Why Does My Dog Eat His Food Away From the Bowl?

July 2, 2014

dog eat djunBy Langley Cornwell

Do you have a pet who takes a mouthful of food and walks away, drops it on the floor and then eats small bits of it away from the bowl, possibly even in a corner? This is more common in dogs but cats may also do it, and this pet behavior leaves many owners scratching their heads.

This article will help you understand why some pets eat their food away from the bowl.

Pack Mentality

Many animal experts agree that pack mentality is one reason why dogs will go to their dinner dish, remove tasty morsels of the CANIDAE food and take it someplace else in the home or yard to eat it. Some dogs will just go a short distance away from their dishes and others will go far away or even to a hiding spot such as behind the couch or under the table to eat their food.

The biggest reason for this behavior is instinct. Dogs have this natural pack mentality and depending on factors such as breed, training and family line, some dogs have this instinct more strongly than others. If you’ve ever watched wolves on a nature show, you might be familiar with the feeding frenzy that is wild animals eating.

You probably don’t see your pampered little pooch in the same way, but some of that instinct may be lingering. Your dog is saying, “This is mine. Don’t take it” when he moves that food away.

Fighting is risky for most dogs, so rather than stay in the pack and fight for what is theirs, they will snag a piece or two and run away with it. This means they get to eat without the risk of a fight. It also ensures they get some of it without another dog trying to take it away.

You are more likely to see your pet do this if you have more than one dog in the home, or even another pet. If you’ve ever seen your dog look like he is hiding food from the cat, this might be why. However, even if you only have one dog in the home, that instinct could still be there. The competition in the home might not be real, but the instinct tells them to do it.

One way to prevent this is to feed multiple animals separately so they do not react to a perceived threat.

Other Reasons Dogs Do This

While pack mentality is the most common reason some dogs will eat their food away from their bowl, there are other reasons. One is loneliness. If your dog food bowl is in one room and the family is in the other, your dog may bring his food to you because he’s feeling lonely. Dogs naturally long for companionship, so he may just want to see you or be near you while he eats.

What about Cats?

If you have a cat that eats his food away from the bowl, the reasons could be varied. One reason is that a cat’s primal instinct is very much the same as a dog’s pack mentality; they want to get their food away from the (instinctual) fray so they can eat it in peace.

Cats may also do this because some felines don’t like their food and water bowls near one another. If you have the food in a combined dish, or you place the food near the water bowl, your cat may grab a few bites of food and run off with it because she doesn’t want to be near the water. You can fix this by moving the dishes apart.

Do you have a dog or cat that eats his food away from the bowl? Now that you know why, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Top photo by Djun Kim
Bottom photo by Tony Alter

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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  1. Ronda says:

    My 2 yr old Yorkie has recently decided that if he can see any of his Stainless steel dish showing through his food he will scratch on my legs or scratch on the door until I come and fix it where he can’t see the bottom. Why is he doing this?

  2. Jessica says:

    My dog has been doing this for a long time it’s not an issue with the little sisters running around the house she wants peace and quiet and she will often sit as close to me as possible she always brings some food and puts it on her bed

  3. Barbara Armo says:

    I don’t understand why the food and water bowls need to be separated.

  4. Marcia Woolman says:

    We have a 7 month kitten that we adopted when he was 2 months old. The litter was taken away from thew “queen” early because of a respiratory ailment. Ever since we’ve had him he only seems to eat when I’m standing with him, stroking him and/or just staying with him.
    What gives? In security??

  5. Bev Mccarragher says:

    We have a Great Pryrenese a female named Lucy. When she eats she stands over her bowl and moves her head upwards and sideways before she eats her food. Other times she will sit in front of her bowl with her paws crossed in a heart shape. ( it looks like she’s praying)
    for a few minutes. What’s going on??

  6. My dog does this too he is a male he also nudges his bowl tries to turn. It over will try and cover with blanket or rug. My mother’s male dog does this too not the female tho. I believe it is some type of instinctual pack behavior just deep inside dogs nature as mine is a toy poodle only have one dog so no one else. Is around to take his food. After he does this ritual he will eat every morsel and leaves the two or 3 he took from the bowl originally i think he likes knowing they are there. Lots of dogs do this. Must be a throw back to wolf behavior

  7. Only have the one pet he a taco terrier bout 5 mons old , but will take a piece of food and run away from the bowl to eat it and come back for another piece, and will not eat any of it at all if someone is not there watching him eat , we have to stand there while he eats, and it’s very time consuming, when ur trying to get ready for work at 5 or 6 am in the morning.

  8. emily says:

    Hello, I have a gorg fluffy toy poodle cross Chihuahua puppy 4 months old, we know why “Butters” puppy eats away from his food bowl. However how do we get him to eat his food in the kitchen from his bowl, without one of us standing beside him which he still runs with his food. Weather we stay with him or not??? Kind regards Emily

  9. Zay Sevier says:

    I have a Yorkie. ALL yorkies eat their food away from the bowl, as far as I’m aware. I can quote from a notable Yorkie named Bobby-O: “Now I must tell you that we Yorkies are not like other dogs. I think I speak for us as a group when I say we don’t like to stand at a bowl to eat the kibbles. It just seems a little undignified. What I do is take one of the delicious bites, go to the living room, and get comfortable to eat it. Then I go back and get another bite, and back to the living room. That seems such a more leisurely and sophisticated way to eat your meal.”
    This is from the story, Bobby-O, on Kindle. Check it out