Eating From a Bowl vs the Floor

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Sometimes dogs have changes in behavior that make us scratch our heads. It can be very concerning when this change is related to their eating habits. When dogs change their eating habits, we often either rush them to the vet or try other techniques to get them to eat. If your dog has suddenly decided to stop eating from their bowl in preference for the floor, you may choose to contact your vet, but there are things to consider to help you determine what is causing this change.

Mealtime Changes

One of the most likely causes if your dog is not sick or experiencing a medical emergency is going to be changes to your pup’s mealtime routine. Dogs like things to stay the same, so when things change unexpectedly, they can often become confused and may change other eating habits.

An obvious change would be a change in their bowl. If you recently bought your dog a new bowl for mealtime, they may not like the change. In addition, simply moving their bowl to a different location or placing or removing a mat from underneath their bowl could be a large enough difference. 

Changing your dog's food suddenly can cause upset also. If you’ve swapped their food to a brand new type without gradually switching over, they may not be adjusting well. In addition to refusing to eat, this can cause stomach distress too so dogs should always be switched over gradually to a new food. If you’ve temporarily given your dog canned or people food for illness or other medical needs, your dog could refuse to switch back to their old kibble. Making this change gradually, similar to changing the type of food they eat, can help your dog adjust back.

Helping Your Dog Eat From a Bowl Again

The first thing to try to get your dog eating from their bowl again is to switch their bowl. If they are refusing the same bowl they have always used, you should try a new bowl either with a different size or material. Slow feeding bowls are another great option if your dog is eating from the floor only as they may be having an upset stomach from eating too fast.

If you have changed something else in the area of your dog’s bowl, you should try changing this back as well. If there’s been extra noise or distractions, your dog may be too occupied by that to pay attention to eating. 

Sometimes changing the time or frequency of mealtime may help. If your dog is preferring to eat off the floor to slow themselves down, they may benefit from meals being spread out throughout the day. In addition, you can only offer food for short periods of time. Once they realize their food is only available for a temporary amount of time, they may realize they need to eat faster.

You may find your pup has just become bored from eating out of a regular bowl and needs extra mental stimulation. You can try switching your pup to a slow-feeding bowl or using a puzzle feeder for a meal or two a day. Another option is a “snuffle mat”, a mat to encourage rooting and searching for their food.

Why Won’t Your Dog Eat From a Bowl?

There are a few things to consider when your dog refuses to eat from its bowl. If you attempt to figure out the root cause, this will better help your vet assist you if your dog needs to go to them.

  • When did your dog stop eating from their bowl?
  • Were there any big life changes when your dog stopped eating from their bowl? (new family member, change of food, move, new bowl, etc)
  • What is your dog’s feeding routine? (how much food, how often, what food, where)
  • Do they usually finish all their food?
  • What type of bowl do they use? (raised or not, material, etc)
  • Do their tags hit the bowl while eating?

These are questions your vet will likely ask when you come in with your pup having a change in eating habits. If you already know the answers to these questions, it will help your vet diagnose your pup and determine the best course of treatment.

As always with any changes in mealtime behavior, you should at least contact your dog’s vet to see if there is a possibility of medical troubles. Once you and your pup’s vet have determined the cause of this behavior change, you can work together to find ways to adjust your pup’s mealtime and get them eating again.