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Your dog begs for a treat, only to hide it in the couch cushions or bury it in the backyard after you give it to them. Does this behavior leave you scratching your head? It's common for a lot of dogs, but why do dogs bury stuff? Keep reading to find out what might be motivating your dog's hoarding behavior and what you can do about it.
Why Do Dogs Bury Things?
A number of factors could explain your dog's burying habit. Here are a few of the most common reasons for this typical dog behavior.
Why do dogs bury things? Oftentimes, it's because they're wired to. It's an instinct that they inherited from their ancestors. When they manage to hunt down or scavenge a big meal, they hide the leftovers by burying it in the ground, both to help preserve it and to protect it from other scavengers, says The Spruce Pets. Although domesticated dogs may get meals like clockwork and have no need to stash food for later, the instinctual behaviors passed down through their DNA tell them otherwise.
Although all dogs have this instinct at some level, it appears to be strongest in dogs that were bred to hunt small game. Terriers and smaller members of the hound group, like dachshunds, beagles and basset hounds, tend to have a high propensity toward digging and burying objects. These dogs were intentionally bred to retain more of their hunting instincts, and it appears likely that this includes the instinct to preserve their "catches."
Anxiety or Possessiveness
Dogs are often soothed by the act of digging. As such, those who feel anxious or insecure may turn to digging and burying objects as a coping mechanism for their anxiety. In a multi-dog household, dogs who feel like there's competition for food and other resources, like toys, might resort to hiding their stuff to keep it safe. This can especially be true of tiny dogs, like Chihuahuas, who fear having their things taken away by larger pets. If you have a little dog, this may explain why you find treats, chew toys and pieces of kibble stashed between the couch cushions or underneath the furniture.
All of that can explain why dogs hide and bury their food and toys, but why do dogs bury stuff that isn't theirs? If your dog seems to get a kick out of burying your things, it might be because they're simply bored, and they're trying to get your attention. To your dog, burying your things is a fun game, and you're invited to play along.
Curbing the Impulse to Bury Things
If your dog is making a habit of burying food or toys, it might be that they're being given too much at once, says American Kennel Club. Make sure you're not overfeeding or over-treating your dog and leaving them with a surplus of food that they feel like they need to save for later. And if they're burying toys instead of playing with them, try limiting the number of toys they have access to at one time, rotating them on a weekly basis. Exercising your dog regularly and providing them with plenty of attention can also help cut down on the impulse to dig — and reduce the temptation to steal and hide your stuff.
It's important to let dogs be dogs and give them opportunities to exercise their natural instincts. Rather than trying to train your dog not to dig and bury things at all, provide places both inside and outside where it's okay to exercise this behavior — a sandbox in the backyard or a pile of pillows and blankets inside, for instance — and turn it into a game of hide-and-seek that you can play together.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover and freelance pet writer whose work also appears on AKC.org, Care.com and the Daily Puppy, among others. She's also a novelist who resides in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching deer, wild turkeys and the occasional stray cow wander through her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.