Why Do Dogs Bury Bones: The Answer Might Surprise You

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Imagine stepping into your backyard and witnessing your furry friend engaged in a mysterious ritual: burying a bone with utmost focus and determination. As a dog owner, you might find yourself wondering what drives this fascinating behavior. Why do dogs, our beloved domestic companions, exhibit such primal instincts? In this article, we will embark on a journey to uncover the secrets behind why dogs bury bones.
By understanding this innate behavior, we can strengthen the bond with our four-legged friends and ensure their emotional well-being.

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I. The Origins of the Behavior

From Wolves to Domesticated Pets

Dogs have come a long way from their wolf ancestors. In the wild, wolves would bury excess food to preserve it for times of scarcity. This survival strategy ensured they had access to sustenance when hunting was scarce. As dogs evolved alongside humans, this instinctual behavior persisted and adapted to fit their new domestic environment.

The Ancestral Need for Storing Food

In the wild, food was not always abundant, and wolves had to hunt and scavenge for their meals. Burying food served as a way to protect it from scavengers and keep it fresh for later consumption. This primal need for food preservation is deeply ingrained in the genetic makeup of modern-day dogs.

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Adapting Instincts to Domestic Life

Through domestication, dogs have developed a unique bond with humans, and their instincts have adapted accordingly. While their ancestors had to fend for themselves, domesticated dogs rely on their human companions for food. However, the instinct to bury bones has not vanished entirely, as it is deeply embedded in their nature.

The Psychology Behind Burying Behavior

At the core of this behavior lies a complex psychological motivation. Burying bones not only preserves food but also satisfies an innate emotional need for security. Understanding these intrinsic motives is crucial to comprehending the significance of bone burying in a dog’s life.

II. Reasons Why Dogs Bury Bones

Instinctual Survival Mechanism

In the wild, food was a valuable and scarce resource. By burying bones, dogs could create hidden caches of food, ensuring they had sustenance during lean times. This instinctual behavior is a remnant of their ancestors’ adaptive strategies and continues to be present in modern dogs.

Territorial Behavior

Burying bones also serves as a way for dogs to mark their territory and establish ownership. By burying bones in specific locations, they are essentially staking their claim, sending a message to other animals that the area is theirs.

Emotional Security

In addition to survival and territorial considerations, burying bones provides dogs with emotional security. Just like humans find comfort in familiar environments, dogs take solace in having a secret stash of their possessions. This behavior can help reduce stress and anxiety, providing them with a sense of control over their resources.

Hiding from Competitors

In the wild, dogs and their ancestors had to compete with other animals for resources. Burying bones helped them keep their prized possessions away from potential rivals, ensuring that they wouldn’t lose their hard-earned food.

III. Environmental and Genetic Influences

Breed Tendencies

Certain dog breeds may exhibit burying behavior more prominently than others. For instance, breeds with a strong hunting instinct or those historically bred for guarding purposes may be more inclined to bury bones. However, individual variation exists within each breed, and not all members will demonstrate this behavior.

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The Impact of Domestication

Living in close proximity to humans has undoubtedly influenced canine behavior. As dogs adapted to living with humans, their survival instincts, including bone burying, may have been modified. Nonetheless, it remains an intriguing aspect of their behavior that harkens back to their ancestral roots.

Environmental Factors

The living environment can also influence burying habits. Dogs with access to outdoor spaces may be more likely to engage in this behavior, as they have the opportunity to dig and hide objects. Understanding how environmental factors affect this behavior can help owners provide suitable alternatives for their dogs.

IV. Observing and Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior

Recognizing the Signs

To better understand your dog’s behavior, it’s essential to recognize the signs of bone burying. Watch for moments when your dog becomes possessive over toys or treats, starts digging or scratching the ground, and exhibits repetitive burying behavior.

Creating a Safe Space

Allowing your dog to express their natural instincts is important for their emotional well-being. Create a designated area where they can bury their bones without causing damage or inconvenience. Providing a sandbox or a designated digging spot can satisfy their burying needs.

The Role of Play

Interactive play with your dog can be a great way to engage their instincts and prevent boredom. Offering toys that encourage burying or hiding treats in puzzle toys can provide an outlet for their natural behaviors.

