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Why Do Dogs Bury Things? Vet-Verified Behavior Explained

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

brown and white dog digging in the sand to bury stick

Why Do Dogs Bury Things? Vet-Verified Behavior Explained


Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo


Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs digging up things in the backyard is pretty much normal canine behavior to most people, so it is to be expected. It often doesn’t get a second thought. But you may also notice your dog burying things as well and wonder why they do this.

After all, it serves them no real benefit as far as domestication is concerned. So it must be instinctual, right? Burying items is an instinctual behavior that a dog’s ancestors use in the wild to protect food and other resources from other animals. In this article, we’ll explore more about burying behavior so you can understand why your dog behaves the way they do.

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Dogs and Burying: What’s the Connection?

Dogs are certainly creatures of habit. Anyone who’s ever owned one can attest to that. If you have a dog that absolutely loves burying things, it might raise a bunch of questions. Not only may you wonder why dogs do this in the first place, but you may want the behavior to end if they’re burying things in your yard or garden.

A dog’s wild ancestors would need to bury food to store it for later and to hide it from other scavengers and animals that could potentially steal their meal. Even though this might not be a conscious thought for a domestic canine, the behavior still exists for the same reason.The truth is that burying behavior is simply primal.

You may see your dog burying their food or treats more often if you have other dogs in the household that this particular dog feels like they are competing with. Or there may be other dogs or animals running loose in the neighborhood that your dog is afraid is going to steal their food or treats if they don’t bury it.

Digging vs. Burying Behavior Differences

dog digging in the backyard
Image Credit: SabbraCadabra, Pixabay

Dogs have to dig first in order to bury something, but some dogs just love to dig and aren’t actually burying anything. In some instances, it’s part of their breed purpose. Many dogs were bred for hunting, which includes all of those cute little critters that burrow in the earth, such as groundhogs, weasels, rabbits, and many others.

Certain dog breeds would find where the animals had burrowed and dig their way through to scare them out or retrieve them for the hunter. So, for many dogs, they just get a whiff of something they want to investigate and dig away.

However, a dog that is actually burying their toys, food, and treats is doing this for a much different reason. Rather than being prey driven, like predatory digging, it is habitual based on a survival need. They want to protect whatever they are burying. So, while the two behaviors are similar, they do differ in intention.

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Creative Ways to Salvage Your Backyard from Your Dog’s Digging

If you’re tired of the damage your dog is doing to your backyard through burying or digging, it’s time to get creative! Below are a few ideas you can utilize to channel your dog’s digging and burying energy.

English beagle burying dog-toy in the sand on the beach
Image Credit: IRINA ORLOVA, Shutterstock

Section Off the Property

You can always section off the property if you have the resources and means. Make a large fenced in area for your dogs to play and completely gate off your garden spaces. This can allow your dog to have freedom while protecting everything you hold dear in your yard.

Make a Dig Zone

If you have a digger on your hands, they would appreciate having a space to bury all of those treasures! You can utilize a couple of YouTube or Pinterest tutorials and make your dog’s very own digging station.

You can fill the area with different toys, treats, bones, and goodies. You can also switch it up so that every day it constantly redirects attention back to their sandbox of fun.

Put Out Pup Deterrents

While this isn’t a surefire way to fix everything, you can put up certain deterrents to navigate your dog around no-no spots. Some people use organic or natural items such as coffee grounds or orange peels to keep canines away.

Others look to chemical measures such as solutions and sprays. Ultimately, the method you use is up to you, just make sure it isn’t toxic to your dog.

white dog standing beside fence
Photo by Hermes Rivera, Unsplash

What Other Animals Bury Things?

If you’ve just noticed some new dig spots in your yard but aren’t sure if it’s from one of your pets, know that dogs aren’t the only animals that bury things. There are plenty of others that do the same. However, the behaviors differ between species and not all animals do this for the same reason.

Other animals that bury food or belongings include:
  • Moles
  • Chipmunks
  • Squirrels
  • Wood mice
  • Wildcats
  • Foxes

Most animals hide food to store it up for a later date. It helps them survive, especially through cold or snowy winter months.

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Now you understand a little bit more about why dogs bury their belongings. Whether it be food or treats, it seems that some dogs bury items more than others. If the burying behavior is becoming problematic, you can get creative on ways to protect your yard space while allowing your dog to explore their natural instincts.

Featured Image Credit: Oleksandr Horbach, Unsplash

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