Yep, it doesn’t just happen in cartoons. Many dogs bury their bones in real life; saving them as a nice snack for later, or simply because digging is addictive. Has your puppy been up to some digging? Perhaps you can tell because your flower beds resemble an excavation site, or by your puppy looking like they’ve had a mud bath.

Just so you’re aware, burying bones is a natural part of canine behaviour, so no need to worry. But you probably have lots of questions. Read on to know why dogs bury bones, whether your dog is burying bones is harmful, and how you can stop them burying bones if you want to.  and it’s really ticking you off.

Quite frankly, puppy behaviour in general can be a hard thing to figure out on your own. In the Zigzag app we have all sorts of content on puppy behaviour, as well as a personalised training programme built around your pup’s breed and age. We also have a team of puppy coaches who can answer all aspects of dog training and behaviour so you won’t be left alone to panic. Just give them a ring or drop them an email or message and they’ll be on hand to help you. 

Download the Zigzag puppy training app today and give it a go. 

puppy with bone
Photo by Aditya Naidu on Unsplash

Why do dogs bury bones?

Many different breeds of dog have digging as a part of their natural set of behaviours. Some dig holes in the garden, some dig them in the carpet, and some are happy to dig because it simply makes them feel happy. But they don’t stop at burying bones. They’ll often bury other things like pig ears, rawhide chews, toys, and maybe even your own shoes. 

Burying bones and caching food is normal dog behaviour

If your pup can’t eat their chew or bone all at once, then they’ll frequently bury it for later, kind of like food hoarding. This term is called ‘caching’ and is common in many wild mammals and birds, not just dogs. By burying it underground, the smell gets covered so that other animals can’t take it, and so no one else can steal their snack. It’s actually quite smart. 

Dogs have inherited the instinct to bury bones from their distant relative, the wolf. Actually, some dogs often don’t have access to soil, so they’ll bury a chew in a pile of laundry, or in the blankets in their crate or playpen.

Some dogs will try to bury their chews in thin air too. It’s strange, we know.

Overfeeding can cause your dog to bury their bones

If you’re feeding your dog their regular amount of food and then feed them bones, chews and treats on top, you might be overfeeding them. If you see them trying to bury them, it’s probably because they’re full and definitely trying to save them for a snack later on! 

Not quite sure how much to feed your puppy? Check out articles on puppy nutrition and how much you should feed your puppy.

Burying chews and other treasured objects due to boredom

If your dog doesn’t have a lot to do in their everyday life, they can become bored. This means that they’ll have to create their own fun. Digging can be a great boredom reliever for under-stimulated dogs, but it can become compulsive; and if done indoors, damage your beloved furniture you took so long to pick. Taking them on regular walks and playtimes will do the trick. 

Some breeds are natural diggers

Some breeds of dog like Jack Russell Terriers, Whippets and Dachshunds were bred specifically to dig out critters and help with hunting. Naturally, they will want to dig. It’s literally in their DNA. 

Digging and burying items due to stress or anxiety

If you have a dog who won’t eat in front of you, they may be more inclinedcan to bury bones and other items.  This is probably because they’re feeling stressed and anxious. Digging can often happen when your puppy comes into a new home, or if you’ve just got a rescue puppy. If you have more than one dog at home, they might do some digging as they’re worried other dogs might steal their treasures. Clever puppies…nothing gets past them.

Dog eating bone
Photo by Syed Ahmad on Unsplash

Digging as a canine displacement behaviour 

Dogs who feel emotionally conflicted often dig as a displacement behaviour. Now, displacement behaviours are perfectly normal behaviours, they’re just done out of context. You can look at them as a coping mechanism that makes dogs feel good. 

Digging is frequently seen in dogs with separation anxiety, so if it only happens when you’re not there, you might want to set up a camera and see what they do when you’re out of the house. 

Is burying bones harmful?

Burying bones and other items is not usually a cause for concern, as long as the items aren’t perishable and likely to cause stomach upset or vomiting later. Just imagine that raw bone sitting in your flowerbed until your dog magically finds it weeks later. Gross.

If your dog is often hiding things, you want to make sure they’re not hiding them to resource guard later. While hiding them from other dogs and not wanting to share is normal, you don’t want them to resource guard towards you.

