How much time have you spent looking for your dog’s lost toys? What about that bone you’re sure you left on the floor just a few minutes ago? Are you still looking for the mate to that sock?
A dog’s wild ancestors didn’t have their meals prepared and handed to them each day the way their domesticated descendants do. They had to hunt to survive and compete with others for food, so burying it meant it was safely hidden and preserved for them to return to when needed.
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What Kind of Things Do Dogs Bury?
Toys, food, bones, prey, socks, tv remotes… Whatever they can get their paws on.
Why Do Dogs Hide Their Bones in the House?
• Dogs hide a variety of objects not just bones, and they hide them in the house, the garden, laundry basket, under a jacket lying on the floor, their bed or blankets.
• The question is why they do it. It’s partly instinct passed down from their wild ancestors. It would have been challenging finding food, and survival meant keeping it away from others. They ate what they could and the rest they buried for when they needed it. The smell was masked and the food kept cool by the earth.
• The instinct to hide resources may explain why modern day dogs hide their stuff, but are there other reasons?
• It’s certainly not scarcity. In fact our dogs probably have too many toys and given the obesity problem among our canine companions, food isn’t a problem either. How to Help a Dog Lose Weight: A Practical Guide
• Digging can be soothing, so that action may make an anxious dog feel better.
• Your dog may not feel comfortable eating in the location she’s being fed, or something is going on in that area that’s causing her anxiety. Burying her food allows her to eat when she’s feeling calmer.
• Coming from a shelter it will take time for your dog to gain confidence and settle, burying things that are important to her can help her cope
• Living in a multi-dog household, especially if her food is always being eaten by others or toys taken away, can cause anxiety. The need to protect her stuff is understandable but if she gets aggressive when you go near her things that has evolved into resource guarding and needs to be addressed right away. The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing With Food Aggressive Dogs
• A dog that grew up in an abusive situation (whether that’s in a home or puppy mill) was rarely fed and is scared all the time, will learn to hide food to keep safe for when she needed it.
It’s what they’re bred to do
Every dog has the potential to dig due to instinct. Some, like terriers for example, were bred specifically to flush out prey or dig for rodents.
Other breeds that tend to be diggers are:
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Australian Shepherds
- Border Collies
- Basset Hound
Attention seeking behavior
A dog that gets very little attention from her people may have figured out when she hides things, she gets more attention. Even if she’s being yelled at, she’s finally getting the interaction she’s craving.
How much time have you been spending with your dog lately?
A dog that is bored will often find ways to entertain herself, and hiding stuff may be one of those ways.
- How many times a day does your dog go for a walk?
- How long is each walk?
- Do you play together?
- When’s the last time you taught her new tricks or commands?
- Does she get any mental stimulation with puzzle toys?
Whether your dog hides things or not, they all need walks, outings, play time, training and mental stimulation. It can help with other behavior problems you’re facing as well.
Too much stuff!
If your dog is constantly burying toys, it may be a sign she has too many!! Instead of having access to every toy you ever bought, limit her to 2 or 3 and rotate them every few days. It will keep her interested and hopefully cut down on the burying.
Do Dogs Remember Where They Bury Things?
They certainly do, and if you’d like to learn more about dogs and memory this article is an interesting read.
What NOT to Do When a Dog Hides Things
Never punish your dog for displaying any unwanted behavior. Not only is it cruel and will cause your dog to fear it, it is not the right way to teach a dog the behaviors you do want to see.
Is it normal for dogs to dig?
We just got through talking about a dog that hides things, but what about dogs that dig? Since there is some overlap in the two issues, certainly when it comes activities and toys for these dogs, it made sense to write about digging as part two.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why dogs dig
- The predatory instinct we discussed above in the “Why do dogs bury their bones” paragraph
- If your dog is digging near the fence line, he may be trying to get out or visit a 4 legged neighbor
- Likes to chase the wildlife
- If it’s hot and there’s no shade, he may dig to create a cool and shady spot to hang out
- It’s his nature – like terriers for example
- Separation anxiety or stress
- Pregnant dogs may dig a hole because they’re “nesting”
- He’s bored – is he really getting enough exercise?
- Finds it a fun activity
How do you stop a dog from digging?
You’ve just read through the list above. Have you been able to identify a reason for the digging? If you have then “fixing” the issue may stop the digging. If you don’t know where this behavior is coming from, it’s more about re-directing it than stopping something that’s a natural instinct.
Here are a few examples:
• If your dog is bored or trying to get out, increase the amount and type of exercise he gets every day
• If he’s suffering from separation anxiety, this article has a lot of helpful advice
• Provide a shaded area with a bowl of water for your dog to retreat it when he’s too warm. It could be under a tree or as simple as setting up an umbrella
Activities, Toys and Other Tips for Dogs Who Like to Dig and Bury
• Keep things interesting by leaving just a few toys out, then rotate them
• Be sure to give your dog plenty of exercise, opportunities to play and socialize with others
• Get her involved in agility, scent work, fly ball or fun times at doggy daycare
• Teach your dog to put her toys away, then reward her with something she loves when she does. The video above will show you how.
• Snuffle mat – Hide part of your dog’s meal or favorite treats, watch her satisfy her need for digging, and get a reward for doing it!
• Brush up on old tricks and teach her new ones. Mental stimulation will help get rid of excess energy, and goes a long way to preventing/easing problem behaviors
• Keep her busy with a food filled Kong or treat dispensing toy
• Turn the act of burying into a fun game you play together
• Don’t leave her unattended in the garden, so when she starts to dig you can distract her by playing tug of war or having a training session for example
• Agility tunnel – It won’t give her the opportunity to dig, but she may like the idea of running through this type of enclosed space
• Ball pit – Whether your dog likes to hide stuff or not, a ball pit is such a fun thing to play in. Set it up outside in nice weather, and use it to entertain her during the dark cold days of winter. NOTE: Be careful of the type of balls you use, and watch to make sure they aren’t small enough for your dog to swallow or soft enough to chew on.
• Create an indoor burrowing area – Whether it’s an old laundry basket, pillows, a sleeping bag or pile of old clothes, designate a spot where she can play and bury. What if you turned the tables and buried a toy in her area to find!
• Sandbox – Set up a sandbox in the garden just for the dog, and let her dig away. Keep it in the shade so she’ll be comfortable
• Decide where your dog will be fed. When you bring your puppy or rescue dog home, put up a baby gate to ensure she always eats in that place and can’t wander off and hide food
• Don’t give her access to items she shouldn’t be playing with in the first place
• Give her a bone to chew when you’re there to watch her so she can’t hide it
• iFetch iDig – A great outlet for your dog’s natural digging instinct.
Why does your dog dig, and what tips do you have to stop/redirect the behavior? Sharing helps others, so please leave your comments below.
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