Dogs are incredible creatures. They're preternaturally sweet and, at times, wonderfully weird. As any pet parent knows, dogs can get especially, adorably weird when it comes time to chow down. Here are five of the weirdest things dogs do around food and, more importantly, why they do them.
1. Bringing food from their dish to a different spot in the room.
When you decided to adopt your dog, you probably put a lot of thought into planning out their zones in the house—including where their food and water bowls would go. In spite of our careful human planning, however, many dogs have a strange tendency to go to their food dish at dinner time, grab a mouthful of kibble from the bowl, and then carry their food to another spot in the room to actually eat. Some dogs even do this over and over—for their entire meal.
This may seem like a silly quirk, but there are some real scientific and psychological reasons motivating the strange behavior. First, as with many of dogs' strangest behavioral quirks, there are hundreds of years of evolution at play.
Think back to your dog's ancestors—wild packs of dogs living, hunting, and eating together. In that environment, food can be a major source of tension between dogs, especially when there's a big discrepancy in pack rank. As a result, wild dogs—especially more submissive and lower-ranking members of a pack—are hardwired to drag their pieces of food away to eat to avoid having to fight with a more dominant member of the pack over their morsels of food.
"Fighting is obviously very risky, so most animals, especially subordinate ones, will go to great lengths to avoid an altercation," Dr. Julie Albright-Keck, DVM, MA, DACVB, an assistant professor of veterinary behavior at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, explains.
While modern dogs don't have traditional pack pecking order to contend with, the behavior is still baked deep into their DNA and dogs who have spent time in shelters are particularly prone to it, even if they're "only children" in their forever homes. Just like in the wild, shelter dogs sometimes develop the habit to avoid fights with other dogs over the limited resource of food.
Another, less primal drive behind food-moving behavior? Some dogs are simply freaked out or annoyed by the sound of their own collars clinking against a metal food bowl and would rather go through the trouble of moving their food than eat to the soundtrack of metal on metal. If this is the issue, the fix can be as simple as investing in a plastic food bowl.
2. Only eating when people are around—even if you know they must be hungry and have access to food while alone.
Dogs are social creatures—we all know that. This need for social interaction can have a big impact on a dog's eating habits. Some dogs will refuse to eat their food when they're alone, waiting all day for their human to return home to finally consume food, even if it's been left out for them all day.
For some dogs, this refusal to eat while alone can be a symptom of separation anxiety—a serious condition in which the dog suffers from extreme stress from the moment you leave until the moment you finally return. In some cases, this stress can be so intense that it squashes a dog's appetite or leaves them so distracted by their main focus—i.e. _WHEN WILL MY HUMAN GET BACK?_—that eating doesn't even occur to them until mom or dad returns.
Even if your dog isn't suffering from separation anxiety, they may be too busy focusing on other tasks—like protecting your home or destroying their new chew toy—to be bothered with something as trivial as food. Investing in a doggie cam can help you get to the bottom of how your dog is spending their day when they're not eating.
For some pups, having their pet parent in the house isn't enough; they want to be in the same room with their person when it's time to eat. This is another instance when looking to evolution is helpful. Wolves and wild dogs hunt and eat as a pack and your dog could simply be craving that same communal experience when it's time to chow down. In some cases, your dog may go so far as waiting for you to eat to start in on their own meal.
3. Acting totally disinterested in food in their bowl and then going wild for it the second you crouch down to hand feed them.
Has your dog ever turned their nose up at a bowl of perfectly delicious kibble, only to inhale the same kibble the second you move it from the bowl to your hand? There are a few simple explanations for why dogs go gaga for a chance to literally eat from your hand.
The first? It's a bonding moment. In fact, hand feeding is such a powerful promoter of the dog/human bond that experts at the American Kennel Club actively recommend the ritual for puppies and rescue dogs. Hand-feeding builds trust and fosters a connection between a person and a pupper, in addition to other benefits like intake control for fast-eaters and helping doggos prone to resource guarding learn not to react to people (or other pets) approaching their precious food.
4. Eating grass every time you let them out—even though you offer them plenty of much tastier food every day.
There's a common misconception that dogs only munch on grass when they're dealing with tummy aches and want to induce vomiting, but this isn't the case, according to dog behaviorist Nick Jones, MA, who spoke to INSIDER about the quirk.
"Dogs can enjoy eating spring grass and will often graze on this doggie delicacy," he explains. "There remains a degree of uncertainty as to the precise reason for eating grass."
That's fancy expert talk for "shrug," which is basically where we are when it comes to the mystery of dogs eating grass like it's candy. Even if we can't fully explain the reason for the behavior, there are some theories and facts to arm yourself with if your dog is into noshing on grass.
