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Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?

Nicole Cosgrove

There are few animal behaviors as well-known and caricatured as dogs burying bones. But while it’s amusing to watch in cartoons, it’s a little more frustrating when it’s happening to your yard.

Whether you’re looking to get your dog’s bone-burying under control or simply want a better understanding of the behavior, we break it all down for you here. It all comes down to their instincts, and once you know why they do it, you can take the first steps toward breaking them of the habit.

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Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?

Burying bones is an instinctual behavior for your dog, and in the wild, it would’ve had numerous advantages for them. For starters, the deeper they could bury bones and carcasses, the longer it would preserve the meat for consumption. This method works in two ways. First, it removes the food from direct sunlight, which helps break down carcasses, and that isn’t good if you’re trying to save it for later. Second, it lowers the temperature, which helps slow down the decomposition process.

parson-russell-terrier on grass with bone
Image Credit: Jeannette1980, Pixabay

The farther down they dig, the cooler it gets. The ground is nature’s refrigerator, and ancient dogs figured out how to use it!

Today’s dogs might not dig holes to achieve maximum food preservation, but those instincts still remain strong. Therefore, they try to dig holes and bury things that they value, and bones are often chief among their favorite things!

Do Dogs Remember Where They Bury Their Bones?

Absolutely! It wouldn’t do a wild dog any good to bury a bone or carcass and forget where they buried it. Just like their instincts drive their desire to bury bones in the first place, it also helps them remember where they buried them after the fact.

Dogs have both spatial and associative memory, and they come in handy when they’re tracking down bones that they buried. Spatial memory enables them to remember exactly where they buried a bone, and associative memory helps jog their memory in case they forget some of the finer details.

black dog wearing dog collar outdoors
Image Credit: susanne906, Pixabay

What Does It Mean When Dogs Bury Their Treats?

There are two reasons that your dog might be burying their treats, and they both refer back to a dog’s instinctual drives. First, dogs bury foods and treats during times of excess. If you give your dog a few too many treats or if they’re simply full when you give one to them, they can bury the treat as a way to save it for later.

Second, sometimes your dog simply thinks that the treat is so good, they want to save some for later! Just like you don’t finish a full pint of ice cream every time you dig in, your dog might want to extend the experience over a longer period.

dog eating bone
Image Credit: Piqsels

How Do I Stop My Dog From Burying Bones?

While there’s no foolproof way to kick the burying and digging habits out of all dogs, one of the best things that you can do is give them plenty of treats, food, and toys. While this might seem counterintuitive because dogs are prone to burying excess stuff, it makes sense when you think about the instinctual side of it.

Dogs developed burying tactics to help hold them over in times of scarcity. If your dog realizes that those times aren’t coming, they don’t feel the need to bury their stuff in the first place!

Of course, this can be a little frustrating because the first thing that you want to do to stop the digging habit is to take away the bone. But if you do, you might be inviting your dog to dig a hole the next time that you give them one!

dog in the grass licking nose
Image Credit: 753204, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

While it can be frustrating when your dog is digging up everything in your backyard to find a place to bury their bone or a favorite toy, at least you have a better understanding of why they’re doing it, so you can take the necessary steps to address it.

Just keep in mind that it’s a deeply ingrained instinct, and your pup’s not doing it just to tick you off! All you can do is try to get your dog comfortable with the fact that you’ll give them plenty of what they’re looking for, and this should help you keep your yard intact throughout the years.


Featured Image Credit: sanjagrujic, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.