Burying the bone

Lots of dogs dig based on instinct.

Kelsey, the digger. Courtesy Kristin Buck.

Dear Dogcharmer,

I have a question. It pertains to dogs digging and burying. My previous mutt of 17 years was never a digger — the only time she would dig a hole was at the beach to lie in it. When she got older, 7 or 8, a good friend of mine started taking her to his jobsite. He worked construction, and at this age she started the habit of burying treats around the construction site.

Kelsey digs holes, and also digs and buries treats. She’s been doing this since we brought her home. She does it at home and elsewhere. I started thinking about this because this morning Brian noticed that in the backyard, Kelsey had dug a hole right near our septic system. We wondered if she was trying to tell us something about the septic. (I hope not!) Anyway, maybe not so much a question, but just got me wondering.


Thanks for all your help,



Dear Kristin,
The good news is that Kelsey isn’t turning your yard into a minefield. I’ve dealt with a few of those guys over the years. One of my clients actually renamed his puppy Diggit.  Lots of dogs do some digging, primarily based on instinct. Most dogs will dig for prey or food if they hear or smell something underground. There’s also the strong “denning” instinct for females, plus digging for stashing food and things. Dogs will also dig out of boredom, and as I’ve often said, dogs are creatures of habit. I had a client who unfortunately taught his dog the game of digging for buried hidden toys, which turned into a compulsive digging behavior. Works great for avalanche rescue dogs, but then they’re not digging unless it’s a human they smell under the snow. It’s easier to teach the avid digger to dig in a particular area than to stop the instinctual digging altogether. At this point I don’t think we need to get into that. Being cognizant of a dog’s scenting ability, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Kelsey was attracted to the septic system area, even if it’s functioning perfectly. Or it could just be coincidental that she’s digging there. However, if you start to smell something, then it is time to seriously start “wondering.”

Best of luck,
The Dogcharmer

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