First, it's technically a form of pica—the technical term for a doggie disorder characterized by eating things that aren't food. Don't let the word "disorder" scare you though—most vets consider grass eating to be fairly normal. According to PetMD, one study of 49 dog parents whose dogs had regular access to grass and other plants found that 79% of the dogs indulged in the yard work from time-to-time.
This isn't surprising, since there are theories in the scientific community that dogs are natural omnivores—meaning they eat both meat and plants in the wild.
"Another theory states that undomesticated dogs are naturally omnivores (meat and plant-eaters), therefore domesticated dogs instinctively include plant material in their diet," Andrea Rediger writes for the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Alternatively, some speculate that undomesticated dogs would ingest plant material in the stomachs of their prey, and therefore the species developed a taste for it."
While the theory that grass-eating is evidence of an upset stomach is widely debunked (fewer than 10% of dogs seem to be sick before eating grass, according to PetMD and less than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit regularly after their green snack), there is another explanation that seems pretty legit is that grass-eating, like so many weird dog behaviors, is a result of boredom. This is especially likely if the vegetarian-leaning pup in question is a puppy or younger dog—if your dog is regularly noshing on grass, it might be a cry for more exercise or mind-stimulating toys.
5. Moving food from a hard surface—like tile or hardwood—to a carpeted area to eat.
Most pet parents prefer to keep their dog's food and water bowls on hard floor surfaces, like tiles, hardwood, linoleum, or laminate. Not only are these flooring types common to the places we tend to store pet food (like the kitchen or dining room), they're also easier to clean in the case of spills. Still, some dogs prefer to eat on a soft surface and insist on moving their meals to a carpet or rug to eat.
There are several reasons your doggo might be engaging in this strange behavior. In addition to preference (your dog might just prefer lounging on the carpet to nosh or feel safer in the carpeted room for some reason), your dog could prefer eating on carpet because it's more like the natural surfaces (like grass) they would eat off of in the wild. Alternatively, your dog could be reacting to something about their food set-up that isn't related to the flooring—their food bowl could be positioned uncomfortably high or something else in the room with the bowl could be spooking your pup.
Finally, there could be an underlying health issue at hand. Dog trainer Laura Garber suggests that older dogs and dogs with failing vision may move their food to the carpet because the contrast created by placing kibble on light-colored carpet may make it easier for them to see.
What your dog eats matters so much more than how they eat.
The moral of the story? When it comes to dogs and mealtimes, there is no such thing as "normal." One thing that is a consistent core element among every single pup who needs to eat (which is to say every single pup in the world): The need for good nutrition.
Even if your dog exhibits some seriously quirky habits about when, where, and even how they eat, the most important thing about mealtime remains the what. And what dogs need to thrive is protein-rich, balanced nutrition. A doggie diet that meets those criteria will nourish your pup to their very core, which is key to a long, loving life with their forever family (aka you).
If you're looking for a seriously nutritious dog food to keep your furbaby feeling full and healthy, Wellness® CORE® dog food deserves a place on your shopping list. Wellness CORE's high-protein recipes for dogs (and cats!), offer up premium, natural nutrition with meat-rich formulas, balanced with the perfect amounts of carbohydrates and fats to support whole body health. This is why "CORE" is such a good name for the line—it really does get to the heart and soul of what's essential to a healthy dog's diet.
The brand's latest innovation, Wellness® CORE® RawRev, is an especially tasty (and nutritious) option, which incorporates Wellness CORE kibble and 100% freeze-dried raw meat pieces, which are dispersed evenly throughout each and every bag to guarantee that every meal your doggo eats (whether he eats it from his bowl or off the carpet) contains the savory goodness of raw meat. Wellness CORE RawRev is a perfect option for pet parents who want to treat their furry friends to the nutrients and incredible taste of real meat, without sacrificing the undeniable convenience of a scoop and serve meal.
Wellness CORE RawRev has something for every dog, including five varieties of CORE RawRev for Dogs, CORE RawRev for Dogs Original, which mixes Wellness CORE's original kibble with 100% Raw Turkey, CORE RawRev for Dogs Wild Game, which includes raw lamb, and CORE RawRev Healthy Weight, made with 100% Raw Turkey— plus CORE RawRev Small Breed for Dogs, which mixes Small Breed kibble and 100% Raw Turkey, and CORE RawRev Puppy for Dogs, which consists of the brand's Puppy Original kibble and 100% Raw Turkey.
Remember, there's no wrong way for your pet to eat, but there definitely is a right way to feed your pet—and that's by doing your pet parent duty to provide them with a nutritious, balanced diet, just like the one Wellness CORE RawRev offers.