Your dog is trying to bury food with its nose? This is why.
Is your dog trying to bury food with nose?
- Is it normal?
- Is it dangerous to your dog?
- What can you do?
So many questions.
The short answer is: Your dog is trying to bury food with its nose because of:
- Hoarding instinct
- Attention seeking
- Health issues
But there is more every dog owner needs to understand!
This is why this article will tell you everything you need to know about:
- The exact reasons why your dog may be burying food
- How to stop your dog from trying to bury food
- When to call a vet
Let’s do this – your dog’s health and happiness may be at stake.
12 reasons why your dog is trying to bury food with nose
Here are the most common reasons why your dog may be trying to bury food with its nose.
1. Hiding food (hoarding food)
In the wild, wolves need to hunt for their food. Finding, catching, and killing prey isn’t always easy.
This is why wolves sometimes hide (hoard) their hard-earned kills for later.
The final step of burying food is using their noses to cover their food stash with dirt.
Your dog has evolved from wolves.
This is why dogs are naturally predisposed to hoard their food.
And because your pup usually can’t physically bury its food, your dog might pretend to bury it by pushing fake dirt over kibble with its nose.
But note that some dogs will also hide their food under blankets, beds, or other furniture.
The hiding-food behavior is most commonly seen when:
- You have more than one pet in your house
- Your doggy experienced poor feeding in the past
- You’ve recently started your pup on a new diet
If your vet prescribed smaller portions to help your dog lose weight, your pup may see it as a sudden scarcity of food. This may lead to hiding food for later.
2. Possessive behavior
Some dogs are very possessive of their food.
In fact, any item or space that a dog considers high value may become worth guarding against other animals and humans.
The possessive behavior is most common in the most territorial dogs. Don’t even think of taking their food away.
Here are some of the most possessive (and territorial) dog breeds:
- German Shepherd
- Giant Schnauzer
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Doberman Pinscher
Note that a dog that guards its food or other high-value items can become dangerous. Anyone who gets close can be chased away and even bitten.
Some dogs can develop behavioral problems, including aggressive resource guarding, when separated from their litter earlier than 60 days after birth. So make sure your new dog is at least 2 months old when you get it from a pet shop or dog breeder.
3. Attention seeking
Your dog wants your attention. Most of the time.
So your dog may start acting a bit strange if this may earn your attention.
If pretending to bury food with a nose gets your immediate attention, your doggy may try it more often.
Dogs learn patterns very quickly and just as quickly can learn what gets your attention – which is why positive reinforcement is such an effective way to train dogs.
Note that this behavior can happen more often if you watch your pooch eat.
Dogs can also slip into instinctual habits, such as pretending to hide dog food with their noses, when they’re bored and want to play. Some dogs will also push you with their nose to engage you.
According to scientific research, a dog’s social intelligence is equivalent to that of a 2.5 year old child. This is why your dog may occasionally act like a human child. Children play with their food, right? So do dogs.
4. Picky eater
If your dog doesn’t like the food you’re serving, your picky pet may try to hide it.
Out of sight, out of mouth, right?
And yes, using its nose to bury the unwanted meal is one way of hiding the evidence.
Note that some dogs are picky eaters due to aversion to certain foods or food textures.
Some dogs may eat their own poop to hide the evidence and avoid punishment (if they happened to defecate indoors).
5. Just playing
Most dogs love to play.
Trying to bury their food with a nose can be great fun for dogs.
Burying the food is particularly common in dogs who enjoy puzzle toys. This is because puzzle toys can teach dogs that hiding food is a game.
Also, a dog that starts pretending to bury its food may simply be bored.
Other signs indicating that a dog is bored include:
- Excessive barking
- Destructive chewing and gnawing
- Urinating or defecating outside of the area where a dog has been trained to go (called “inappropriate elimination”)
6. Just being cute
This is related to getting your attention by doing something amusing.
Your dog can quickly learn that burying food with a nose will get your immediate attention.
“Oh, what are you doing here? This is sooooo cute.”
You may notice your dog wanting to repeat the whole thing to get praised by you again.
In short, your immediate reaction to your dog burying food is rewarding your dog’s behavior.
Your dog has just devoured its meal, in seconds.
The doggy wants more, its big eyes staring into yours, its cute tail wagging.
“Oh, our poor little cutie is still hungry?”
Well done, you’re overfeeding your dog.
And yes, some dogs will continue eating whether they’re full or not.
Some dogs will also happily accept tons of their favorite food during training sessions.
But overfeeding can come with many problems, including:
- Heart disease
Note that an overfed dog may get nauseous and may start pretending to bury food with a nose.
You may spot overfeeding by examining your dog’s feces.
Poop of an overfed dog is often firm with a soft tip.
But your doggy is eating the right amount of food if its feces look:
- Dark brown
8. Just not hungry
A dog with no appetite may try to bury food with his nose.
A dog can lose appetite for a number of reasons, including:
- Health issues
- Spaying and neutering
Also, a dog with a full belly may try to hide its food for later.
