Have you noticed your dog pick a bone, a chunk of food, or a mouthful of kibble and walk away from his food bowl to eat it elsewhere? If so, the behavior may have made you wonder, “Why does my dog take his food out of the bowl to eat it?
Not every reason your dog takes his food out of the bowl to eat it is a danger sign.
Eating his food out of the bowl could be pure dog instinct and not a danger sign. Your dog could be looking for mealtime company or simply keeping other pets in the home away from his food. In rare cases, the behavior points to food bowl rejection or a fallout of free feeding.
If you want to know more about these reasons, the rest of the article has interesting details. Let’s start with the most obvious reason.
1. It’s a Question of Instinct
Although dogs have lived with us for ages, they still use instinct on issues we resolve with reason.
Wolf observers have noticed that these ancestors of dogs learn to take and carry their food with their mouths when they are still young pups and keep the behavior throughout life.
Wolves readily tear away a piece of their large meal and carry it to a different location to eat it peacefully, hide it for later consumption, or bring it to a nursing wolf and her pups.
As wolf descendants with remnant wolf behavior, it’s not unnatural for a dog to take his food from the bowl and walk away to eat it elsewhere.
Some dogs may also show this behavior as a form of hoarding. This usually happens if the pet has suffered hunger when you are out for work. Dogs with a history of neglect, like those adopted from shelters or rescues, may also show hoarding behavior.
2. Your Dog Feels Like His Food is Threatened
Most of us know that before we de-wolfed them with domestication, dogs did many things in packs. That includes hunting and food sharing.
But, do you know that dogs have become solitary food gatherers compared to their wolf counterparts who still practice pack hunting?
Experiments with dogs and wolves have shown that dogs are less likely to work together to acquire food and less likely to share food with their conspecifics than wolves.
This explains why a dog will carry away its food from a bowl to eat it elsewhere if he feels that others around are interested in his meal. It could be another dog in the home or a cat that tends to dip its muzzle in the dog’s bowl when it’s time to eat.
Taking food away from fellow pets is especially true if you don’t feed them separately or if you feed the pets at different times.
The need to keep other pets away from his food bowl is just one of the many reasons your pet can develop a range of other strange dog-eating behaviors.
3. You’ve Isolated your Dog from the Rest of the Family
Yes. You read that right!
Dogs are social creatures. They don’t only enjoy a cuddle on the couch, but they are also happy eating close to the family.
So, if you cuddle and play with your pup but send him into exile when it’s time to eat, your dog might want to let you know he prefers eating close to you. That’s why he will prefer to take his food out of the bowl and eat it on the floor next to you.
Incidentally, there are also dogs who won’t eat unless you watch them. On the extreme, I’ve seen my dog bring food to my bedroom when I leave him to eat alone in the living room.
Also, if you have more than one dog and they are friendly with each other, the dogs might prefer being in each other’s company when eating.
This video has the humorous proof you need to believe that dogs enjoy eating with company:
4. Something’s Wrong with the Food Bowl
It’s already unnatural that you make your pup eat out of a bowl, something his ancestors never did in the wild. But it’s an altogether different thing if you make your pup eat from a bowl that frightens him or makes eating uncomfortable.
A metal bowl can scare a pup who’s just beginning to feed on solid food if he sees his image on the plate or hears noises when the plate moves.
I saw my dog just lie and watch his reflection on a metal bowl when he was a puppy, without touching his food. I had to replace the bowl, and he jumped right into munching his kibble.
Also, if the food bowl is too large for a puppy or too small for a big dog, eating from there can feel uncomfortable, making your dog prefer to take his food out of the bowl.
5. You Use Free-Feeding with your Dog
Apart from the obvious risk that free-feeding can cause canine obesity, doing so can mean throwing every practice of good dog feeding out of the window. Your dog will eat when he feels like it, and that could also mean picking a bit of the food out of the bowl and eating it while lying next to you as you work.
Dogs can also be picky about cleanliness. If the food is in the bowl all day, your dog might prefer taking what he wants to eat out of the bowl and eating it on the floor. That way, the remainder food stays clean for later.
Read more about the pros and cons of free feeding in our article dedicated to the topic.
If you’ve asked or heard someone else ask, “Why does my dog take his food out of the bowl to eat” it’s quite likely you or the other person consider this behavior weird.
However, taking his food out of the bowl to eat is not something you should fret about. Your dog might simply be going by ancestral dog instinct or seeking your company while eating.
If the behavior seems out of hand and you find food remains all over the house, a couple of refresher obedience training sessions will quickly resolve the issue.