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Why won’t my dog eat from his bowl?

Dogs all have their own little quirks and habits. Feeding time is usually something they look forward to. However, some dogs seem to have an aversion to eating from their bowl, leaving owners wondering what to do. 

Why won’t my dog eat from his bowl?

There are several reasons your dog may not want to eat from its bowl. Some dogs don’t seem to mind where they eat or what it’s placed in, but some dogs can be quite picky. 


Wild dogs, and the wolves they descended from, often drag pieces of meat away from the kill to eat. Your dog may be dragging their food away or even carrying bits of kibble to another location to eat because it’s an instinctual drive for them. 

Metal Bowl Creating Noise

Have you ever been in a crowded noisy restaurant and found it difficult to eat? If you have a metal food bowl, your dog’s collar or tag may be clanging against it. This can understandably be irritating and put the dog off eating from their bowl. 

Bowl too High or Low

There’s quite a debate about what the height of a dog’s bowl should be. An elevated bowl that allows them to eat without bending down can be great for geriatric dogs for mobility issues. However, it also increases the risk of bloat. Bloat is a life threatening condition that occurs when a dog gets too much air in their digestive system. 

Humans are designed to eat with our neck straight. However, dogs are designed to eat from the ground. When the bowl is elevated, this causes them to ingest air, particularly if they are a large breed dog. 

If your dog has a mobility issue, you may need to use a raised dog bowl. If your dog is small, the sides of the bowl may be too high for them to reach comfortably. 

Prefers Privacy

Some dogs are shy in certain situations. Some will not poop with an audience. Others will not eat with one. If the bowl is in a high traffic area of the home, your dog may require more privacy during meal time. 

Positive Reinforcement

If your dog refused to eat out of their bowl, and you began hand feeding them to get them to eat, they may want you to continue feeding them by hand. 

Perhaps they had an illness, so you fed them by hand. Some dogs need to fed this way after surgery as well. The extra care and attention of being fed by hand is preferable to eating from the bowl.

Doesn’t Like the Food

Your dog may refuse to eat from the bowl if they don’t like the food. Some dogs are picky eaters, and simply won’t eat some types of dog food. Others may have been fine with eating the food a week ago, but grown bored with it and need a change.

How do I get my dog to eat from his bowl?

How to get your dog eating from their bowl will depend on why they aren’t eating from the bowl in the first place. The good news is that these issues can be fairly easy to correct. 

Change the Location of the Bowl

If you suspect there’s too much hustle and bustle around your dog’s dining area, move the location of the bowl. It’s a simple solution that’s well worth a try, especially if the current location is in a high-traffic area. 

This can also help if your dog has developed a negative association with the food bowl. 

Change the Mat

Sometimes, all you need to do is change or remove the feeding mat. It’s possible your dog doesn’t like the mat for some reason. They may also be bored with their bowl. If they have a negative association with the bowl, changing the mat should be part of the solution as well. 

Get a New Bowl

If your dog seems bored with their bowl or have a negative association with it, get a new bowl. Today’s bowls come in many shapes and sizes, so you can change things up for your pooch. 

Add a Topper

Adding a topper instantly makes eating from the bowl much more appealing. Toppers are designed to be tasty. You can purchase toppers at most stores that carry dog food, or you can make your own. 

Instant toppers include plain canned pumpkin, canned fish, chicken, beef, pork, and yogurt. Chicken or beef salt also works well, just be sure to get the low sodium variety. 

If you want to get a bit more complex, make a beef strew as a topper. Add beef, beef stock, and veggies. Avoid excess salt and seasonings. Cook it until it’s soft. You can freeze portions for later use. 

Size Down and Feed More Frequently

Some dogs are intimidated by large bowls or portion sizes. Many bowls are available as sets with different sizes. You can begin with the smallest size, and feed your dog smaller meals more frequently. 

Once they are happily completing these small meals, size up and cut down on the number of meals. 

Add a Treat

If you’ve tried changing the bowl, mat, and location, but your dog still won’t touch the bowl, you may need some extra enticement. Once a day, place a treat in the bowl. Don’t pressure them to eat out of their bowl. Just feed them in whatever manner has been working, and place the treat in the bowl. Once your dog has taken the treat for a few days, add small portions of food to the bowl along with the treat. Gradually increase the amount of food until your dog is eating meals from the bowl. 

If your dog has a strong negative association, this should help. It replaces the negative association with a positve one (getting a treat), and avoids continuing the negative association (attempting to force them to eat from the bowl). 

Why is my dog suddenly not eating from his bowl?

Your dog has been happily eating from its bowl up till now. Suddenly, it refuses to eat from it. What happened? 


Trauma and negative association is a likely culprit. Trauma doesn’t have to be a huge life-altering event to affect your dog.

They may have been startled by a loud noise or attacked by the cat when eating from their bowl. They may be teething and experiencing tooth pain. Even the clang of their collar on a metal bowl can be enough to create a negative association. 

If your dog has a nervous disposition, they are particularly susceptible to this type of trauma. However, it can happen to any dog. 

Dogs have a strong associative memory. This means they don’t recall details of events. Instead, they associate the place or thing with an emotion. If your dog was startled by a noise when eating, what he will remember is that he felt scared when eating from his bowl. 

Naturally, he wants to avoid feeling that way again. For him, this means avoiding eating from the bowl. 

Change in Food

If your dog’s dislike of the bowl started when you changed their food, this may be the problem. Try giving their old food. You may have to get a new bowl or change the mat if they refuse the old food as well. This can help remove negative association due to the food they disliked. You can also try toppers with the new food. In some cases, it’s all a dog needs to get used to a new food. 


If the area where your dog eats has suddenly become noisy, this might be the culprit. Perhaps schedules changed and now you are running through the kitchen while the dog is eating. 

Perhaps the tv in the next room is too loud, or another dog is barking. It can be quite a bit of stimulation, which can make it hard for the dog to eat. 

Illness or Injury

If your dog has an illness or injury, this can cause them to not eat from their bowl. Eating may be painful for them. If they have an injury, it can be painful to stand or bend down. If they have an illness, they may simply have lost their appetite. 

Don’t Leave Food Out

It may seem counter intuitive, but you should limit the amount of time your dog has to eat. Leave their bowl down for 10-20 minutes. Once this time has passed, remove the bowl, regardless of how much they’ve eaten. 

They should quickly realize that they have a limited time frame and begin eating from the bowl. 

Realize They Will Be Ok

If you are really concerned about your dog not eating, make an appointment with their vet. However, in most cases, dogs are like children. They’ll eat nearly anything when they are really hungry. 

It’s not cruel to establish boundaries and expectations for your dog by only feeding them from their bowl. It may take a day, but most dogs will eventually decide their bowl is preferable to being hungry. 

Why won’t my dog eat from his new bowl?

You get your dog a nice new food bowl, and they refuse to touch their food. Why won’t they eat from the new bowl?

Doesn’t Like Change

It’s important to keep in mind that dogs are generally creatures of habit. Some are particularly averse to change. Some dogs are so resistant to change that they will not eat out of a new bowl, even if it’s a carbon copy of the old one!

Doesn’t Like the Material

Your dog may not like the material the new bowl is made from. Some dogs are finicky. The smell and feel of the bowl will be different, so it could be putting them off. 

Wrong Size, Height, or Shape

The bowl might be too large or too tall for your dog. Some dogs are intimidated by large bowls. Some don’t like certain shapes. 


If the height of the bowl is different, they may not like the elevation.