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Hoarding Behavior in Dogs

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Dog treats under the seat cushions? Furry dog toys beneath your favorite tee shirt in the corner of the laundry room? Tennis balls buried under the rose bushes? Kibble stuffed under the dog bed? You probably don’t have little gremlins at home. What you do have is a dog who is hoarding.

Uh oh! Is that normal?

Absolutely! It’s instinct.

Dog-like animals first came on the scene about fifty million years ago. Twelve to fifteen thousand years of domestication have changed them in many ways, but there are more instincts that persist than not. Hoarding is one basic survival instinct that remains intact and is exhibited by many modern domestic dogs.

Imagine the wolf/dog in the wild. After he hunts with his pack, he settles in to enjoy the reward. His pack has a pecking order and most dogs are not at the top of the order and able to eat first. There is a great deal of competition for the food and each dog is trying to get all he can to survive. Guile and intelligence pay off. Crafty dogs would often take a portion of their food and bury it to eat later.

After a successful hunt there was often a limited amount of time in order to consume the spoils. The scent of the kill would attract other meat eaters to the area and it was difficult to keep the meal from being stolen. After eating quickly, leftover meat was often buried and saved for another time.

Many times, there was simply too much food. After particularly good hunting or in an especially plentiful season, the dogs would bury bones and leftovers for consumption at a later time when food might be less abundant.

Today’s domestic dog may have a full food bowl all day or have an eating schedule that does not vary, and he will never have a need to stalk prey for sustenance, but the instinct to plan for later and endure trumps all that. Hoarding persists.

So, the next time you find kibble in your tennis shoe which you have just recovered from the corner of the basement, you’ll know your little fellow is a real survivor!


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