Skip to main content

Why do dogs bury bones? Is it normal and should you let them?

Why do dogs bury bones
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's an age-old cliché, but why do dogs bury bones? Do they even actually do it, or is it just something that has been canonized by cartoons and other forms of media like cats drinking milk? Don't worry, we've got all the answers you'll need right here.

If you've already given your pup the best dog chew toys and are looking into what kinds of bones are good options for your dog, you'll want to know why dogs bury bones and if it's something you should let them do or nip in the bud. 

It's also important to ask can dogs eat bones, so that you know whether or not you should be closely supervising your pup during a bone-chewing sesh. 

So let's get down to the facts here, and get some answers to the eternal question: why do dogs bury bones?

Why do dogs bury bones?

Dogs burying bones is "a type of food caching," which is storing available food supplies so that they can access them later. 

Food caching is very common amongst mammals and birds, and dogs' ancestors (gray wolves) did this as well, hence why domesticated dogs still have that instinct. 

Wolves are known as "scatter hoarders", which means they'll spread out their leftover food in hideaways that are rather far apart. Even wolf puppies do this and will move their food caches to different spaces to keep away from their siblings. 

But dogs today don't need to store food, since they have their loving humans to provide them with more than enough. 

However, the instinct may still remain - and sometimes it doesn't even have to do with food, as they may bury cherished objects so they can play with them later. Sometimes, bored dogs will do this to keep themselves occupied, or excessive burying could be a sign of an anxiety issue

If you notice your dog suddenly burying bones and/or other objects, you may want to reach out to your vet or a behaviorist to make sure everything is okay.

Should I let my dog bury bones? 

Well first off, let's make something super clear: you should not give your dog animal bones of any kind. Chicken bones or any other bones from leftover food are not safe for your dog as they can splinter and puncture your dog's insides. However, if you are giving them dog-safe bones, should you let them bury them?

First off, ask yourself if you want your dog digging holes in your yard. If not, you may want to try and train them out of that behavior early on. If your dog buries a bone and forgets about it, it could potentially freeze underground and cause them to chip its teeth.

If you don't mind a little upturned earth, then let your dog bury away, but double-check with your vet to make sure it's safe.

Why do dogs bury bones

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do dogs remember where they bury their bones? 

It's not so much that dogs remember where they bury their bones, but that they can smell where they've buried them. With a sense of smell that is 10,000 to 100,000 times as strong as ours, your dog can easily smell where they've buried a bone, treat, or toy. 

But dogs also have spatial memories, which help them learn things like the layout of your house or their favorite place to visit. 

They'll use their spatial memory to remember places they have associated with good or bad memories, so a bone hiding spot will be remembered as a "good" place (whereas the vet may be a "bad" place). 

What dog breeds bury their bones? 

Certain dog breeds are more prone to digging and burying than others. Breeds like Terriers, Dachshunds, Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Miniature Schnauzers. 

Since many terrier breeds were bred to chase and hunt small game (which requires digging), they are inherently prone to digging and searching. 

Breeds that dig more might therefore be more interested in burying - since they've made the hole, they might as well fill it with a bone or a toy. 

Summary 

Dogs bury bones because of an instinct that descends from their ancestors. They want to hoard their favorite things so that they can revisit them later, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. 

Make sure that your dog hasn't suddenly started burying things, however, as this could be a sign of an underlying issue. 

If you don't want holes in your yard and have a dog breed that is prone to digging, you may want to work on behavioral training to try and discourage the dig. And remember, never give your dog real animal bones - these are not safe!