Furthermore, high-drive working dogs like Border Collies and Greyhounds sometimes “forget” to eat. And small breeds like Maltese and Toy Poodles simply don’t eat much.
9. Too much food
Giving your dog too much food?
If you put too much food in your pup’s bowl, the dog may decide to bury the surplus for later.
Also, some dogs may try to hide the remaining food to avoid punishment for not finishing their meals.
To ensure your dog is getting the right amount of food (rather than too much or too little), feed your pup high-quality dog food. For example, we recently rated The Farmer’s Dog as the best overall dog food for German Shorthaired Pointers. And yes, this food is also suitable for many other dog breeds.
10. Hunting dogs
A hunting dog loves to dig and bury things. It’s an instinct.
So if your doggy is trying to hoard food or bury it with their nose, you may be sharing your home with a hunter.
Here are some of the most popular hunting dogs:
- Irish Setter
- English Setter
- Boykin Spaniel
- English Springer Spaniel
- English Pointer
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- German Wirehaired Pointer
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- American Foxhound
- Bluetick Coonhound
- Black and Tan Coonhound
- Plott Hound
- Mountain Cur
11. Dog breed
If you own a hunting dog (see above), there is a chance your pup will try to bury food with its nose.
In fact, dog breeds like hounds and terriers are designed to dig and bury things.
By the way, dogs who love to dig for prey are sometimes called “Earthdogs”.
If you have a herding dog but no sheep around, your herder may decide to herd things like small furniture.
12. Health issues
Yes, a dog may try to bury things with its nose because of health issues.
Here are some of the most common health issues that may cause dogs burying their food.
A dog that suffers from anxiety may lose appetite. This may be another reason your dog is hiding food.
A dog may also try to hide food if it had a bad experience of losing or not having enough food.
For example, dog breeders often feed puppies from a big communal pan. The puppies who can’t get food easily may need to go hungry. This may lead to hiding food or resource guarding in the future.
Also, dogs coming from dog shelters often suffered from hunger or had limited access to food in the past. These rescue dogs are also prone to hiding its food.
I have personal experience in helping a dog that was rescued.
My brother’s dog (an adorable mongrel), came to us from a dog shelter as a severely malnourished puppy.
The poor pup would pretend to bury most of its meals.
So we took the doggy to a vet.
Yes, it took some knowledge and patience to help this dog to eat, rather than hide, its meals.
But with the help of consistent meal plan and routine, this delightful pup now confidently eats every meal we put in its bowl!
By the way, make sure to feed your puppy food specifically designed for puppies. For example, we recently rated Open Farm as the best dog food for Dalmatian puppies. And yes, this particular food is suitable for many other dog breeds.
Note that a dog can also become anxious around food due to fear, aging, separation, or changes in environment or routine.
Look for the following signs to see if your dog suffers from anxiety:
- Licking excessively
- Looking startled with eyes wide open
- Rapid blinking
- Ears down
- Tail tucked between legs
- Excessive howling or barking
A dog can detect your emotions and when something is not right. So if you’re feeling anxious yourself, your doggy may try to make you feel better by changing its own behavior. Pretending to bury food with its nose may be one such trick.
A dog with eyesight issues may not see his food very well.
In this case, a dog will need to rely on his nose rather than his eyes to inspect the food.
To you, this may seem like your dog is pretending to bury his food with his nose.
But your dog is simply smelling the food, rather than looking at it.
Note that eyesight issues in dogs can be caused by:
- Old age
Other sings that your dog is sick (eyesight issues) can include:
- Fear of new environments
- Bumping into walls and objects
- Red or swollen eyes (can be both)
- Eye irritation
- Easily startled
- Paws on the face
- Cloudy eyes
Eyesight issues can also be caused by other health problems, including:
- Liver disorders
- Kidney failure
- Heart disease
- Systemic diseases
In addition to pretending to bury food, a dog with eyesight issues may also flip the food bowl. Oops!
Nausea can also cause dogs to pretend to bury their food with a nose.
Nausea in dogs can be caused by some of the following health issues (including serious health problems):
- Urinary infection
- Bacterial infection
- Intestinal parasites
- Inflamed intestines
- Ingestion of toxic substances
- Eating non-food items
- Liver failure
- Food intolerance
Nausea in dogs can be accompanied by some of the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
- Vomiting with blood
Most causes of nausea should resolve within 24 hours. If they don’t, contact your vet.
Note that your dog may be trying to bury food for reasons not related to nausea, including:
- Dental issues
- Pain in the mouth
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Travel induced stress
- Something wrong with the food
Luckily, there are dog food brands that make great food for dogs with sensitive stomachs and allergies. One such brand is Hill’s, whose food we recently rated as the best food for Poodles with sensitive stomach. And yes, this particular food is suitable for many other dog breeds.
How to stop your dog from trying to bury food with its nose
Your dog pretends to bury food with their nose?
Here are some of the most effective ways of stopping your dog from trying to bury food with its nose.
Stick to a strict feeding schedule.
This will help your dog relax about food.
A feeding schedule will ensure your dog knows when the next meal is coming and that there is no need to hide food for later.
