Dog Science Series: Why Do Dogs Bury Their Toys and Treats?

Domestic dogs are more than just faithful companions. They have social lives, daily habits and dog behaviors, and a level of complexity that often goes overlooked by their human counterparts. Take a minute to watch your pooch, and you'll see just how busy they can be.

Not all activity is good activity, however. Have you ever had your canine companion take a dog toy, chew toy, dog food, or even the TV remote and bury it in the couch cushions? Behaviors like these are at best a fun game that's entertaining to watch, and aggravating at worst. Today we're going to look at the reasons that domestic dogs engage in hoarding behavior, burying their kibble and toys around the house or even the backyard.

Latent Survival Instincts

Why do dogs bury bones? The number one reason is because it's in the dog's natural instinct to do so.

Domestic dogs are creatures of habit just like their wild ancestors were. Wild dogs are more scavengers than they are hunters. The canine brain is hard-wired to survive at all costs. That means finding the next meal wherever they can.

To help ease the burden of hunting and scavenging, both domestic and wild dogs know to store food. Like squirrels preparing for the winter harvest, dogs hide food, bones, and objects of value close to where they live for easy access in a pinch.

Burying Things is Nature's Refrigerator!

There's a secondary instinctually driven reason that dogs, especially the wild variants, feel a need to bury food and bones in the ground. Dogs dig into the dirt because the earth is generally cool and moist below the surface. The ground acts as nature's refrigerator, helping to preserve meat and sustain the pack through trying times.

While domestic dogs don't always have to contend with the same level of food scarcity, they've adapted nonetheless. Their DNA compels them to bury food in a safe place that's cool and private as well.

It's in the Dog Breeds' Nature

Some breeds are just hardwired to dig. Think dachshunds and terriers. Do dogs of this type dig compulsively and often? Absolutely. With dog breeds like this, their digging and burying is par for the course. Pet parents don't need to be concerned because with these breeds in particular, digging behaviors are a sign of a healthy, well-adjusted animal. The action of digging isn't a point of concern. They are working animals, and this is in their natural instincts to do.

Anxiety and Stress

Do dogs always bury chew toys and kibble for positive reasons, or is it sometimes due to behavioral issues? The short answer is "Yes."

Dog behaviors are a complex thing. Sometimes they are born out of excitement or instinct. Other times they are due to stress and anxiety. If your pooch suddenly starts exhibiting compulsive digging and hoarding behavior, chances are there is a new environmental stressor causing them to act out. Pay special attention to changes in your household, your OWN behavior, and the way you approach your fuzzy friend. If the problem continues, don't hesitate to seek out a professional dog trainer or canine behaviorist for help.

Lack of Mental Stimulation

Ask any dog owner and they'll tell you the secret to a happy pooch: frequent walks and opportunities for exercise and play.

Canine companions thrive when there are fun games to occupy their attention. Fetch, puzzle toys, and agility training all play a role in a healthy, well-adjusted animal. If your pooch pal isn't getting enough mental stimulation, however, they can start to show negative behaviors such as hoarding and/ or resource guarding. Why do dogs bury their bones? Check to make sure your pal is adequately exercised.

Unaddressed Issues With the Dog's Health

While we've already covered stressed and anxious canines, sometimes dogs who bury bones are a sign of something deeper. In very rare cases, the anxiety and frustration is a direct result of an underlying and unaddressed health concern.

If your furry friend seems extra agitated and behavioral while savaging the couch cushions and hiding their chew toys, it could be a pain response. Consider taking pooch to the vet to find out if something more concerning is going on with them.

You're Overfeeding Your Pet

So your doggy has begun burying their kibble and other treats in safe locations around the house. You've gone through the checklist above trying to figure out why. Your dog is:

  • In good health
  • Happy
  • Getting enough mental stimulation and exercise
  • Has no perceivable source of anxiety in their environment

So what gives? Why do dogs that are happy go to the trouble of burying their food? The answer is hiding in plain sight.

Dogs that hide kibble, treats, and bones may simply be storing it for later because…you are overfeeding them. Many dog owners overestimate just how much their doggy's stomach can actually hold. Here's a pro tip: it's less than you think.

Domestic canines tend to be more sedentary than their wild counterparts. Moderate the amount of food you give Fido, otherwise, they may go running to the couch cushions to create a stockpile for later.

It's Just Plain Fun!

At the end of the day, dogs are a lot like their owners in many ways. There's a time to work and a time to play. While it's easy to think, "Do Dogs who bury bones and chew toys have anxiety issues?" but sometimes life is more simple than that. For many pets, burying items in the couch cushions is nothing more than a fun game. The best thing you can do? Let them have their fun.

FAQs:

Why can't I stop my dog from burying my things?

Dogs are creatures of habit. They bury things for many reasons, but almost all of them involve a natural instinct to do so.

Why do dogs bury their toys in blankets?

Wild dogs often store up food and other valuables in safe place underground. Domestic animals simulate digging in the earth using blankets and couch cushions.

Why is my dog burying his favorite toy?

There could be a number of reasons. Safekeeping. Instinct. Anxiety. Bear in mind, that it's not always a negative behavior but consult your vet nonetheless if you have any concerns.

Looking for a new chew toy for your canine companion to bury? Check out the stock and educational resources at Animals Matter, Inc.

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