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Why do dogs bury bones?

Updated on March 2, 2011

The progenitors’ legacy

The act of burying bones is an inherent behavior that was handed down by ancient dogs to the present day dogs. Wolves are known to return to the place where they have feasted on a large prey to finish it off. Oftentimes though, other predators have found the unfinished prey and nothing was left for the wolves to feed on. Jackals, hyenas and especially vultures can’t keep away from others’ “dining table”. Burying food and bones arises from the need to hide food from other predators. Wild dogs need to survive and being intelligent creatures they have learned that burying food and bones will ensure that they will have food to dig up when they need to.

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Saving the leftovers

Probably the reason why dogs bury bones is the same as the reason why humans save leftover thanksgiving turkey in the fridge. A turkey sandwich is certainly yummy. Dogs have this penchant for gnawing bones. And why not? Aside from the fact the bone marrow is vey nutritious, nibbling bones cleans the dog’s teeth.

Dogs in the wilds bury prey that they have not finished eating in one sitting. Food is hard to come by in the wilds. An unfinished prey that is left uncovered will be swarmed by other predators in no time. Dogs are very intelligent creatures. They have learned to hide excess food to ensure that they will not starve if they were unable to find prey. The buried bones are considered as saved food and future meals that can be used in an emergency.

Hoarding and caching

Finding an adequate and steady supply of food is one of the main concerns of dogs in the wilds. There a times when prey is plentiful. Likewise there are also times when prey is hard to find. We humans save in the bank to take care of our future needs, animals do this too. Caching or hoarding food and bones ensures that the dog will not starve during the rainy days.

The Modern day dog

Modern day dogs no longer need to provide for their own food. Doggie bowls are always filled with food during meal times. Still it would not be uncommon to see a dog digging and hiding a bone. The dog may dig skillfully but expertly covering the hole is not in their forte. Old habits die hard. The dog may no longer feel threatened by food scarcity but they will still give in to the inherent trait of burying their “treasure”. If a pet dog is indiscriminately digging here and there, burying bones, toys and even your things, the dog may be telling you something. You are probably giving your pet too much food or the dog just wants to get your attention. What do you think?

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