A feeding schedule will also prevent your dog from overfeeding. As mentioned earlier, an overfed dog may start feeling nauseous and may start burying its food.
This is straightforward.
Every time you see your doggy trying to bury its food, tell the silly pup “no”.
And every time your dog stops burying food, shower this clever pet with praises.
By the way, praise should be a key part of positive reinforcement during every training session with your doggy. Praise will help your dog make positive associations with the desired behavior.
Boredom can push any dog into undesirable behavior, including trying to bury food for no good reason.
So try puzzle toys and puzzle food bowls, as these can entertain any bored dog.
Regular walks, play, and exercise are also great.
Note that when you provide your dog with the appropriate entertainment, your pup will be less likely to resort to creating its own entertainment by playing with food.
EXPERIMENT WITH FOOD
My German Shepherd (Max) gets tired of its food occasionally.
When bored with its food, my silly doggy starts playing with it.
Burying food or hiding it in some impossible places is not uncommon.
So this is how I ensure my dog eats its food and doesn’t get bored with it too often.
No human food
Table scraps are totally off-limits for my dog.
Just make sure all human food is out of reach for your doggy.
I only use treats to reward my pup for progress in training sessions.
Try new foods
Yes, your pup may simply not like what’s on the menu.
It could be the food’s taste, smell, or appearance.
This is why I like to experiment with different foods.
Make meals more appealing
To make sure my doggy loves every meal, I do the following:
- Warm up my pup’s food to enhance the scent and flavor
- Microwave wet food or add a bit of hot water to dry food to increaser the foods aroma
- Add a bit of low-sodium broth or wet food to the meals
- Mix a broth of chicken or beef with my pup’s dry food
- Add food toppers such as minced meat, fish oil, or boiled veggies
Feed your dog according to a strict schedule
I always feed my pup at the same time each day.
This tells my dog that there will always be food available (and at specific times).
I leave my dog’s bowl for each meal for about 10-15 minutes and take it away until the next meal.
Ensure my dog’s feeding area is free of disruptions
A dog may stop eating if there is another pet in the household. Resource guarding or intimidation tactics may be driving this behavior. You can find out more about resource guarding in this popular article.
Your dog can also stop eating temporarily because of some loud noises.
This is why I always ensure that my dog’s feeding area is as quiet as possible and free from distractions.
Change the food bowl
I always make sure my dog’s bowl is not moving during meals and is not making weird sounds as it slides across the floor.
So yes, change your dog’s bowl if the bowl is misbehaving.
If you see your dog playing with food consistently, you may need to consider your vet.
Although it may be tempting to switch to a new food every time your doggy start playing with it rather than eating it, note that this may teach your pup to get fussy about its meals.
This is why whenever I’m sure that a particular food is good for my dog, I try to stick to it for a few weeks to let my pup know that this is the food on offer and nothing else.
When to worry about your dog trying to bury food with its nose?
Your dog pretends to bury food?
Well, your doggy may be displaying its natural instinct. If so, there is usually nothing to worry about.
Still, the food-hiding behavior may become a problem if your dog:
- Eats old food that was saved for later
- Starts resource guarding
- Buries food because of anxiety or other health issues
If you’re worried about your dog’s food-burying behavior, contact any of the below experts:
- Board-certified veterinary behaviorist
- Certified applied animal behaviorist
- Certified professional dog trainer
VIDEO: Why dogs push food with their nose
Frequently asked questions
Is my dog trying to hide food from me?
Yes, there is a chance your doggy is burying its food to hide it from you.
Your dog may think that you’re going to steal its food.
What else is my dog trying to tell me when burying food?
When burying its food, your dog may be also trying to tell you:
- That it has no appetite
- That it’s anxious
- That it’s nauseous
- That there is something wrong with its eyesight
- That you’re overfeeding your pup
- Or that there is something wrong with the food
Why does my dog cover its food with a blanket?
Your dog may cover its food with a blanket to ensure no one steals its meal.
Why is my dog trying to cover with a blanket an empty bowl?
Dogs may cover their bowl with a blanket regardless of whether there is food in their bowl or not.
Why does my dog buries its nose in the ground?
A dog can bury its nose in the ground to mark its territory.
A dog releases pheromones from its cheek gland that tell other dogs to stay away from a particular area.
Why does my dog push its food away with its nose?
Pushing its food with a nose may be a sign that your pup is not feeling well.
If your doggy is healthy, however, it may push its food away with its nose to indicate that there is something wrong with the food. For example, the food may be toxic.
Your pup may also push its food away with its nose if it simply doesn’t like the smell, texture, or appearance of the food.
Dog trying to bury food with nose? FINAL WORD
You wanted to know why your dog pretends to bury food with its nose.
And you wanted to know if this behavior is normal – or even dangerous.
As you could see in this article, your dog is trying to bury food with its nose because of:
- Hoarding instinct
- Attention seeking
- Health issues
This article also discussed:
- The exact reasons why dogs pretend to bury food
- How to stop your dog from trying to bury food
- When to call a vet
We hope that all this information will help your lovely doggy enjoy a healthy and happy life!
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of illness, pain, or distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.