Why Do Dogs Try To Bury Their Food?

Have you ever given your dog a big juicy bone, only to discover a little while later that the bone is nowhere to be seen, and that your dog has dirt on its nose? One dog behavior that modern-day owners may find perplexing is their dog burying or hiding their food. Why do dogs try to bury their food?

According to science, dogs and wolves share an amazing 99.9 percent of their DNA.

Therefore it is no surprise that dogs still exhibit a lot of behaviors that their wolf ancestors display, even though they have been domesticated for thousands and thousands of years.

The answer to why dogs try to bury their food lies in their DNA!

Why Do Dogs Hide Food?

There are several reasons why dogs hide or bury their food.

One reason is that they are ‘saving it for later. 

Have you ever opened a bag of potato chips and eaten some, then sealed the bag up and put it back in the pantry for later because you are too full to eat the rest?

Well, your dog is basically doing just that when they hide their food.

You may have given your dog a lovely big juicy marrow bone, only to find a little while later that your dog has dirt on its snout, and the bone is nowhere to be seen.

Your dog might have had enough of it for now, and is saving the rest for later!

Dog Burying Food With Their Nose

Dogs use their nose like a little shovel to dig up dirt. They also use their front paws to dig holes. 

Once a dog has dug a decent-sized hole for their bone, or treat, or left-over food, they will deposit the food inside the hole and then use their nose and paws to cover the food with dirt.

Hence why your hound has a dirty snout sometimes!

 dog burying food with nose

Learn more about: Why Do Dogs Lay At Your Feet?

Why Do Dogs Hide Treats?

Other than burying treats to enjoy at another time, there are a few other evolutionary reasons why your dog hides treats and food.

Other Predators

In the wild, a wolf would have worked hard to hunt, catch, and kill its prey. Wolves generally hunt in a pack, and the alpha dog gets the best parts of the prey, then the rest of the pack takes what they can get.

However, if it was a big animal that was killed, such as a deer, then each individual may not be able to eat all of its share in one sitting. 

So they will bury the leftover meat for a later meal.

When Food Is Scarce

Wolves used to inhabit most of the colder parts of the world. Today, they can still be found in the Northern Hemisphere, in some parts of Europe, Northern America, and Asia.

When the temperature drops, food becomes scarce. Animals that wolves usually prey upon have moved on to warmer climates, or are burrowed away for the winter. Even wild berries, which wolves have been known to eat in the wild, have disappeared.

The savvy wolf knows that food is scarce in winter, so it will hide some for when things get tough.

To Keep The Meat ‘Fresh’

This may seem odd to humans. But to your dog, burying food in the earth is like a form of refrigeration! 

Burying food and treats means that your dog can return to food that is fresher than it would have been if left exposed in daylight.

An added bonus of burying food means that it cannot be invaded by insects.

It Adds Flavor

Yes, believe it or not, dogs will bury their bones and other treats because the earth gives it a flavor that they seem to enjoy. 

Consider this similar to the way that we marinate meat!

Burying treats not only adds flavor but it softens the food too, making it easier for your dog to chew and swallow.

So That Other Animals Cannot Smell The Food

Your clever dog knows that if they bury their food and treats deep enough, then other scavengers will not be able to smell the food, therefore making it safe from thieves!

Hence why your dog has a dirty nose sometimes.

The Nose Knows Best

Your furry best friend does not want to play a game of memory every time they want to hit their own outdoor ‘pantry’. Otherwise, there would be holes all over the backyard where your dog has tried to excavate their treats! 

So as well as digging with their paws to get to the hidden treasure, your dog needs to use their snout to find their yummy hidden snacks.

A Word On Smell

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell, and their ability to detect smells far outstrips the human nose’s ability to do the same (it is the same with their hearing, too).

In fact, dogs have an incredible 30 million smell receptors in their noses, as opposed to our six million olfactory receptors.

No wonder your dog has no trouble sniffing out that bone they buried two weeks ago!

Wolves and Dogs Will Eat Carrion

Wolves are not scavengers, but they will eat carrion if nothing else is available to them. An old wolf that cannot hunt as effectively will eat carrion because it may not have much choice.

Dogs are no different. So the thought of eating rotten treats that have been buried is not at all off-putting to your dog. 

In Summary:

  • Dogs will bury food, bones, and treats; this is normal behavior;
  • Dogs do this for several reasons, including : 
    • Storing excess supplies for later,
    • Keeping a supply in case of lean times,
    • Keeping it safe from other animals,
    • Keeping it ‘fresh’,
    • Because they enjoy the taste!
  • Dogs use both their paws and their noses to dig holes to bury food in;
  • They also use their amazing sense of smell to find buried stashes of food;
  • Dogs share 99.9 percent of their DNA with wolves, therefore it is no real surprise that your dog does many wolf-like things, including hiding and burying food and treats!

Read more about: What Kind Of Dogs Have Webbed Feet?

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