Q. My Shih Tzu keeps burying a bone that was bought at the pet store. Instead of chewing it, he buries it constantly in the cushions of our sofa. He never tries to chew on it, but he’ll go find it periodically and bury it in another spot. Why does he do this?
A. Even the most un-wolflike dog can retain the ancestral instinct to bury such treasures as bones. Burying a bone can have several benefits. The pet store-purchased bone might be too hard for your Shih Tzu to enjoy, so he follows his instinct and buries it. Buried in the earth, meaty tissues clinging to bone will soften and become more edible. Of course, burying it in the sofa won’t accomplish that. This may be why he periodically checks on it and, noting that it’s no softer than before, re-buries it.
Your dog might also be burying that bone to keep it safely hidden – just in case a wayward pack of wolves might happen to carouse through your living room on a hunting foray. Some ancestral wisdom from deep in the roots of his family tree tells him if someone else finds that bone, it will never get soft enough for him to eat. As to why he keeps moving it, he probably just thought of a safer spot to hide it – a spot where those carousing wolves wouldn’t think to look – so he moves it to the new hiding place.
Your Shih Tzu might enjoy chewing on smaller or softer items than that bone, so go ahead and try out some different chewies for him until you find one he likes. He’s probably enjoying the mental and physical exercise he gets burying and re-burying his bone, though, so let him keep it so he can continue playing his Brave Wolf Tzu game with it.