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Matilda tries to bury her bone with invisible dirt

Sometimes, dogs are little people with fur.

We understand them, and they understand us.

At other times, we remember that they’re animals – weird ones at that – driven by instinct and ingrained behaviors that they can’t seem to control.

This is true when we catch our dogs trying to bury their bones in blankets. It’s not so weird to see them successfully cover their treasure in the folds of the blanket. But it’s totally weird to see them nosing at the air, making absolutely no progress as they do it.

Why Dogs Bury Their Food

It’s not surprising to see a dog bury a treat that they cannot finish. I got to see this in action when I tried to give Matilda a chicken foot. She nibbled unenthusiastically at the end, then abandoned it in the grass. It was cold out, and she just wanted to go inside, so I gave the foot to Cow.

After that, I grabbed another chicken foot and chopped off the toes. It was grisly, at first, but I got used to the sensation of bones cracking under my knife.

Matilda gleefully chomped away at one, then two chicken toes. She ate them whole, bones and all.

I decided to step up the challenge again by giving her the middle portion, sans toes. I stopped supervising her as I fed Cow indoors. When I returned to the back door, I noticed her digging around in the garden. She returned inside, then, shortly after, asked to go out again.

She dug up a very dirty chicken foot, and seemed just as happy to gnaw at it now that it was clodded with mud. I threw it away and decided that she would have to work on them indoors, inside her crate so she wouldn’t be compelled to bury it.

Wild dogs and wolves gorge themselves on feast days, then bury what they can’t finish. I’m not sure how this influences their survival. A buried bone would quickly attract maggots and become too rotten to eat. However, if the soil is frozen, the burrow could act as a refrigerator. No way would scavengers be affected – any self-respecting scavenger can easily sniff up a tasty cache.

But There’s No Stinkin’ Dirt!

Our modern dogs don’t have to worry about storing leftovers or hiding food from scavengers – but they don’t realize that.

It’s not unheard of for dogs to nose air-dirt over their food bowls, push imaginary soil over their bones, and do other weird things in the name of apartment survival.

If your dog is truly an invisible dirt pusher, you’ll notice that they’re not making any traction at all. Their movements are more like obsessive head-bobbing.

I can’t find any research data on this, but that’s not surprising. What foundation would fund a study on dogs that pretend to bury their food with imaginary dirt? None, none at all.

I created Little Dog Tips to answer these questions. To uncover the mysteries that no scientific institution has dared uncover before.

The best I can do with a non-existent research grant is ask you guys.

Does your dog try to bury food?

Do they do it with invisible dirt?

Do they do this weird head-bopping thing in the air?

Do they do it at a certain time of day, when you have guests, when they think nobody’s watching?

As for Matilda, she only does this when I give both Cow and her a bone or long-lasting treat. Cow always chomps things down in seconds, only to stare at Matilda. I try not to let Cow bug Matilda, but when she does, Matilda will definitely try to find a hiding spot, even though her nose isn’t even touching anything.

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.