before dogs were domesticated, they had to search far and wide for food. The prevailing theory is that the garbage heaps made by humans is what attracted dogs to people in the first place.
Getting fed regularly does not happen in the wild. Dogs, wolves and other canids regularly store food for later consumption. This is called caching. Many animals store food for later in random places, such as squirrels burying acorns to get through winter. Burying the bone or other treat hides it from others. The soil also acts as a natural refrigerator.
It’s So Much Fun!
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes that some dogs will repeatedly bury, unbury and re-bury cherished items. Since modern dogs have been freed to find their own food, they get bored easily. Digging provides a form of entertainment.
Dogs that are most inclined to develop a digging habit are terriers. “Terrier” derived from the Latin word for earth, “terra” which is a nod to their digging habits. Terriers were bred to dig and hunt ground-dwelling creatures like badgers and rats. To discourage a digging habit in terriers, don’t overfeed your dog and give him plenty of exercise. A tired terrier is a good terrier.
Does Not Like It
Most dogs are not picky eaters but some are as finicky as Morris the Cat. Some dogs will bury their food in an attempt to hide it to show they want to eat something else. If the dogs are fed indoors, they may “bury” the food in furniture, rugs or indoor plants to get rid of the food, points out Why Do Dogs Like Balls?:More Than 200 Canine Quirks, Curiosities and Conundrums Revealed (Sterling Publishing Company; 2008.)
Dogs that do like their food and are stuck indoors wll try to bury their treats in bedding, pushing treats down between couch cushions and behind furniture. The instinct to bury bones and other food is so strong that dogs are driven to stash the food, even if there is no ground available to bury it in.