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. Rosemary Swann says:

    My last dog would growl if you tried to take it. I played a game. I’d tip toe with two fingers then run away. After awhile she stop growling . my current dog a Chihuahua does nothing. Its like she’s shares with me!

  2. Mike says:

    Shal’aam Aleichim

    I understand the reason for moving his food away from his bowl, but would that instinct include growling at his food while he eats it.

    I have a Chihuahua-Rat Terrier Mix and he’s extremely intelligent. He’ll go to his bowl, growl at his food, pick each piece, walk approx., two feet away from his bowl, drop it, growl at it and than eat it.

    I guess the growling part is his instinctive way of announcing to everyone that this food is his. It’s really funny.

    Burach haba ba’shem YaHuah

    1. Pancho says:

      It seems to me that your dog isn’t that “intelligent” if he’s growling at food that is already dead. If a wolf finds a dead corps, it’s not going to be dumb enough to sit there and growl at something that already cease to exist. Food for thought

      1. Kathleen says:

        Wow that’s very rude!…Oh,and BTW, “corpse” is spelled with an E at the end.Just some food for thought 😉

      2. Larry says:

        I enjoyed your story. Thanks for sharing

    2. Gerald Martinez says:

      Mike I think that is very cute and quite clever your pup does that to his food. His little routine of eating is all his own and if intimidation he’s announcing when eating, then that is a sign of intelligence he has. If it works for him then he is alright. So cute that he growls at his food as to say “YEAH I KILLED THUS MEAL,AND ITS MINE! GRRRR…LOL so cute and much character. I too have a Chihuahua/terrier mix and she’s only 3 1/2 months and she does some very clever things as well. Don’t worry about other people’s views,it’s their own,and the response in particular to your comment was just plain ignorant..to say the least. Nonetheless Mike take care of your fur child he seems to be very smart and that’s all that matters

      1. Sarah Bell says:


  3. Alfie's mum says:

    My rescue Jack Russell will take a small mouthful from his bowl and take it out into the hall where he eats that piece. Then he goes back to his bowl and eats the rest there with no problem. I’m wondering if part of it is because he was in a shelter for a year and maybe the pack mentality thing is in play, but he’s starting to realise he doesn’t have competition here (I’ve had him for seven months). Maybe this behaviour will fall away over time, certainly I’ve noticed that if I’m in the kitchen after I’ve put down his food that he doesn’t go as far as the hall with that first mouthful.

  4. Harmony says:

    I have had two dogs who mot only take their food away from the bowl but also strictly to the carpet which makes it much more difficult to clean up. And if we move the bowl to the carpet They just eat it there is there anything about carpet specifically?

    1. Flip says:

      My dog does the exact same thing… to the living room rug. Sometimes she’ll do this 3-5 times with a piece or two and then she’ll go to the bowl to eat the rest.

    2. Mary says:

      My guess is the food won’t move around as much on a carpet.

    3. Leslie says:

      I have a 2.5 y/o Havanese that does this exact same thing. She is the only pet in the household, and she typically gathers 4 or 5 pieces of food, walks a couple of feet onto the carpet, drops it all, and then eats it piece-by-piece. She’s does this until she’s had her fill. I’ve never tried moving her bowl to the carpet, but if it works, I wonder if putting a piece of carpet remnant under her bowl would do the same?

  5. 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?

  6. 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

  7. Barbara Armo says:

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

  8. 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??

  9. 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??

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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

    1. Iishha says:

      With all due respect I have to disagree with your post ….although not in its entirety. I also have a Yorkie and not only is he very protective of his bowl and eats from it almost exclusively but he gets very offended when his other furry family members try to eat from it ESPECIALLY THE CAT ! He will also tattle in them if he catches them in the act by barking and growling at them. It’s actually really funny because when his own threatening doesn’t get them to stop he’ll come to us to handle the situation and maybe we are wrong to enforce the behavior but we give all of our furry babies their own bowls so they don’t have to worry about getting the right amount of food during feedings