Moving food, snacking and refusal to eat
There are always times when we worry about our dog’s eating habits. The two most common worries are overeating and not eating enough. Both can have profound effects of your dog’s digestive system and health. Overeating leads to obesity, which in turn can affect your dog’s circulatory system, just as it does in humans. Not eating enough leads to poor nutrition which has a profound effect your dog’s immune system and can cause serious damage to other systems. To combat overeating, which is usually snacking throughout the day, do not leave food for your dog at all times. Leaving a constant supply of dog food is referred to as free feeding or free range feeding. Some dogs just don’t do well being fed this way. In these cases, you need to feed your dog at the same time every day, allowing him only about 30 minutes to eat. He will probably balk at this in the beginning; you will need to offer him the food and remove the bowl if he hasn’t eaten in within the 30 minute time period, offer it to him later following the same routine. Once he has eaten his food, do not give him any more for the rest of the day. Repetition of this procedure at the same time every day will teach him to eat at that time and give you control over the amount of food he takes into his body.
Changing the habits of a dog that is not eating enough can be tougher, unless it is a result of a life stress: moving, losing a loved one (person or other animal), and changes in food are examples of life stress for a dog. In cases of life stress, the problem usually works itself out as long as the dog is given plenty of love and support. Sometimes, the problem can be a serious health condition and should be treated by a veterinarian. Because this is the case, we suggest that you take your dog to the vet if the problem persists.
Why is My Dog Moving His Food? Dog’s may have different reasons for moving their food. Sometimes it is just a force of habit, maybe you have recently moved his food bowl and he is used to eating in the old place. If you have recently done this and he is taking his food mouthful by mouthful to the old place, give it a week or so. He may become comfortable with the new placement. If he continues to take the food after a couple of weeks, he’ll probably be more comfortable if you just go ahead and put the food bowl back in the old place.
If you have other dogs, he may be taking his food so that he can eat in peace. This happens more when there is a size variety of dogs in the house. Smaller dogs will take their food, by mouthfuls, to someplace that the larger dogs cannot get to. Then they feel more comfortable about eating and don’t have to worry about the larger dogs taking food away. It also happens in homes that have young children, as the dog is trying to eat in a place that the children cannot get to them. If your smaller dog is doing this, you need to work on ‘sharing.’ This should be done with all dogs in the house. Our articles about food protection (one titled, Puppies and Food Protection and one titled, Resource Guarding) will help you accomplish this.
Another reason your dog may be moving food is that he just wants to be near you while he eats. In the wild, mealtime is one of the times that animals are most vulnerable to attack. Even though your dog is not, and probably has not been ‘in the wild,’ these instincts remain. He feels safer, knowing that you’re there to watch out for him while he eats. It may be easier in this case to just feed him when you can be close or move the food bowl near you.