Canine Hoarders: Why Do Dogs Bury Food?

Why do dogs bury food? As I sit at my table enjoying my morning cup of coffee, I glance out my kitchen window. Lo and behold, there is Bunker, my pit bull, attempting to bury the chicken bone I gave him earlier.

Why do dogs bury their food? I faithfully feed my dogs twice a day, and quite often throw in a snack between feedings. So what gives dogs the urge to bury some of the food?

Why Do Dogs Bury Food?

According to the book Why Do Dogs Do That?, wild dogs learn early in life that food may be hard to come by. So when they find a feast, they do the smart thing: bury some of it to enjoy later. It’s kind of like setting up a “food bank.” This practice is called caching. Wolves and foxes also share this behavior.

So, maybe domesticated dogs are already equipped with the innate notion that being fed regularly is a sign of leaner times coming. They may bury food so they can be assured of having something to munch on later. Not to worry, though: A canine’s digestive system is built for eating foods that have been buried a while.

Even Indoor Dogs “Bury” Stuff

An indoor dog may hide a bone or piece of food under throw rugs or furniture cushions. This is common behavior. Dogs have pretty good memories, so it’s a safe bet they’ll be back later to retrieve their buried treat.

Witness this dalmatian in bone-burying action:

If a dog does not feel safe at the moment, he may tend to bury his food — which is a way to keep others from getting those morsels before he can eat them. Meanwhile, shy dogs might prefer eating alone. If other animals are around, they may choose to bury their food simply so they can enjoy it later.

Although you may assume that food hoarding is caused by your pet’s dislike of certain foods, chances are if he doesn’t like something he just won’t eat it.

Health Problem? Not Likely

Medical problems of any nature are not likely reasons for the food-burying habit. Animals with a health problem will generally ignore their food completely. If they don’t feel well enough to eat it, they certainly can’t muster up enough strength to bury it.

So, if you’re wondering why do dogs bury their food, rest assured that in most cases it is simply a combination of your dog’s personality and certain territorial factors.

In the off chance that food hiding is an ongoing problem with your pet, try feeding in a different location or maybe at a different time.

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Once more I look out to see what Bunker is up to now. I see him relaxing under the shade of a tree. He seems to relish in the fact that he has some backup food ready just in case I forget to feed him later. I can’t really blame him for being prepared!

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Photo: Waldo Péndola G./Flickr

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  • Ana

    My dog always likes to steal my my chicken (only after i finish), and bury it in the front yard.

    I can’t get mad at him, because he’s so cute:}