Why Do Dogs Bury Bones

To understand why domestic dogs sometimes bury bones it is necessary to take a look at the way in which wolves hunt in the wild. Burying bones is a peculiar canine behavior inherited by present-day dogs from their ancestors in the wilds. Caching or hoarding food is done by the dogs to save food for the rainy days. Of course, modern-day dogs do not need to hoard food. Responsible owners ensure that the dog has enough food every day. Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years but they still retain the inherent behavior of caching food.

Centuries ago, finding food was a constant challenge for the dogs. Life was hard for the early canines. These carnivores may find prey but other dogs in the pack would share in the bounty. Other scavengers like the jackals, hyenas, big cats and vultures would also want their share. These animals like the dogs have excellent olfactory senses and once they get wind of the kill they would come to partake with or without the consent of the dog that caught the prey.

The burying act entails of digging a hole with the front feet while still clasping the meat in the jaws. When the cavity is big enough, the wolf simply opens its jaws and lets the meat drop into it. It then makes use its snout to push earth back on top of the cache. Unlike cat, dog never employs its front feet to fill in a hole that it has dug. When the hole is covered over, the dog makes a few pressing-down movements with its snout and then wanders off. It returns the following day, digs up the meat with its front feet, grabs it in its jaws, gives one powerful shake to remove the earth that is clinging to its hoard, and then settles down to eating it.

Returning to the domestic dog, it is now easy to see what conditions must be present to encourage it to bury food. In the first instance, there must be a food surplus. A hungry dog would, like its wolf ancestors, eat everything it could. Only if there was something left over that could not be eaten would it be carried into the garden and buried.

The reason why bones are so popular as burying objects is that, even if the dogs in question are not overfed and have no real food surplus, a large bone, which is impossible to break up and eat, has about it the essential quality of a food object that cannot be eaten now'. It is this 'left-over' quality that persuades even a hungry dog to bury it.

Modern day dogs do not need to hunt in order to survive. The doggie bowl will always be filled with kibble every meal time. The habit of burying bone though will still surface now and again. This is an intrinsic behavior that cannot be curbed with an adequate supply of food. Dogs may be domesticated but they will still bury bones as it is their instinctive nature to survive.

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