Why Do Dogs Bury Their Food? The Ultimate Guide | Nextrition Pet

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Why Do Dogs Bury Their Food?

  • 5 min read

A dog’s behavior can be a never-ending mystery for pet parents. Every little quirky habit they have can make us curious about how their minds work. But one such habit of burying their food is simply annoying.

Why do dogs bury their food? The reasons below might surprise you.

7 Reasons Why Dogs Bury Their Food

Below, we have discussed the seven most common reasons why dogs bury their food:

1. Natural Instincts 

Dogs have an instinct to hide food, which may be deeply rooted in their evolutionary history. Their ancestors used to bury food to hide it from other potential scavengers and save it for future periods of scarcity.

Though our domesticated companions do not face these challenges, they still have a similar instinct to hide food and toys.

2. They’re Not Hungry 

If your dog is not hungry, they might bury its food to preserve it for later. This can be a sign that your dog is managing their resources or a sign of potential issues like overfeeding or a decreased appetite. 

In such cases, if you’re in any doubt, you can consult a veterinarian to check if you’re feeding your dog correctly.

3. Your Dog Buries Food Because of Anxiety 

Burying food can also be a coping mechanism in response to anxiety or stress. If your dog has recently had a traumatic incident or is in a new home around new people, it might struggle to manage its emotions. However, burying food may help your dog feel more in control and secure.

If you suspect your dog is anxious, work to provide them with a calm and reassuring environment, and you can seek guidance from a veterinarian.

    4. Boredom

    Sometimes, dogs bury their food simply because they have nothing else to do. When they lack any form of entertainment or mental stimulation, they can resort to burying to entertain themselves and use their excess energy.

    Adding adequate mental and physical activities to your dog's routine can be beneficial to keep them happy and occupied.

      5. Possessiveness

      Dogs can become possessive, especially when other animals are in the house. They might need to hide their food to protect it from potential competitors. This possessiveness can stem from their instinct to safeguard their resources.

        6. Seeking Attention

        A dog might bury their food to get your attention or to encourage you to play with them. They might think this is a fun game of hide-and-seek, where they’ll hide their food, and you’ll find it for them.

          7. It’s Linked to Their Breed

          While most dogs instinctively bury food, some breeds, such as Terriers, Basset Hounds, Beagles, and specific working breeds, may display a stronger inclination toward this behavior.

            a photograph of a dog laying in dirt after it buries its food

            What to Do if Your Dog Buries Their Food?

            Burying food shouldn’t be considered bad behavior, but you should pay attention to the circumstances when they bury their food to understand the context of the situation.

            Additionally, it is recommended to use positive reinforcement to deal with any behavior issues in your dog. Avoid yelling or punishing them, as it can make the situation worse. Instead, try these precautions to prevent your dog from burying food:

            • Don’t overfeed your dog. It's easy to go overboard with treats, so pay attention to the amount you’re giving them.
            • Provide them with enough mental and physical activities.
            • If necessary, you can allocate an area to dig and bury things to redirect their instincts positively while minimizing disruption.
            • Don’t overreact to buried food because if they think it gets your attention, they might do it again.

            Remember that each dog is unique, and their reasons for burying food can also be unique. You should observe their behavior or consult with an animal behaviorist to better understand why they behave in a certain way.

            a photo of a dog sniffing food after it has been buried in the ground

            Can Dogs Eat Buried Food?

            Now, can a dog eat the food they buried? Or will it make them sick?

            In general, dogs can eat the food they bury because a bit of dirt shouldn’t cause them any health problems. But you should be cautious of a few things, including:

            • Type of food: What did your dog bury? Dry food is typically okay to eat with a bit of dirt, but wet food isn’t, as moisture makes it more prone to spoilage and bacterial growth. 
            • Time: When did your dog bury the food? Knowing the time is essential to determining the freshness of the food. Every type of food can get stale, spoiled, or even moldy if it is buried for an extended time. 
            • Location: Where did your dog bury the food? It might be OK if it’s somewhere safe, like your backyard. But if they buried it in some area with potential contaminants such as chemicals and pesticides, you shouldn’t let them eat that food.

            Summing Up

            Burying food can be a typical behavior of dogs; in fact, it’s in line with their instincts. It can also mean they’re not hungry, bored, possessive, or anxious. Ultimately, with some good observation, you are in the best position to understand why they bury their food.

            You can take certain precautions, such as feeding them the right amount of food, providing them with enough mental and physical activities, creating a safe environment, spending more time with them, and allocating an area to dig and bury things. But if the problem is getting out of hand, consider consulting with an animal behaviorist to understand how to manage the situation.


            Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about dog’s behavior and why they like to bury their food:

            Why do dogs bury their food?

            Burying food can be a part of dogs' natural instincts. Their ancestors used to bury their food to hide it from other potential scavengers and to save it for future periods of scarcity.

            However, burying food can indicate your dog is overfed, bored, possessive, or anxious.

            Should you stop your dog from burying food?

            If burying food doesn't pose any harm or inconvenience, then you can allow this behavior as it is a way for them to express themselves. However, if the problem gets out of hand, you can consult a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist.

            Whatever you do, avoid yelling or punishing them, as it can worsen the situation.

            Can dogs eat buried food?

            It depends on the various factors: what kind of food they buried (dry can be okay, wet can spoil), how long it has been buried (too long might mean it's spoiled), and where they buried it (avoid if it's in an area with potential contaminants).

            Can dogs get sick from eating buried food?

            Yes, dogs can get sick from eating buried food if it's spoiled, contaminated, or buried for an extended period. But if the food was recently buried, dry, and in a safe place like your backyard, it might be safe for your dog.

            Source: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/why-do-dogs-bury-their-food
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