Let's face it: sometimes dogs can act quite weird, and some of the oddest behaviors happen around the food bowl. Some dogs act scared of the food bowl, others will move the food bowl around and some others will nitpick a mouthful of kibble and then eat it off the floor. What's up Rover? As with everything revolving around dog behavior, it's difficult to find a black and white explanation for certain behaviors and we can only make assumptions, but by discovering a bit more about a dog's eating habits, and through some trial and error attempts, we can perhaps get a tab bit closer to understanding the real potential cause for some of these dog behavior quirks.
1) Dogs Scared of Metal Food Bowls
With more and more dog owners worried about the health effects of BPA in plastic and allergies, many are switching over to metal bowls for their dogs.
Has your dog been fine with a plastic food bowl and now that you got him a stainless steel metal bowl, he's acting scared of it? You might feel better knowing that you are not alone.
There are countless dogs scared of metal food bowls. By watching your dog and doing some troubleshooting, you might be able to help him overcome his fear of the metal bowl.
For instance, is your dog wearing his collar and tags? Some dogs are afraid or bothered by the repeated metallic noises that occur when your dog's metal tags hit the metal food bowl.
Does your dog back away from the food bowl when he moves it upon eating? Some dogs do not like the fact that the food bowl moves and the metal ones can be noisier when moved compared to a plastic bowl.
And then there are some dogs who seem to be intimidated by their reflections seen on the metal as they eat.
What to do: you can try removing your dog's collar when he eats so that those tags will stop producing that annoying metallic noise. Don't expect though for your dog's fears to magically stop the moment the collar is off. Your dog may still be a bit wary the first times as the memory of those metallic noises stick for a while. With time though, he should be able to relax once those memories start to fade.
What about dogs who are not wearing tags when they eat? If your dog doesn't like the metal because of its feel or the reflections on it, you can try laying a washcloth or paper towel over the bowl and place his food on that. Eventually, then you can gradually uncover more and more of the bowl.
If your dog is scared of the bowl moving around, you can make it more stable using Velcro, or investing in products meant to keep that dog bowl more stable. If you still have his old plastic bowl and your dog doesn't have allergies to plastic, you can try placing your new metal bowl right inside it if it fits. This should make the food bowl heavier so it moves less around while giving back a sense of familiarity.
2) Dogs Who Rather Eat on the Floor than Out of the Bowl
Does your dog prefer "canine take out," moving his food to the floor rather than eating directly from the bowl? Well, who can blame them? Dogs weren't really born to eat out of food bowls, it's one of those things that are part of domestication and that dogs may still feel a bit odd about.
After all, what are food bowls all about? They're crafted for humans who want their homes to stay tidy. So to prevent dogs from spreading their dinner all over the floor, we let dogs eat straight from a bowl like humans do.
However, not all dogs are happy about this and some may revert to their instinct to want to eat straight off the floor, so they'll take a mouthful of kibble and eat it away from the bowl.
Often, it's a matter of not liking certain features of the food bowl. Perhaps the bowl moves too much, makes noise or dogs are annoyed by the reflections they see when they eat when using a metal bowl.
Some dogs may be put off eating from their bowl if it gives off odors they do not like such as soap residue. Some other dogs may not be comfortable eating nearby other dogs or noisy areas so they'll quickly grab a mouthful and then consume it in a more quiet place. This can likely be behavior reminiscent of the old days when dogs would carry off meat or bones from a kill so to eat them in peace or save for later.
What to do: if your dog is bothered by his tags, try removing your dog's collar just when he eats so that those tags will stop producing that annoying metallic noise. Chances are, without his tags he may eventually feel more comfortable eating directly from the bowl.
If there are other dogs nearby or you feed in a high-traffic area, try feeding your dog in a more quiet place. Feeding in a crate or small room can prevent, or at least minimize, the chances for making a mess. For dogs who dislike reflections, an option is to cover the bowl with a clean towel and lay food on it, and for dog who dislike the fact that the food bowl moves, investing in a non-skid bowl may be an option.
For desperate cases, you can try feeding from a smaller bowl (or a larger one if your dog dislikes feeling his whiskers touch the bowl) or a flat dish or you can try adding something tasty to the contents of the bowl that cannot be eaten away, such as a bit of low sodium chicken broth or some diluted meat-based baby food with no onion or garlic added.
"If there are other dogs in the house, separate them at feeding time to allow for privacy, so there’s no threat of competition — either real or imagined.”~Dr. Julie Albright-Keck
3) Dogs Who Move The Food Bowl Around
Does your dog take your food bowl on a tour of the house every time it's feeding time? Have you ever found yourself holding your dog's food bowl still by holding it with your foot? Again, you're not alone. Many dog engage in this behavior, especially if the food bowl is the type that allows this behavior. We like to call these dogs the "delivery dogs" who like to "deliver" their bowls all around the house.
First off, consider that any behavior that involves food is potentially reinforcing. In other words, whatever your dog does before getting his food will likely repeat in the future. It's just the nature of things.
Just as your dog will sit more and more if you give him food after he sits, your dog will learn to move the food bowl around if that helps him get food. In simple words, his behavior of pushing the bowl around is rewarded.
Again, dogs don't do this to upset their owners, it's just one of those things that happen. Your dog gives the food bowl a little nudge when food is stuck in the corner of the bowl? Next time he'll likely use that strategy again and again.
What to do: you have several choices to curb this behavior. There are several non-skid mats you can use that will keeps the bowl steady or you can invest in a bowl that has a non-skid silicone bottom. Some dog owners have success using a food dish stand.
4) Dogs Who Tip Their Food Bowl Over
Some dog owners can be quite annoyed by their dog's behavior of tipping over the food bowl. Why would dogs tip over their food bowl? Again, we must be reminded that dogs are not humans, so they have reason to not adhere to our standards of keeping the house tidy by keeping food enclosed in bowls.
Some dogs seem to do it just for the fun of it. The food scatters everywhere and they get to go on a treasure hunt, which may satisfy their need to forage. Think of it as a fun doggy buffet!
Some other dogs might not like their food bowl for several reasons, as explained above such as its smell, size, material or the noise produced when the collar tags clash against it when eating.
Some dogs may also find it annoying if their whiskers repeatedly touch the bowl while they're eating.
What to do: if your dog tips his food bowl over, you are not alone. Indeed, marketers have astutely invented heavy food bowls and non-tip food bowls for frustrated dog owners. Some dog owners have success using a food dish stand.
For dogs who seem to have fun with their "doggy buffets," you may instead want to try one of those food bowls that offer an interactive food puzzle. Win win!
If your dog is tipping the food bowl over and not eating as he usually does, suspect a medical problem or consider whether the food may have gone rancid. Perhaps it's time to try another brand. If the behavior is unusual, it might be worthy listening to your dog: when the infamous 2007 pet food recalls occurred, several dog owners reported that their dogs started tipping over their food bowls and going on a food strike out of the blue!
Consider Medical Problems
If your dog has always been eating from the food bowl with no problems, and now he's suddenly scared of it or acting weird, consider that at times there may be an underlying medical problem.
Your dog may have a sore on his chin that hurts when the touches the food bowl or perhaps he has dental pain and has started to associate it with eating from the bowl.
Sometimes dogs with neck problems will be reluctant to lower their head to eat, which can be interpreted as a dog refusing to eat from a food bowl.
Vision problems may also be a culprit for weird dog behaviors around food bowls.
And, as mentioned, with dogs who tip their food bowl over, don't just rush to assume they're acting finicky, it could be they may be nauseous or have a loss of appetite, especially if they end up not eating their food.