Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?

Kelly Roper
Dog digging

Why do dogs bury bones? The answer is as old as canine history.

Why Do Dogs Bury Bones in the Ground?

You've seen it on television and probably in your own backyard. Hey, even Dino did it on the Flintstones and he was just a cartoon dog.

A dog gets a bone and immediately begins hunting out the perfect hiding spot. When he finds his chosen locale, he begins digging frantically until he's created a decent sized hole. Then he drops his treasure in, and covers it up without taking the time to truly enjoy it.

Burying bones is one of the canine world's more peculiar behaviors, at least on the surface. To understand why, we need to look back into their history.

Canine Behavior

Nearly all of the behaviors dogs display today are rooted in their past. Life in the wild was no picnic for early canines. Food was often hard to come by, and even if a dog was lucky enough to find or capture something to eat, he had to compete with other dogs in his pack to keep his bounty.

If other dogs were the only competition, it wouldn't have been quite so bad, but hyenas, jackals and big cats also wanted a shot at the carcass. If a dog wanted to keep the fruits of his hunting, he had to learn to be crafty.

There was usually only time for a quick meal before other animals caught the scent of the kill. So in order to hang onto the food, the dog would need to bury it in the ground, and come back later to dig it up again and finish it off.

Sometimes the case was just the opposite; hunting was almost too good, and there would simply be too much food to consume in a single sitting. In bountiful times, dogs would still bury bones and carcasses near their lairs. If fresh food suddenly became scarce again the dogs could just dig up their old kill, by now naturally "aged," and finish eating it.

Hording isn't unique to canines. Other denizens of the animal kingdom practice it too. Leopards drag their kill high up in the trees so they can eat at their leisure. Squirrels store their nuts and acorns in a tree hollow or bury them in the ground. Beavers collect piles of vegetation around their lodges in anticipation of the cold hard winter to come. Even people stock their pantries with enough staple to last for weeks.

Modern Day

These days, few dogs need to hunt in order to eat. Dog food is as plentiful as the next bag of kibble, and rather than stalking it, it's delivered right to their bowls.

You'd think with this kind of wonderful curb service, dogs would no longer feel compelled to bury something for a rainy day. Old habits die hard and this natural instinct still rises to the surface in modern day canines. Not only do they continue to bury bones and food, they'll even bury their playthings, and perhaps an item or two belonging to their favorite people.

Although some dogs are more compulsive about the behavior, you'll see it to some degree in nearly all canines. Have you ever found bits of kibble in your Toy Poodle's bed and wondered how it got there? Hoarding. Have you looked for your sweater, only to find it wrapped up in your dog's blanket? Hoarding again. The behavior may be modified for today's environment, but it's still in practice.


So now you know the answer to the question "Why do dogs bury bones?" Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard aside, it's simply a natural survival instinct dogs developed to fend off starvation.

The next time you see your pet raking up the garden with his new rawhide clutched between his teeth, try not to be angry with him for ruining the begonias. It's hard to fight more than a thousand years of canine instinct and history.

Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?