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9 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Eat Unless You Watch Him

Last Updated: December 29, 2023

Dogs are known for their love of food, and many dog owners may become concerned if their dog only eats when they’re watching or around.

While some may see their behavior as an attention-seeking ploy or a display of separation anxiety, there could be a more complex reason behind it.

Typical reasons why your dog may only eat when you watch him include separation anxiety, being a picky eater, health issues, or seeking attention. Additional factors could be a fear of their food bowl, learned behavior, boredom, inappetence, or changes in routine.

This article will explore why your dog may only eat when you are present and what steps you can take to encourage healthy eating habits in your furry companion.

Let’s begin!

Dog Eating Kibble.

The Curious Case of Why Your Dog Will Only Eat When You Watch Him

Dogs have unique behaviors and motivations, and understanding the underlying factors contributing to their eating habits can help you provide better care and support.

Here are 9 reasons your dog won’t eat unless you watch him. But first! Check out the video below for some great insights.

Learn Why Your Dog Won’t Eat Without You…

1. Separation Anxiety

So, I have this furry buddy who always refuses to eat unless I’m standing right there next to her. At first, I thought it was because she wanted to ensure I wasn’t eating her food or stealing her kibble, even though she is a 90 lbs German Shepherd!

But after 30 years of doggy experience, I soon realized it might be because she has separation anxiety. When left alone for long periods, dogs can become anxious and stressed, leading to a loss of appetite. 

And let me tell you, my dog takes separation anxiety to a whole new level. If I even step out of the room for a second, she’ll start whining and pacing, and it’s like she thinks I’m never coming back. And that includes going to the bathroom!

“It’s a German Shepherd thing, you see. They are renowned for having an unbreakable bond with their owner and never want to leave your side.” – World of Dogz

I mean, I know I’m pretty awesome, but come on, dude, I always come back! So, to ease her worries, I have to stand there and watch her eat her entire meal.

It’s like I’m her cheerleader or something. “You can do it, girl! Eat that kibble like a champ!”

2. Fear Of Their Food Bowl, Food, Or Eating Area

Sometimes, dogs refuse to eat unless you’re standing right next to them because they fear their food bowl or eating area.

It sounds weird, but apparently, some dogs can be afraid of their food bowl or the area where they eat. 

Maybe it’s the sound of the bowl clinking against the floor or the shadows falling in the room. Who knows? But for many owners, being there makes them feel more secure and less anxious. 

It’s like they know you’re there to protect them from the big bad bowl or something. And honestly, I don’t blame some dogs for being a little scared. Have you ever looked at a dog bowl from a dog’s perspective? 

It’s like a giant, shiny, metallic thing just sitting there, waiting to swallow their food. I’d also be a little freaked out if I was a dog!

3. Health Issues

As a dog owner, it can be frustrating when your pup turns its nose up at its food. I’ve tried all sorts of tricks to get my dog to eat, from mixing chicken broth to hand-feeding him one piece at a time. 

But sometimes, it’s not about being picky. It’s about their health. Dogs with dental problems, gastrointestinal issues, or other medical conditions may be reluctant to eat. 

For example, if your dog has a toothache or gum disease, it can be painful for them to chew their food.

And if they have an upset stomach or other digestive issues, they may not feel like eating. Senior dogs may also lose their appetite due to the slowing of their metabolism and reduced exercise.

But when their owner is present, it can provide them with a sense of comfort and security.

After all, we’re the ones who take care of them when they’re sick or in pain, so it’s only natural that they would look to us for support when they’re not feeling their best.

Fussy Eating Dog Not Eating Kibble but Sleeping at the Side of its Bowl.

4. Picky Eaters

I’ve got a picky eater on my hands. My dog will sometimes sniff her food, take a few bites, and then walk away like it’s not good enough for her. And it’s not like I’m feeding her cheap, low-quality dog food, either. 

No, my girl gets the good stuff. But sometimes, dogs are picky eaters, and you cannot do much about it.

Some dogs may only eat specific food types or in specific locations. My dog only likes to eat her kibble when mixed with wet food or if I add water

And even then, she only eats in one corner of the kitchen. It’s like she’s got her little restaurant booth or something. 

But when I’m there with her, encouraging her and maybe even pretending to eat some of her food myself, she’s more likely to chow down. I guess she just needs a little extra motivation to eat sometimes.

5. Boredom

Have you ever noticed that your dog seems to get bored sometimes? Like they’ll just sit there, staring off into space, with a big sigh? Well, that boredom can even affect their appetite. 

