If your dog is a messy eater and leaves food all over the floor, then it could be due to the following:
- You’re Feeding Them Too Much
- They’re a Messy Eater
- You Switched to a New Food
- The Food Has Gone Bad
- They’re Anxious About Something
- They’re Scaring Themselves
- They’re Being Competitive
- They Don’t Know They’re Doing It
- They’re Displaying Piling and Burying Behavior
Sometimes, dog behavior is easy to understand. Dog owners know what a happy wag of the tail looks like or that a certain tone of bark means that another dog might be within eye view.
Other times, dogs are complicated; their behavior can be puzzling. No two dogs are alike, and no two breeds exhibit the same behavior.
Eating habits can be a challenge, especially as owners get to know the quirks and mannerisms of their puppies.
But even as dogs grow, their eating habits can be confusing — and they could send you a message.
If your dog spreads food all over the floor, here are some possible reasons.
You’re Feeding Them Too Much
Like humans, dogs need to stick to a consistent diet, especially growing dogs. This includes the right kind of food, at the right amount, and the right frequency each day.
If you’re giving your dog too much food, they may be inclined to take food out of the bowl and spread it on the floor (and leave it) or move it to another room. Consult with your veterinarian about proper feeding schedules.
In general, puppies eat about three times a day for up to six months, and then switching to two times a day is usually fine.
Adult dog food is typically fine at about 1 year old. Adults tend to eat 1 cup of food at a time, and puppies tend to need more than 2 cups over three meals.
They’re a Messy Eater
There are all types of dog eaters. Some are quiet, others loudly gobble. Some eat a small bit at a time and others all at once. And some are messy.
If your dog is spreading food all over the floor, you may have a messy eater on your hands.
Dogs sometimes exhibit this behavior when they’re anxious, mealtime is later than usual or they’ve been using a lot of energy right before eating — like playing catch, running outside, or taking a long walk.
Taking some time to wait to feed them until they’ve calmed down after excessive activity may be helpful.
Another problem may be the feeding area itself.
If your bowls are too large or too small — or you don’t have a supportive mat underneath — that can lead to a messy experience.
Bowls without certain tips of lips also lead to food and water slipping out and onto the floor.
You Switched to a New Food
Many children (and adults) are picky eaters. Dogs are the same way, and sometimes it takes owners a while to figure out the food their pet loves.
Dogs who are generally unhappy with their food may have a hard time eating properly, leading to them picking it up and spitting it out on the floor — or simply moving it out of their bowl.
Another possibility: A diet change.
Even with the same brand, if you start feeding your dog a low-calorie meal or one that features a different main ingredient than they’re used to, they may react negatively at mealtime.
The Food Has Gone Bad
Dogs have excellent senses of smell. If there’s a whiff of spoiled or rotten food, they’ll either ignore it, try it and spit it out, or move it around in and out of their bowl.
Check expiration dates regularly on your dog food — wet or dry. Make sure there’s no dog food recalls you haven’t heard of and look and smell your dog’s food yourself. If something — anything — seems remiss, throw it out.
They’re Anxious About Something
Dogs show anxiety in multiple ways. Their posture changes, their ears fall back and their tail either shoots straight up or way down.
Some dogs even whine or tremble. Changing eating habits is one sign your dog may be anxious or fearful.
Why? There are many possibilities.
They could not be feeling well or they could have eaten something they shouldn’t have. Some dogs have bad reactions to loud noises, including music or storms, or cars.
Some do not do well with any changes to routine, for example, if you go away on vacation for a while or if you have visitors they haven’t met.
They’re Scaring Themselves
If you have a large metal bowl and your dog wears a metal ID tag or collar, there’s a possibility that they’re spooked by the metal-on-metal sound occurring when they bend down to take bites.
If this is the case, consider switching bowls or collars or both. You can also remove the collar just during mealtime.
Another good solution is finding a bowl made out of a different material, such as plastic or ceramic, that is less likely to make loud sounds against something your pup is wearing.
Dogs have ultra-sensitive ears (it’s why they don’t like going out in rain or thunderstorms) and such noise can rattle them. The sound can literally disturb them.
They’re Being Competitive
Dogs have an innate sense of competition with other dogs. That carries over to feeding time, even if you don’t have any other pets in the house.
Dogs sometimes revert back to their wild instincts and see mealtime as competition time. They must eat their food as quickly as possible to prevent other dogs (or animals) from taking their well-earned meal.
That could lead to dogs spreading out food to mark their territory — or even moving it to other rooms to expand their domains.
If there are other dogs in the house and your dog is exhibiting this behavior, several veterinarians recommend secluding the dog from the others during mealtime.
“If there are other dogs in the house, separate them at feeding time to allow for privacy, so there’s no threat of competition — either real or imagined,” Julie Albright-Keck, an assistant professor of veterinary behavior at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, tells vetstreet.com.
They Don’t Know They’re Doing It
It may be hard to believe, but some dogs may not know that they’re spreading food around the floor and that it’s a problem.
This may have to do with age or just their personality. If you point out some of the food bits on the floor, most dogs will gladly chomp the rest up.
They’re Displaying Piling and Burying Behavior
Here’s another way dogs are motivated by their genetic roots. This behavior has also been seen in foxes and wolves, according to zoologist Desmond Morris.
Morris says the motivation is saving the food to eat later in the competitive wild. It’s the same reason why some dogs take toys or bones and burying them in the yard.
A Possible Fix
Try the following: During mealtime, start with a small treat in the bowl, like a tiny biscuit, before you put in their regular meal.
Repeat until your dog makes a positive connection between the bowl and food. Just don’t make the treat a regular meal habit.
Veterinarians and dog experts also suggest watching your dog eat, then picking up the bowl and moving it out of reach when they stop eating. That way, they won’t be able to spread food around the floor for later or move it into another room.
Our recommendation for the best dog bowl for a messy eater can be seen here.