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Why Do Dogs Bury Their Food? Reasons & What to Do

Written by: Chelsea Mortensen

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

small dog digging

Why Do Dogs Bury Their Food? Reasons & What to Do

Have you ever seen your dog try to bury his food? Maybe he takes a treat and runs to the backyard or drags a food bowl over to somewhere where he can dig. This behavior might be baffling on the surface, but it is quite common. Food burying is a behavior from your dog’s wild ancestors who had to guard every meal against competitors. Today, your dog might not need to bury food, but he could still be responding to those same impulses.

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The 2 Reasons Why Dogs Bury Their Food

1. Instinctive Burying

For many dogs, burying things that they treasure isn’t a sign of a problem. It might even be a source of pleasure. For them, burying is pure instinct. In the wild, wolves often bury their kills so that nothing else can get to them. Burying food also helps preserve it because the ground helps regulate temperature, cooling it down. Now, digging holes lights up some of the same parts of the brain for modern dogs, so they might still want to bury leftovers. This is pretty harmless behavior, but it can be annoying.

2. Anxiety and Hoarding Behaviors

On the other hand, some dogs start burying food because of anxiety or stress. Just like their wild ancestors buried food to keep it safe until the next meal, your dog might not feel secure and want to have a backup cache of food. This is common in dogs who have been abused or neglected in the past. It can also be a response to introducing a new pet to the home. You should start being concerned about burying food when it is accompanied by aggression and other poor behaviors around food.

dog digging in the backyard
Image by: SabbraCadabra, Pixabay

How Should I Respond to My Dog Burying Food?

If you want to stop your dog from burying food, there are a few different approaches. If your dog seems to be burying leftovers by instinct, you might be feeding him too much. Feeding him less or exercising right before feeding will help curb the behavior, along with some behavior training. Consider giving your dog toys or rawhide chews to bury instead.

If your dog is hoarding food because of stress, that approach won’t work. In fact, reducing meal sizes will probably worsen your dog’s anxiety. Instead, work to overcome anxiety about food and reduce stressors. Working with a trainer can help you help your dog.

No matter the cause, you can also change your environment to make burying harder. Feed your dog in a place where they don’t have access to soft dirt. If your dog likes to drag his food bowl around, switch to a heavier bowl.

man training his vizsla dog
Image by: ABO PHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock

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Food burying isn’t always a cause for concern, but it can be frustrating. The good news is that it is often a fairly easy fix. Training and environmental changes can help your dog get the nutrition he needs and not feel the need to bury food. And even though the behavior seems strange, it’s quite understandable—after all, we all feel more comfortable when we have resources on hand for a rainy day.

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Featured Image Credit: freestocks-photos, Pixabay

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