Give him something like a lamb shank, something he can tote around easily....
Dear Matthew Alice: Why does my dog have a tendency to bury his bones? Do they like to bury all bones or just certain types? Do all dogs do this? — S. Benson, San Diego
That huggable lump of wriggling, AKC-registered, $60-a-pound puppy fur probably doesn’t give much indication that deep inside his doggy brain lurks a shadowy, wild heritage. Even the most pampered, useless, lap-sitting yapper harbors a few residual wolf genes. Bone-burying is just a bit of modern-day lycanthropy.
When wolves kill small prey like rabbits or mice, they can gulp the morsel down with no leftovers. In fact, a single wolf can consume as much as 20 pounds of meat at a time, so only occasionally will there be any surplus food to deal with. When there is, wolves will sometimes leave the carcass unburied and come back later to finish it. But since this leaves the uneaten meat easy pickings for other carnivores, sometimes wolves will bury the remaining meat and bones at the kill site or in a den. This is especially likely to happen if the wolf pack has few members to share the meal. Wolves will dig holes with their front paws, drop the food in, then use their noses like little bulldozers to push dirt on top of the food. They smoosh down the site, again with their noses, and split.
Alpo in a plastic dish by the refrigerator doesn’t bear much resemblance to fresh-killed deer in a field, but it will stimulate some of the ancestral food-handling instincts in your pooch. Mooshy, pulverized meat or bite-size chunks aren’t very portable, so even if you overfeed Rover he’s not much able to bury his kibbles and bits. At most, you might see him nudge the bowl of leftovers with his nose or push it into a corner, as if he’s burying it. But give him something like a lamb shank, something he can tote around easily, and if he’s already stuffed to the gills and has access to the outdoors, he very well might bury it. (One M.A. pal had a house-bound dog that actually buried a big, greasy beef bone under an Oriental rug.) All dogs have the potential to do this, though some breeds or individuals might be more inclined than others. And anything edible and easily portable, shin bones or Chateaubriand, are candidates for burial.