SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Ask a behaviourist
Why do dogs bury bones?

My puppy Beau buries every bone I give him in the garden, and then digs it up two weeks later. Why does he do this?

Burying food is an instinctive behaviour. Even though you lovingly fill Beau’s bowl with food every day, this caching trait is still strong. This behaviour is derived from the wild, where dogs would bury their food for later in case of a food shortage. Some dogs are more inclined to do this than others. We don’t know why some dogs are so stimulated by the smell of their bone when it is old and rotting, but this is also an instinctive behaviour.

Preventing this behaviour can be difficult to stop, but it can be redirected. The best way to do this is by giving Beau his own appropriate area to dig. If you’d rather keep him out of the garden, you could get him a sandpit where he is free to dig and bury. Encourage him to use this space by filling toilet paper rolls with treats and hide them in there.

This will reward Beau for digging in his own space and hopefully keep him out of the veggie patch! The silver lining is that this is a great enrichment idea, and will keep Beau busy and happy if you’re not at home.

Have you got a question you’d like Dr Jess Beer to answer? Please email it to animalsvoice@spca.nz and it could be chosen for our next column.

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