Take a look at your pup’s body language when they’re burying bones. Does it seem tense or frantic? You might want to ask yourself if their relationship with your other dogs is good, whether your dog has had a lot of changes, or bad experiences around food or bones lately. 

Eating soil can happen when they dig holes in the ground. This might not be great for their stomach, so make sure to keep an eye on that.

How do I stop my dog burying bones?

Is their digging getting on your nerves? Here’s some tips to help you stop your dog from burying bones in places you don’t want them to, and how to reduce the behaviour overall.

Provide plenty of enrichment opportunities

Dogs as we know them today are far removed from their ancestors. But they still need to be fulfilled or they create their own fun. This can often look like destructive or even dangerous behaviours – like digging through doors. Feeding from Kongs, providing them plenty of chews, and using interactive puzzle toys will help to stretch their brains and prevent tunnels and holes from being dug out of your home

Create a digging pit for your dog

If your dog is constantly burying bones in your garden, you can always give them a corner to turn into a digging pit. You’ll make their day – that’s for sure. 

It’s always best to think about how you can change your dog’s behaviour in a positive way, rather than just suppressing it and trying to get them to stop digging completely. If we simply tell them not to, they will likely just look elsewhere to dig because they can’t do what their instincts tell them to do and you’ll end up stressed. No one likes you when you’re stressed. 

If you’re feeling like a DIY project, turn a hard sided sandpit or paddling pool with dog-safe soil into a digging pit. Don’t want your dog getting dirty? Build them an indoor digging pit instead – check out the instructions in our training games library

Manage the environment to stop dog digging

If your dog likes to dig in a particular place you don’t want them to, manage their access to it so they can’t go at it. You can use mesh, fencing or simply only allow access to that area when they’re on a lead with you there.

Use distraction and redirection to stop digging

If you see your dog walking over to that particular digging spot, try and engage them in doing something else. Perhaps you’ll play tug or a game of fetch to distract them and not spare them all the fun.

Train your dog to leave the digging spot alone

Your dog can be taught to leave stuff they carry in their mouths, but also to leave the spot they’re digging that you don’t want them burrowing in. Teaching them basic cues will also help to stretch their brain and be less inclined to go self-employed.

Give your dog shorter lasting chews

If your dog is burying bones because they can’t eat them all at once, try giving them shorter lasting chews like pig or cow ears, or vegetable style chews. That way, they’ll be less likely to cache and hide them for later.

Don’t tell your dog off for digging

If your dog is digging itself into trouble, give your dog somewhere you actually want them to dig or redirect them onto something else. Getting cross just stresses everybody out, doesn’t it?

Use positive reinforcement training instead. Dogs learn better that way. 

Give your dog more attention 

Sometimes, all they need is attention. Quite frankly, it works, but to their bad luck, probably not in a good way. Instead of waiting until they want attention, give them something to do, like a game or puzzle toy so they don’t solicit it from you. 

Lower stress to reduce digging in dogs

Dogs often dig due to stress and anxiety, often known as a displacement behaviour. Whether they do that by burying things or digging at corners of the room, it’s a good idea to look at how your dog is feeling day to day, and remove stressors. 

If you think your dog’s digging behaviour is related to separation anxiety, read how to help in our full guide.

Take your digging dog to the beach

If you have a breed of dog that’s genetically programmed to dig or simply a dog who enjoys getting their nails in the dirt, you’ll make their day by taking them on a trip to a sandy beach and letting them run wild. 

dog with bone on grass
Photo by Janosch Diggelmann on Unsplash

So, we’ve dug deep and tried to help you with reasons as to ‘why do dogs bury bones?’. Hopefully, you’ve learned some good tactics. You should know that it’s a totally normal aspect of canine behaviour to dig in a lot of cases, but it’s always good to go through the list to discover why your dog is burying their bones, and if you should be concerned. 

Now that you’re here, you might want to read more about puppy body language or maybe on what to do if your puppy is eating everything in sight.Do you have even more questions about a dog burying their bones? Or perhaps more questions about puppy life in general? Download the Zigzag app. There’s a whole programme that will take you and your pup on a training journey, as well as tips and guides, and you’ll gain access to our team of puppy coaches. They’re available to chat 7 days a week, and will always be happy to dig you out of a hole.