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5 Reasons Your Dog Is a Messy Eater (And How To Fix It!)

Last Updated: December 6, 2023

Have you ever looked at your furry friend’s eating space and wished someone had published a dog-eating etiquette book in canine language? 

Well, messy eating is not natural for dogs, and if you know that already, a finger on your chin while your mind wonders, “Why is my dog a messy eater?” is justified. 

There are several reasons your dog can be a messy eater, including a dental or mouth medical problem, a training gap, a breed-related condition, or an instinctive tendency.

Put that way, these reasons may not help you much, which is why I decided to give you a full account of the reasons your dog is a messy eater.

And here they are! 

Why Is My Dog a Messy Eater?

1. Your Dog Missed a Point on Food Bowl Training

Dogs did not eat from bowls in their wild life, and neither did they need to care about how neat they left their eating space after a meal. 

That goes to say you need to train your pup to use a food bowl during weaning if you want the pet to keep its eating space neat all the time. 

I have seen dog owners who just give their pup a bowl of food at the weaning stage. They do not stop to see if the pet eats from the bowl or takes out the food to eat it from the floor. 

If that is your case, your dog-feeding style is the answer to the question, “Why is my dog a messy eater?” You need to make up for the missed training. 

You can use positive reinforcement to teach your dog to eat neatly from a food bowl. 

Here’s how:

  1. Start by purchasing a new food bowl for your dog. Using the old one can be a barrier to changing the dog’s messy-eating habits. 
  2. Pour a bit of your dog’s favorite meal into the bowl and allow your pup to eat it. While the dog eats, congratulate him with your usual praise cues like, “Good boy!”
  3. Wait for about 15 minutes, then add a little more of the food into the bowl. Again, praise your pup as he eats the meal.
  4. Reward your pup with a delicious snack each time he finishes the food serving without eating it out of the bowl. That should create the idea that eating from the bowl is a good thing that comes with a reward. 
    Deter any attempts to eat away from the bowl or flip it over. You can do that using the cues you usually use to stop your dog like, “No!” or “Stop that!” You should also withdraw the treat in this case.
  5. Repeat this a few times daily for some days. Your pup is smart and will quickly learn to eat neatly from the bowl.
Dog Eating Kibble Making a Mess

2. You have the Wrong Type of Bowl for your Dog

Dog food bowls come in different shapes, sizes, and materials. But not every bowl available in the market may work for your dog. For example, I watched a friend’s pup refuse to eat completely from a shiny metal bowl because the pet saw his reflection in the bowl. She had no choice but to change it. 

You can find other reasons your dog refuses to eat from a metal bowl here.

If your dog’s food bowl doesn’t help the pet eat comfortably, your dog may start to take the food out of the bowl or gulp it down quickly, messing up the whole eating area. 

A slipping bowl is also another reason your dog messes up when eating. Having to pull back or follow a sliding bowl is quite the punishment for your furry friend. And while the pup does that, food will find its way out of the bowl. 

Be your dog’s good friend and find a non-slip dog food bowl. There are plenty of them available in the market, like the Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slo Bowl from  I love this dog food bowl as it’s not only great as a non-slip option, but it helps with slow eating for proper digestion. It’s also easy to clean.

3. Your Dog may be Developing a Mouth Disorder

If until now your dog has been a neat eater, and suddenly the pup’s eating space is a mess, your dog may be having medical issues with their mouth. 

There are several disorders of the mouth that can cause your dog pain or discomfort when eating, making the pet spill food all over. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Canine Stomatitis, or the inflammation of the mouth mucous membranes.
  • Lip (skin) fold dermatitis, a chronic skin inflammation disease that occurs with grazing from friction, poor ventilation, and excessive moisture. Studies suggest it is common in brachycephalic breeds like the Pug because of their lower lip folds and in large breeds with upper lip flaps like the French and English Bulldogs.
  • Glossitis (tongue inflammation), which can be caused by infection, injury or burn wounds, insect bites, or exposure to irritating chemicals.
  • Viral warts, or benign growth on the mouth lining caused by viruses.
  • Oral tumors, which could be benign or cancerous and appear on the gums or the mouth lining.

If you suspect that your dog’s sudden messy eating is caused by one of these mouth disorders, you should visit a vet immediately.

4. Your Dog has a Dental Problem

Apart from mouth disorders, your dog may also be messy because a dental issue is making the pet struggle to eat. 

Periodontal disease, also known as dental or gum disease, is the most common dental problem in dogs. About 80 to 90 percent of dogs older than 3 years have a periodontal disease risk. The risk increases with age and is most prevalent in smaller breeds.

Gum disease manifests in the inflammation of the gums in its early stages and tooth root abscesses and jaw bone infections in later stages. This condition is extremely painful for your dog and can make eating difficult or even impossible, explaining why your dog may leave his food around the bowl.

You should save your dog from such pain by practicing dog oral hygiene daily. Also, stay faithful to any scheduled dental annual visits. Both practices will also save you the trouble of cleaning after the dog’s messy eating. 

Dachshund Eating

5. Your Dog is Eating Faster Than Usual

Dogs are known for fast eating, but we train them to eat at healthy speeds when they are puppies. That’s one reason your dog’s eating space remains neat.

If your dog suddenly begins to eat very fast, he can also send amounts of his meal out of the bowl, creating a big mess. 

There are several reasons your dog might suddenly get into the habit of gulping down his meal. The most common include:

  • Experience with other pets in the home dipping their muzzles into the dog’s food bowl. 
  • Unfavorable changes in your dog’s feeding routine, so the pet is famished by the time you feed him.
  • Health issues that make a dog always hungry. These include nutritional deficiencies, intestinal parasites, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and other pancreatic disorders.

Seek the advice and help of your vet if your dog’s eating speed changes suddenly and doesn’t seem to be normal.

Let’s Sum Up!

So, “Why is my dog a messy eater?”

If you trained your pup to eat neatly from a bowl at the weaning stage, a mouth or dental issue, a wrong type of bowl, or faster eating speeds due to health problems could be the issue. 

Working with your dog’s vet is highly recommended when you suspect a health issue.

Joice Njeru
Joice Njeru is an avid pet lover, professional author, and skilled researcher with a heart for pets. A former university lecturer of 14 years but now turned freelance writer, Joice has created hundreds of articles on dog behavior, training, care, and pet health. She is an expert in everything pets and hopes to educate and inspire other pet lovers through her writing.

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