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Why Do Dogs Carry Food from Their Bowls?

Dogs That Carry Food from Their Bowls…Why?

Dogs are so much a part of our family life that when they do something “unhuman,” we have to wonder what’s going on. For example, why do dogs have food in their bowl but insist on picking up the kibble and running to another spot to eat it? Take my dog for example: he carries his food to the living room rug to eat. This doesn’t make sense to us humans because, after all, we don’t snatch French fries and dash to another room to eat them away from the family (usually, at least).

Dogs are known to be “pack animals.” Signs of this ancient history in the domesticated dog’s past are not far below the surface, and related behavior is still seen in wolves, coyotes, and other wild dog relatives. When we observe wild packs, we can observe different “ranks” of leaders and subordinates. The leaders call the shots, the subordinates contribute wherever they are allowed, and the pack survives.

So what happens when dinner is served? After a hunt, the pack leaders are strong and aggressive enough to take the choice spoils, while the lower ranking animals snatch what they can and carry it off to escape the fray. This allows the individuals with less social standing to avoid conflict (especially from higher-ups) and eat in peace.

This happens in pet dogs, too. When domestic puppies are born, they learn quickly to compete for mother’s milk and, later, for the puppy food. The less aggressive puppies sometimes learn to grab a portion of food and run off with it so they get their fair share without battling the others. This behavior is less a part of daily survival than that of wolves, but the same instinct is there.

The behavior of a dog grabbing kibble out of their bowl and going to another area to eat is considered normal behavior. It’s ingrained and understandable, but some intervention at this early age might shape their behavior in later years.

This Food is Mine!

A household with more than one pet, or with a single shy dog, might see the “snatch and run” behavior from time to time. Simply separating pets at feeding time might ease any worry a dog has about getting his fair share. Give everyone some space for a more relaxed meal and provide enough bowls that each pet can have their own. If your dog just really likes to eat supper off the carpet (and some dogs do), a scrap section carpet piece at the feeding station might prevent them from sneaking away. As a sociable creature, your dog might simply want to be near you while he eats, so feeding him within your sight might help allay his loneliness.

Things That May Annoy Dogs When Eating

I like to eat when it is quiet. Any sound can get on my nerves; if I am leaning over a soup bowl and my long necklace is clacking away on it, I am annoyed. Your dog might feel exactly the same way about sound while they eat, particularly if the food bowl is metal and tags are clanging against it. I see why this could drive a dog to eat elsewhere. Dogs’ hearing is so highly sensitive it must sound like a gong! A glass, ceramic, or plastic bowl might make for a quieter mealtime for your dog if this is a problem.

Another factor is the general surroundings near the food dishes. Is it very busy? Dusty? Do other pets such as cats eat in the same area? Consider whether your dog might be affected by any of these things and prefer a calmer, cleaner environment.

Is It a Big Deal..Dog’s Carrying Food?

Food-transferring behavior is generally not concerning unless it turns into a resource-guarding behavior that involves growling or aggression. At that point, consulting a veterinarian, trainer, or behaviorist might be a good idea before the habits become too ingrained and problems develop. If you’re just looking to avoid a messy carpet, you can try some of the above suggestions to modify the behavior. Should you not appreciate crumbs of kibble away from the feeding station, you may crate your dog or confine him during feeding time. Not all dogs eat their entire meal at once, and maybe they don’t have to, so you may opt to feed the same amount of food in smaller meals throughout the day. And, of course, some dogs simply prefer eating this way for reasons that we’ll probably never understand. They are such interesting creatures, and their differences are what make our lives richer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I might eat in front of the TV tonight…