Have you ever wondered why a dog takes a nice clean bone with a hearty, meaty smell and proceeds to bury it in the dirt?
We humans look at it and tend to think, “what a waste!” The ironic thing is that the dog is burying the bone to avoid waste.
The act of burying a bone is one of natural instinct. Long before dogs were domesticated into pets, they buried bones and other objects as a means of fending off hunger and starvation. The act is one of survival and dogs have used it for millions of years.
In the days before man served up a heaping bowl of kibble, dogs had to hunt for their own food. Life was far from being a picnic. Dogs roamed the land in packs and hunted daily for food to eat. Once the pack scored a kill, the dogs still had to compete with others in the group for his or her share of the bounty. They quickly learned the value of a good meal.
Wild dogs had to sometimes go for days without food when prey was scarce. When they finally did find prey and were successful at killing it, they learned to bury their food to insure that there would be something to sustain them until the next prey was killed.
Dogs that had to survive on their own quickly learned not to waste food. When the pack killed more prey than was needed, they would gather and bury the dead prey near their lair. One might say that canines were natural hoarders. In fact, dogs became very good at hoarding food because they had to in order to survive.
When food was scarce, the dogs dug up the buried bounty and used it to sustain them until more food came along. Even if there was no meat, the bones provided something to gnaw on to kill the pangs of hunger and the nutrients found in the bone marrow sustained the dogs until more prey came along.
The burying instinct, which is often referred to as hoarding, has never completely left domesticated dogs. That is why some dogs will immediately bury a bone or a treat despite being fed on a regular basis. They are just following their natural instincts.
The hoarding instinct goes beyond food. Dogs will often bury their favorite toys. Some will even loot their owner’s things and bury some of them for safekeeping. Almost all dogs show some instinct to hoard. Some are just more compulsive about it than others. That is why you may find your missing socks or bits of kibble in the dog’s bed.
For some dogs, burying bones and toys appears to be a source of fun and entertainment. If the dog isn’t causing damage to the yard by digging holes all over the place, consider letting him or her have their fun. It will keep the dog busy and a content dog is a happy dog.