When dogs are bored or have nothing to do, they may refuse to eat. They might as well hold out for something more exciting than kibble if they’re not doing anything else.

Providing sufficient physical and mental stimulation for your dog is crucial to being a responsible dog owner and could be the answer you’re looking for.

But when their owner is present, it can provide them with a more stimulating environment. Maybe it’s because we’re constantly moving around, talking to them, or watching TV. 

Whatever the reason, when I’m hanging out with my dog while she eats, she seems to eat more eagerly. 

Maybe it’s because she’s got a captive audience or because she just likes having company. Who knows? But if she finishes her meal, I’m happy to oblige.

6. Lack of Appetite

Do you know how sometimes you just don’t feel like eating? Maybe you’re stressed, depressed, or just going through a rough patch. 

Well, dogs can feel the same way. When they’re under stress, they may lose their appetite. They can’t muster up the energy or desire to eat.

But when their owner is present, it can provide reassurance. Female dogs in heat can also have a reduced appetite.

I’ve seen it with my dog. When feeling a little off, she’ll sniff at her food and then walk away. 

But if I sit next to her and give her a little pet, she’ll usually return and start eating. She just needs some comfort and attention to get her back on track. 

Dog Hiding Under Bushes

7. Learned Behavior

Dogs are pretty smart and great at learning behaviors that get them what they want. 

So, if a dog has learned that eating only when its owner is present means it’ll get a reward or some extra attention, it may continue to exhibit that behavior. 

“Dogs have figured out they can manipulate their owner into giving them what they want by only eating when they’re around.” – World of Dogz

I think my dog might fall into this category. When she was a puppy, we used to give her lots of praise and treats whenever she would eat her food. 

And over time, she’s learned that eating is a good thing and that she’ll get extra love and attention if she does it while I’m around. 

Intelligence is another top trait of the mighty German Shepherd – but all dogs are smart enough to figure this out.

It’s kind of funny to think that she’s outsmarted us like that, but at the same time, I’m happy to give her the attention she craves. After all, she’s a good girl and deserves it.

8. Attention-seeking

Do you know those dogs that just can’t get enough attention, the ones that follow you everywhere and always want to be in your lap or at your feet? 

Sometimes, those dogs use their mealtime to get more attention and affection. They’ll only eat when their owner is present because they know it means they’ll get some extra love and attention.

My dog isn’t quite extreme, but she likes to have her fair share of attention. Sometimes, when I try to work, she’ll start whining and pawing at me until I give in and take a break to hang out with her. 

And when it comes to mealtime, she eats more readily when I’m there. It’s like she knows she’s got a captive audience and will make the most of it. I can’t blame her for wanting some extra love and attention.

But not all dogs are like this. In fact, some are the complete opposite and refuse to eat in front of you.

9. Changes In Routine

Have you ever noticed that dogs thrive on routine? I know my dog does. She likes to know what to expect each day, and she can get thrown off any time there’s a big change in our routine. 

She had difficulty adjusting when we moved to a new home a few years ago. She was more anxious and stressed than usual and wasn’t eating much. 

But she seemed more comfortable and relaxed if I sat with her while she ate. I think having me there with her reassured her during a stressful time. 

Dogs feel the same way humans do and often feel better when we have someone to share a meal with. 

And when there’s a big change in their routine, like moving to a new home, or a change of schedule, or one person leaving home, it can be comforting for them to have their owner there with them during mealtime. 

It’s one way to help our furry friends feel more secure and happy in a new environment.

A dog lying next to its bowl of food, not eating.


Is My Dog Refusing To Eat Due To Unfamiliar Food?

Your dog may be refusing to eat because of unfamiliar food. Dogs can be picky eaters and may not like the taste or texture of new food. 

However, there could be other reasons for your dog’s refusal to eat, such as health issues or stress. 

Am I Overfeeding My Dog?

You may be overfeeding your dog, leading to obesity and health issues. The amount of food a dog needs depends on their age, breed, size, and activity level. 

Following feeding guidelines and measuring portions is important to ensure your dog gets the right food. 

Is it normal for dogs to refuse food when not being watched?

It is not entirely uncommon for dogs to refuse food when not being watched, but it usually indicates an underlying issue. Your dog may be experiencing anxiety, fear, or seeking attention from you by not eating alone.

Can changing the feeding environment or routine improve the situation?

Making small changes to your dog’s feeding environment or routine could potentially help the situation.

By moving their bowl, feeding at a new time or location, or hand-feeding sometimes, you may reduce their anxiety and help them feel more comfortable eating without you present. Keeping mealtimes consistent also provides security.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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