I have to tell you what my little dog does with the goodies she wants to save until later. Normal dogs take the treat outside and dig a hole in the dirt, drop the treat in, and push dirt over the treat to cover.
NOTE: This process involves dirt from start to finish.
My dog, a black, nine-pound Yorkie Poo, had never been outside, according to the breeder. She’d been in the house with her mom and siblings until we got her at twelve weeks.
My kids (on each end) and their friends the day we got Shelley
We started giving her treats like pieces of cheese when she was a little older, and we’d later find the un-eaten parts under clothes in the kids’ rooms. It took awhile, but finally we observed her dropping the cheese beside a sweater on the floor of my daughter’s room. She nudged the cheese under it, and then scuffed her nose against the carpet in all directions around the cheese as if she were pushing dirt over it to bury it.
In my opinion, this is instinctual behavior without the filter of common sense.
I told the kids to let her “bury” her stuff in peace because she needed to feel like a real dog and we should respect that. When one of them found the treat later, they’d yell, “Mo-om, I found Shelley’s gross old cheese under my skirt!” I’d dispose of it, and the dog never seemed to miss it.
Once Shelley got full size, we tried to teach her to bury a bone outside. We found a nice, loose spot in a flowerbed and started digging with our hands, but she wasn’t tracking. So I squatted over her and moved her paws in a digging motion. The light went on and she started to get the hang of it. Finally, she had a hole deep enough to cover a good portion of the bone, We encouraged her to pick the bone up, “Pick up the bone, Shelley, pick it up!” which she eventually did, but we had to pull it back out of her mouth to drop it into the hole. We pushed a little dirt over the bone, and she immediately joined us, using her little black snout to move dirt over it exactly the way she scuffed the carpet around the cheese in the house.
“SHE’S GOT IT!” we exclaimed.
The next time we gave her a bone in the backyard, she picked it up and trotted around to the front of the house and laid it on top of a Euonymus shrub. We watched through the window as she enthusiastically moved her nose forward and backward without actually coving the bone with anything. When she was done, she trotted around to the back of the house again so she could go back in the door she’d gone out – no doubt a sneaky maneuver to cover her tracks – content with the safety of that bone for the future, even though it was lying out in the open for any varmint to steal.
Gradually she ceased bothering to hide the treats she buried in the house. We now find cheese blatantly lying in corners nowhere near sweaters. In fact, this morning there was a yellow cube of cheese in my bathroom. She went over to it and started moving her head, scuffing her nose on the rough tile – right in front of me. I said to her, “Honey, you’re not really burying anything. Just let it go.” But she kept brushing her nose against the tile, circling from every angle until she’d pushed enough invisible dirt over it to suit her.
This crazy little pooch, with her nose rubbed raw by carpet and rough tile, probably thinks that instinct stinks.