ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: Our large and lovable but frisky black Lab gets mischievous once in a while. Taking him for walks does wonders; the first half of the trip is letting him “mark” things, sniff and do a little browsing. To keep him further occupied, we got a large Nylabone. We find that he’ll delve into it with vigorous chewing, noise, slobber, etc., outside. Then the bone is nowhere to be found and he has dirt on his nose. What is the purpose of dogs burying bones?
Dr. Nichol: Capable of enduring the harshest conditions, dogs are predators on good days but in order to survive until the next unlucky rabbit crosses their path they forage. They treasure any scrap of rotten road kill. Despite a recent belly full of excellent food, most self-respecting pet dogs are driven to sniff and root for their next nugget.
Our dogs are genetically programmed to protect their resources. Your Lab’s Nylabone is a food-related gem. When he is tired from chewing it he isn’t really done with it. So he hoards it by burying it, much as he would a carcass that may still have a few precious calories. He believes that by squirreling it away his competitors won’t steal it.
Your dog doesn’t need to worry that some devious low-life will deprive him of his prized Nylabone, does he? Forget the human logic that dog food is abundant at your house. Your Lab is not a little person in a furry suit. Between those floppy fuzzy ears hums the brain of a canine survivor.
Hard Nylabones can fracture teeth. Portions of the softer variety can be swallowed, leading to intestinal obstruction with loss of vital blood supply. The risk of perforation would necessitate emergency surgery for your excellent Lab. If this big hungry, sloppy chewer suddenly loses energy and stops eating he needs to see the emergency doctor ASAP. Greenies and rawhides are safer.