Dogs keep their owners guessing. You may find yourself wondering why they do certain things pretty regularly. One of the questions owners often ask is why does my dog eat off the floor? 

Why does my dog eat off the floor?

It’s cringe worthy to us, with our hygienic sensibilities. Floors harbor dirt and germs, making it an inappropriate place to eat your meals. However, dogs have no such issues. Some of them even prefer eating off the floor. 

It can be amusing, particularly if your dog is picking up a mouthful of food at a time and bringing it to another location. It certainly isn’t efficient, which makes you wonder why your dog is going through the trouble. 

Instinct

Wild dogs will often drag food away from the kill. The alpha dog and more dominant dogs eat first, so submissive dogs will sneak away with what they can to eat in peace. Otherwise, they will likely have the food taken or have to fight for it. 

Your domesticated dog doesn’t have to guard its food from other pack members, but the instinct remains. Domesticated dogs still have some of their wild instincts. Which instincts are present varies from dog to dog. Some dogs have a strong instinct to drag food away from their bowl, because it is similar to the kill site in the wild. 

Noise From Bowl

Some dogs are very sensitive to noise, particularly when they are eating. If you have a metal food bowl, your dog’s tag or collar may be tapping the bowl creating an unpleasant noise. 

Some dogs don’t like the way food sounds in the bowl, so they will avoid eating out of the bowl. 

Privacy

Some dogs prefer privacy when they eat. Have you ever noticed someone staring at you when you eat? Did it make you uncomfortable? Your dog may feel the same way. 

They may be uncomfortable if you or others are nearby when they are eating. Instead of eating at their bowl, they carry it to a more private location. 

Why won’t my dog eat from his bowl?

It can be frustrating. You put down food in the bowl, only to watch them grab it out of the bowl and take it somewhere else to eat, or simply drop it beside the bowl on the floor. They may even refuse to eat completely when the food is served in the bowl. 

Negative Association

Dogs don’t have the same type of long term memory that humans do. They don’t remember details. However, they do have a strong associative memory.

This means that if something fun happens at the park, they will have positive feelings about the park. If something negative happens, they will have negative feelings about the park. They may even fear going back. They won’t remember why they are afraid, they will simply know that they are. 

There are a wide number of things that can create a negative association with your dog’s food bowl. A loud noise when eating, being scolded, or experiencing pain are a few. 

Once this association is made, your dog may be afraid or uncomfortable eating to their bowl. 

Change in Food

If you’ve recently changed your dog’s food, this may be why they don’t want to eat from the bowl. They may not like the food. In this case, it’s not necessarily the bowl. It’s that they aren’t as interested in eating in general. They may eat the food off the floor simply because it’s different and sparks their curiosity. 

Being watched while eating

Pain or Injury

Pain or injury can cause your dog to stop eating from their bowl. If they are currently in pain, they may not want to eat. If they had previous pain or injury, they may not want to eat from their bowl because of negative association. 

The association can be particularly strong if the pain generally occurs when eating. This can occur if they have problems with their teeth or jaw, or the eating position is painful. 

Bowl Fear 

Your dog may have developed a bowl fear. Negative associations can cause bowl fear, but sometimes there’s no obvious cause. It may be similar to phobias in humans, which are by nature irrational. 

If your dog has bowl fear, they may not go near their bowl at all. 

Bowl Is Too High or Low

The bowl may be too high up or too low. When you are sitting at a table, you have an ideal table and chair height. Children are often put into booster seats so they can comfortably reach the table. If you’ve ever eaten at a very low table, you probably found it uncomfortable. 

The same is true for dogs. Elevated dog bowls are trending right now. They place the food bowl closer to your dog’s mouth, which makes eating easier for your dog. 

Elevated bowls are linked to a condition called BLOAT, particularly in large breed dogs. The condition causes food and air to get trapped in the stomach, and can cause life-threatening issues. BLOAT can also be caused by eating too quickly.  

Elevated bowls are a good choice for dogs with pain or mobility issues. If you have an older dog with arthritis, back, or neck problems, consider an elevated bowl. 

How do I get my dog to eat from his bowl instead of the floor?

You want your dog to stop eating from the floor and begin eating from their bowl. There are some steps you can take to get them eating properly again. 

Try a Plastic or Ceramic Bowl

If your dog currently has a metal bowl, try a plastic or ceramic bowl. You may also want to try different shapes and colors. Some dogs are picky about their bowl as well as their food. 

Use a Plate or Tray

Some dogs just don’t like eating from a bowl. The bowl could be too high, or they may not seem to be a rhyme or reason. It’s worth trying putting their food on a plate or tray to see if they will eat from it. 

Place Treats in Bowl

Try tempting your dog with high value treats. Simply place a treat in their bowl once a day. They won’t be able to resist taking the treat. Once they are willingly taking the treat, start adding some kibble. Start with just a few pieces and then add more as they become more comfortable with it. 

Remove Bowl Mat

If your dog has developed a negative association with their food bowl, removing the bowl mat may help. This changes the area slightly, and could make the association weaker. 

Change Location

Changing the location can help with a few issues. If negative association is the problem, changing the location will further minimize any association. 

If your dog is taking their food somewhere else to eat it, they likely need more privacy. In this case, moving their bowl to a quieter area away from prying eyes might do the trick. 

Feed Smaller Portions

If you feed your dog large portions, they may find the amount of food overwhelming. They will take small portions and place them on the floor to eat. Try feeding your dog small portions more often. 

Change Bowl Height

You may need to change the bowl height, particularly if your dog has mobility or pain issues. It’s more comfortable for your dog to eat from a raised bowl. Placing small portions in the bowl may help reduce the risk of bloat.

Change Their Food

Enticing your dog with a new food might be all that’s required to get them eating out of their bowl. If you are currently feeding them dry kibble, try offering wet dog food, or mixing wet food with the kibble. Many dogs find this more appetizing, and it’s also harder to remove from the bowl. 

You can also try a topper. There are a wide variety of toppers available in stores. You can also make your own. Homemade beef stew is an excellent topper.

Making your own gravy is another option. Heat chicken or beef stock. Add in arrowroot powder one teaspoon at a time until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. 

If your dog is interested in the topper, it brings the focus away from the issue that is causing them to eat off the floor, and places it on their meal. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.