By Josh Weiss-Roessler
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
Generations ago, when dogs 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’s 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 dogs bury things now that they’re domesticated?
Obviously, your dog doesn’t have to worry about going hungry. So why does she still bury things? A number of reasons:
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 that natural urge they have 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.
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 shoes or TV remotes.
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. If you have trouble stopping your dog from burying things outside, talk to your vet. Why? Because the chemicals that many of us use in our backyards can be a health hazard that gives her diarrhea or an upset stomach.
What’s the strangest thing your dog every buried? Tell us in the comments!