The International Wolf Center in Ely Minnesota explains:
"The reason is simple: to store and protect the bone or food item from scavengers. Not many scavengers in your neighborhood? Well, most dogs will continue to exhibit this behavior because it is an instinct that has been transferred from over 12,000 years of breeding the current domestic dog away from gray wolves."
|A professional burying a treasure. |
The wolf digs the hole with her front paws,
then pushes dirt over it with her muzzle
and tamps it down.
|An amateur having just buried a treasure. |
Lolly's instinct remains but her technique is lacking.
"In an attempt to protect food that cannot be consumed immediately, wolves have adopted a behavior known as caching. To cache is to bury food in a shallow depression thus preventing avian scavengers from detecting the item. Wolves then return and unearth the item later for a snack between kills.
The process of caching is simple. A wolf tears a small fragment from a carcass and trots off to a secluded area, usually with moderate to dense tree cover, digs a depression suitable for the item, then places the item in the hole and uses their nose to cover the meat with the freshly dug dirt. The wolf then tamps down the food grave with their nose. It is easy to see when individuals have been caching as they have the telltale "brown nose" from tamping down the cache site. So the next time your dog has dirt over their nose pad you now know why."