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Why do Dogs Bury Things?

Updated on November 27, 2016

I always thought dogs burying bones only happened in cartoons until we had a second dog. He takes treats, toys and food outside, digs a hole and buries it, digging with his paws and filling in the hole by pushing the soil back with his nose. I have yet to see anything dug back up, the yard must be full of buried treats just waiting to be discovered. Why he does it and not the other dog baffles me. If I give them a chewy bone, he races straight to the door to take it outside while the other dog gets right on with the task of chewing that treat. Is it to do with a specific breed? Why does he do this?

Dog Digging


Why do Dogs Dig and Bury Things?

The reason some dogs dig holes and bury things is part of their natural instinct. Prior to domestication dogs were hunters and scavengers. In order to survive they would need to source and store their own food. This way of living meant that regular food was not guaranteed. If the food they found was too much for one meal they would need to store and preserve the remains for a later meal. Burying it would keep it safe from other hunters and animals who would eat from the carcass and make it harder for them to smell the saved food. By keeping it away from the sun and bugs would also preserve the meat for longer than if left above ground.

Burying food like this would also ensure that the stored food was available when there was a shortage. The food could be dug up and eaten when needed.

Dog behavior- a useful guide to figuring out those puzzling behaviors.

Not Just Outside

Todays dogs don't have the need to bury food to save for later. Their digging has evolved with their environment to include burying objects down the back of sofas and in laundry piles and places around the home.

Sometimes the items do not have anything to do food or even toys, if your dog takes a liking to something it will take it to bury and hide for later. Their bed, the laundry basket or under chairs become great places to hide.

Terriers Typically Like to Dig


Which Breeds are More Likely to Dig?

All breeds of dogs have the potential to be diggers whatever the breed or mix of breeds they are. However some breeds have been historically breed for their digging ability.

Terriers - several types of terriers have been traditionally bred to chase and catch earth dwelling creatures. Russell and Yorkshire Terries are typical examples.

Dachshunds- their size and short legs make them perfect diggers.

Whippets - bred for speed

Hounds - such as beagles bred to 'sniff' out and dig for ground dwelling animals.

Hole dug because of an unidentified smell

Difference between Digging and Burying Things

Some dogs do not dig for the purpose of burying. Smell is one of a dogs more prominent senses and an interesting smell could cause a dog to dig. The smell of an earth dwelling animal or food buried by another animal might be too tempting to resist and a quick dig to find the source of the smell may well be irresistible.

Other dogs are escape artists and continuously try to dig their way out of enclosures to get out and explore. Digging under a fence or barrier is often the easiest way to freedom, as well as a way to get to an owner if separation anxiety is present.

What Can you do to Discourage Digging?

Limiting the amount of treats and toys your dog has will help towards deterring their hording and burying. If you keep toys that are not being used put away and ensure you are providing the needed interaction and exercise time the dog will be less likely to dig.

If your dog is a digger building a specific digging area or sand pit will help to deter digging in non desirable locations. Fencing off other areas will limit their access to the places you want left alone.

Limit the items you allow your dog to take outdoors. If a half chewed treat is carried to the door retrieve it and put it aside for a later time.

Some animal owners believe that neutered dogs are less likely to try to dig their way out of enclosure.

Reasons Modern Dogs Bury Things

A Game
They have too much to eat

Reasons Dogs Might Dig

Reasons for Digging
smell earth dwelling animals
smell buried food
separation anxiety
to bury food/a toy
escape under a fence or barrier

Does Your Dog Bury Things?

Does your dog bury things?

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