Have you ever noticed your dog sniffing or ‘nosing’ their food? Sometimes, dogs will nudge and bury their food with their nose, hiding it until later. Why do dogs nose their food? Is there something wrong? There are often some very sound reasons behind this behavior- as well as some situations that should cause concern among owners.

Make note of what your dog is actually eating throughout the day to ensure they are not feeling poorly or suffering from a medical issue. In these instances, see your veterinary provider for further assessment and advice pertaining to your dog’s habits.

Why does my dog nose his food?

So, why does your dog nose his food? It could be as simple as trying to determine what treat they have been given- and if it is the same as what other dogs or pets in the home have! If you are going to feed or give your pets treats, there are not many things that you can do to prevent your dogs from checking out what the other has, unless you plan to feed them separately.

Some dogs engage in this behavior for fun, nosing his food and nudging their food bowl. If you are watching your dog during this time, it may lead your pet to continue doing this as they notice and appreciate the extra attention that they are garnering when they nose their food.

You should pay attention to whether your dog is eating and has a regular appetite during these instances. When pets nose their food and are not eating, it is time to speak with a veterinary provider.

Some dogs may be nosing their food to store it away for another time- but more on that later.

Why does my dog nose his food bowl?

As mentioned, nosing and nudging the food bowl is not necessarily worrisome, but if your pet is not eating or losing weight, see your vet.

Also, this behavior could result in a messy situation if you are not using sturdy or heavy-enough bowls to feed and water your pet. If the bowl is harder to move, your pet will be less inclined to play with it and may eat their meal in a bit more-swift fashion. The bowl could be distracting to some young or playful dogs.

If your pet is nudging and nosing a dish that does not belong to them, they could just be curious about what is inside. You should know that pets like to play and if the nosing and nudging are attention-seeking behaviors, you could be “feeding” into the problem! 

Why does my dog bury food with his nose?

It is not uncommon to see dogs bury food because they are saving it for later. This could be due to stress and anxiety- the act of digging and burying food, even in bedding or the furniture, calms down a nervous dog.

They may be merely tucking the food away for a later time when they feel more like eating it. If you find that your dog is burying and hiding other things, like your clothes, cell phones, or toys, there could be a behavioral component at play.

Have there been any major life changes lately, like a move or a new family member? Talk to your vet about what could be going on with your dog and how to best help them.

Dogs hiding food is partly due to their history, too. They know that food is important and surely, they do not want any of it to be wasted. By hiding it, they can return to it later to eat and enjoy. This is not to say that these dogs are not being fed enough; it is typically due to the innate traits and mannerisms of dogs, in general.

Why does my dog nose food out of the bowl?

If you notice your dog consistently trying to move their bowl to another area of the home to eat, there could be something present in the home environment that is causing them stress or discomfort during mealtime. If they are nosing the food out of the bowl and not eating it, you should consult with your veterinarian.

There is also the possibility that they are being fed too much and are hoarding the food, but if they are simply not eating as they normally do, see the vet to rule out a medical issue or injury. Try getting heavier or more stable dishes and observe whether this impacts the behavior.

Some dogs may move toward the bowl and bump their nose or face into it- you should know that this may be an indication that your dog’s vision is declining or that they are having difficulty seeing their food. If your dog is older, they are at an increased risk for cataracts, which could over time leave them blind.

Depending on your pet’s age and health, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to restore your dog’s sight.

What should I do about my dog nosing his food?

Nosing food is not a bad thing, but if your dog becomes obsessive about burying or hiding their food, they may be hoarding food. This is a behavioral issue that could result from many different things. It can also foster a sense of dominance and cause aggressive behavior if anyone comes near their stash.

It is more likely that a dog will hoard food when they are fed too much, rather than those that are perhaps not fed enough, so the solution seems to be that owners should cut back on the food and treats being given to pets.

Your dog has excess, so they will attempt to hide and store the food for later- an innate compulsion- and then they may guard and protect their hoard. This inevitably can lead to acting out aggressively- and if you do not find the hoard of food, you could be welcoming pests and/or wildlife to your door.

This behavior is also seen with toys; if your pet is hiding and hoarding pet toys, take some back and tuck them away. Too many toys and too much food can cause your pet stress and concern regarding burying and hiding them. It may sound strange, but you can make them more relaxed by providing them with less. The stimulation of so much may backfire and cause them to act out in ways you wish they would not.

It should never be ruled out that, in some instances, there could be medical issues at bay that are manifesting in new or excessive nosing behavior. Dogs that are sick, not feeling well, or that do not have an appetite will tend to nose and nudge their food also. Keep track of your pet’s eating behavior and whether their appetite has changed.

A decrease in appetite is a symptom of many underlying and serious health problems, from cancer to heartworm. The best way to alleviate worry is to report the behavior to your veterinary provider; take your pet in for an examination and assessment to be on the safe side. For the most part, this is the exception rather than the rule and nosing the food is a common and perfectly normal behavior for many, many dogs.

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.