Have you ever presented your pup with a fancy new chew bone only to watch him head for the garden to bury it? Don’t be offended, it’s not that your dog hates your gift. In fact, this behavior usually means quite the opposite.
Dogs often bury their most prized possessions in order to keep them safely stashed for later.
Burying valuable items is an instinctual throwback to the survival skills of our dogs’ wild canid ancestors. Wolves, coyotes and foxes never know when their next meal will come, so if they are lucky enough to have leftover meat after a kill, they bury it in the cool dirt to protect it from sun and scavengers. The soil acts as nature’s refrigerator, keeping food fresher longer so the animal can retrieve it later when nourishment is scarce.
This behavior is known as “caching,” and although it is mostly harmless, it can become an issue if your dog is burying and retrieving perishable items. While some dogs have retained the hearty digestive tracts of their wild ancestors, others have developed sensitive stomachs over centuries of selective breeding. If you choose to give your dog fresh or raw meat and bones it is best to ensure they eat them right away.
Some dogs may bury food and treats due to negative experiences in their past. Pups from backyard breeding and hoarding situations may have had to compete with others for limited resources. Even after their rescue, these dogs can be very anxious and possessive of their toys, bones and treats, prefering to bury them in a safe, secret spot.
This behavior may resolve on its own once your dog realizes he or she is safe and will be fed regularly. If not, seek professional advice from your veterinarian.
Dogs suffering from nausea-causing illnesses may attempt to “air bury” their food. They typically nudge the bowl away with their nose or try to cover it with imaginary dirt. If your pooch suddenly seems repelled by their food and has additional symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or behavioral changes, it may be time for a checkup.
However, “air burying” alone does not necessarily mean it is time to dash to the vet’s office. Picky eaters and those adjusting to a new diet may also engage in this behavior.
Caching may be an indicatation that you are being overly generous with the food and treats. This behavior in a healthy dog suggests they have more than they need and can afford to save food for later. Domestic dogs are typically fed on a reliable schedule and should not feel the need to stash leftovers.
Commercial diets often over-estimate the amount of food dogs need to consume each day, while raw and homemade diets are free from fillers, meaning the nutrients your pooch needs can be achieved with less food. If you need help determining how much to feed your dog, consult your veterinarian.
Some dogs are simply more possessive than others, especially if they are living in a multi-pet household. They may opt to hide their prized possessions under the dirt in your backyard, tangled in the blankets on your bed, or in the crevasses of your sofa. This could be a symptom of anxiety as discussed above.
If your dog seems excessively nervous or becomes aggressively possessive of their items to the point of resource guarding, seek the advice of a canine trainer or behaviorist.
Dogs that steal and bury items belonging to family members such as shoes and television remotes, are likely trying to express their desire for more attention. Our intelligent pups learn quickly that negative attention is better than no attention at all, and just like children, they will act out when feeling neglected.
Keep in mind that attention-seeking dogs may inadvertently put themselves in harm’s way if a stolen item is swallowed. If your dog is letting you know he or she is bored and needs more attention, the answer could be as simple as setting aside 20 minutes each day to play one-on-one or take a walk together.
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Featured Image via Flickr/Esselman
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