Interpreting Body Language

Understanding your dog’s body language is crucial in strengthening your bond and addressing their needs. Pay attention to their posture, facial expressions, and vocalizations to better comprehend their emotions and intentions.

V. The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Burying Behavior

Acceptance and Tolerance

Accepting and respecting your dog’s natural instincts is essential for building a strong and trusting relationship. Avoid scolding or punishing them for burying bones, as this may lead to confusion and anxiety.

Safety Concerns

While bone burying is normal behavior, it’s essential to ensure that your dog doesn’t bury dangerous objects or toxic substances. Supervise their playtime and provide them with appropriate bones or toys for burying.

When to Intervene

In most cases, bone burying is harmless and natural. However, if your dog becomes obsessive or aggressive over their buried items, seeking the assistance of a professional dog trainer or veterinarian may be necessary.

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VI. Burying vs. Hoarding: Understanding the Difference

Defining Hoarding Behavior

Hoarding behavior is characterized by excessive collecting and guarding of various objects, often with no real need for them. Unlike burying, hoarding may indicate underlying anxiety or compulsive tendencies.

Comparing Similarities and Distinctions

While both behaviors involve hiding and protecting items, hoarding is typically indiscriminate and not driven by survival instincts. Burying, on the other hand, has roots in survival and emotional security.

VII. Common Myths and Misconceptions

Myth #1: Dogs Bury Bones to Save Them for Later

Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t bury bones to store them for future consumption. Instead, it’s a behavior inherited from their ancestors as a means of survival and resource preservation.

Myth #2: Burying Bones Means They Are Hungry

Dogs bury bones for various reasons, and hunger is just one of them. It’s essential to provide your dog with a balanced and nutritious diet to address any actual hunger issues.

Myth #3: Only Certain Breeds Bury Bones

While certain breeds may be more prone to burying behavior, it’s not exclusive to specific breeds. All dogs, regardless of breed, can exhibit this instinctual behavior.

Debunking Misconceptions with Scientific Evidence

Understanding the science behind this behavior helps dispel misconceptions and allows us to better care for our canine companions.

VIII. Encouraging and Discouraging Burying Behavior

Providing Alternatives

Offering appropriate toys and chews can redirect your dog’s burying tendencies. Providing items specifically designed for burying can satisfy their instincts without causing harm.

Positive Reinforcement

When your dog displays appropriate burying behavior, praise and reward them. Positive reinforcement encourages them to engage in acceptable behaviors.

Distracting from Unwanted Behavior

If your dog buries items you’d rather they didn’t gently redirect their attention to a suitable alternative, such as a toy or treat.

IX. Real-Life Examples and Anecdotes

Reader-Submitted Stories

Heartwarming tales of dogs and their buried treasures showcase the uniqueness of canine behavior and the special bond shared between dogs and their owners.

Famous Canines in History

Notable dogs known for their burying habits offer insight into how this behavior has been observed and appreciated over time.


Understanding why dogs bury bones takes us on a journey through their ancestry and survival instincts. This behavior is a testament to their deep-rooted connection with their wild predecessors, as well as a reflection of their emotional needs. By appreciating and accommodating this instinctual behavior, we can foster a stronger bond with our canine companions and enrich their lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it okay to let my dog bury bones in the backyard?

A: Yes, allowing your dog to bury bones in a designated area of the backyard can be a natural and enriching experience for them. Just ensure they’re not burying harmful objects or disturbing essential structures.

Q: Why does my dog bury bones indoors?

A: Dogs may bury bones indoors due to various reasons, such as seeking a secure hiding spot or feeling anxious. Providing suitable alternatives and enriching their environment can help address this behavior.

Q: Should I stop my dog from burying bones altogether?

A: Burying bones is a normal and instinctual behavior for dogs. Instead of stopping them, provide appropriate outlets for their burying tendencies to keep them mentally stimulated.

Q: How do I prevent my dog from hoarding objects?

A: Hoarding behavior may require professional intervention. Seek advice from a certified dog behaviorist or veterinarian to address any potential underlying anxiety or compulsive tendencies.

Q: Are there certain breeds more prone to burying bones?

A: While certain breeds may have a higher predisposition to burying behavior due to their ancestral roles, all dogs can exhibit this behavior. Individual variation exists within each breed.

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