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Why Does My Dog Walk Away From Their Food? 3 Vet-Reviewed Reasons & What to Do

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on June 18, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog not eating its food

Why Does My Dog Walk Away From Their Food? 3 Vet-Reviewed Reasons & What to Do


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

If you’re noticing that your dog likes to check out their food but doesn’t actually do much eating, it can be extremely frustrating. Or perhaps you’re finding that your dog is taking their food out of their bowl to eat it elsewhere in the house.

Either way, what are they doing, why are they doing it, and is there any way that you can get them to stop? Here, we go over everything that you need to know about these frustrating behaviors.


The 3 Reasons That Your Dog Might Sniff Their Food and Walk Away

Nothing is quite as frustrating for a dog owner as watching your furry friend look at their food and then walk away without taking a bite. But what does it mean when this happens, and how can you get them to start eating their food?

1. They’re Not Hungry

Just like you don’t want to eat when your belly is full, neither does your dog. They might come to check out the food to see what’s there, but that doesn’t mean they want to eat just yet. If you are feeding dry just leave the food out and see if they come back to it later. If you are feeding fresh or wet food, refrigerate the food and try again after 2 hours or so.

2. They’re Stressed Out or Sick

If your pup is stressed or sick, there’s a good chance that they won’t eat as much as they typically do. If you suspect that your dog has a medical problem, take them to a vet as soon as possible so they can get diagnosed and receive the proper treatment.

3. They Don’t Like the Food

While this isn’t a common problem because dogs have a narrow range of taste receptors, it can happen if you feed table scraps to your dog. Those foods smell fresher, and your dog is often willing to wait to get the food that they like more.

The best solution is to not give table scraps to your dog before they eat their food first. If you’ve already started, stop feeding them food from your plate until they get back to eating their regular food first.

Smooth fox terrier puppy sniffing food bowl
Image Credit: Aleksey Boyko, Shutterstock

divider-dog pawEnticing Your Pup to Eat

If you’re dealing with a picky eater, there are a few things that you can do to entice them to eat their food. Just keep in mind that as long as there’s not an underlying medical condition that’s keeping them from eating, there’s nothing that you strictly need to do to get them to eat.

Eventually, their survival instincts will kick in and your dog will eat their food. But if you’re trying to speed the process along or just want your dog to enjoy their meals more, you can try these three things to get your dog to eat their food:

  • Add water or dog-safe bone broth to the food.
  • Mix in dog-safe human food.
  • Mix dry and wet food.

Just keep in mind that once you start with one of these methods, there’s a good chance that your dog will start to expect it and won’t eat their food unless you do it each time.

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The 4 Reasons Why Your Dog Carries Food Away From the Bowl

If you’re finding that your pup is taking their food in their mouth and then carrying it somewhere else to eat, there are a few different things that could be happening.

1. They Want to Protect the Food

It’s an age-old instinct that your pup still carries from their wolf days. They take the food away from the bowl to show that it’s theirs and that they don’t want anyone to go after it.

While your pup might not show food aggression, this is their way of saying that they don’t want anyone else to mess with their food. The good news with this is that domesticated dogs typically don’t take their food far when they do this because they want to keep the bowl in sight.

2. They Want Company

Dogs are extremely social creatures, and if you find that they’re bringing food to wherever you’re at, they probably just want to be with you when they eat! Dealing with the mess might be a pain, though, so consider moving their food bowl to wherever you’re at.

feeding beagle dog
Image by: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

3. They Don’t Like the Bowl

Sometimes when your dog is eating, they bump up against the bowl and create noises that they don’t like. This is more common with metal bowls, but it can happen with any material. The simple solution for your pup is to take the food out of the bowl so they don’t have to deal with it!

Try a bowl that they can’t rattle against and make unpleasant noises and it should rectify this issue.

4. They’re Hoarding

It’s another instinct that your dog might have, and it’s easy to spot. If your pup is taking their food from the bowl and moving it somewhere else, they’re probably just saving it for later. They’re trying to move it to a safe spot so they know that they can eat it later.

This is a common problem in multi-dog households, and typically, the best way to address this is to have a feeding schedule where all dogs eat their food at the same time.


Final Thoughts

Now that you know more about why your dog might be sniffing their bowl and then walking away from their food, it’s up to you to try a few of the remedies on this list to rectify it.

If the only problem is that you have a picky eater, sometimes all you need is a bit of persistence to get them to eat their food without any additional tips or tricks!

Featured Image Credit: Daria Lixovetckay, Shutterstock

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