When you go to feed your dog, he takes the food from his bowl and puts it on the floor. While you find this behavior to be a little odd, you aren't sure if it's bad for him.
Perhaps your dog eats food that accidentally falls from your dinner table to the floor, too. Is this unhealthy, or is it perfectly fine for your dog to do this?
You're wondering whether or not you should allow your dog to engage in these habits or if you should stop them and take him to the vet to ask what's going on. Before you do that, there may be some perfectly reasonable explanations as to why your dog enjoys eating off the floor.
Why does my dog like eating off the floor?
When you put your dog's food in his bowl, he may pick up the food, take it to another part of the room, drop it on the floor, and then eat it. This is a common behavior in dogs, and there are a few reasons why he may be doing this:
- It may be as simple as a pack animal behavior. Lower-ranking members in wild dog packs sometimes take their food to another location to eat it. This behavior is done to avoid the possibility of fighting other dogs for food, which is a riskier endeavor. While your dog does not have to fight other dogs for food, the instinct is still there in some dogs.
- If your dog is sensitive to sound, he may not like the clanging noise that his ID tag on his collar makes when it hits the bowl. If this is the case, you could take his collar off when he eats or ensure that he eats in a quiet environment and not around other dogs or people.
- If you have other dogs and notice that your dog exhibits food aggression (indicated by growling or snapping at the other dogs when there's food around) and moves his food from his bowl to the floor at mealtime, he feels threatened by the presence of the other dogs around his food, and should eat in a separate room.
- Your dog might also have trouble bending down to his bowl if he has back pain. You may notice this if your pup is in his senior years or has had health issues recently. You can try raising his bowl so that it's easier for him to get to his food.
- Finally, it's also possible that is teeth could be a source of pain. You should check his teeth and take him to the veterinarian for an exam to ensure he's not experiencing pain that's preventing him from eating out of his bowl.
Keeping consistent mealtimes and removing your dog's food bowl from the floor after he's done eating will also show him that he needs to eat from his bowl at specific times every day. If he doesn't finish within 30 minutes or so, then take away the food bowl.
You could also try switching up his food and his bowl. Remember that stainless steel is the best kind of material for a dog bowl because it won't chip or crack, and you can easily wash it. A ceramic bowl or plastic bowl could harbor harmful bacteria that might make your pup sick. Washing your dog's stainless steel bowl with warm water and soap every day will keep his bowl squeaky clean.
Will eating off the floor harm my dog?
It can be bad for your dog to eat human food off the floor if that food is unhealthy for dogs. For instance, onions and garlic are toxic to dogs, and it's bad for them to eat grapes, raisins, and chocolate as well. If you're eating any foods that are bad for dogs, make sure that your dog isn't hiding under the table and eating your scraps that have fallen on the floor.
Additionally, if your dog is licking the floor after you've just cleaned it with chemicals that are not pet-safe, there is a chance that he could get sick. It's best to try and train your dog not to eat off the floor. You can do this by teaching him the "leave it" command; just make sure that you always use positive training methods instead of yelling at your pup, because it won't be effective and he may just become scared of you.
However, don't fret if you drop a piece of "people food" that is not toxic to dogs, and your dog snatches it up before you can grab it. The odds that your dog will get sick from eating a piece of food off the floor are very low. Interestingly, the same is true for humans: a microorganism that can make you sick would have to be present in the exact spot that the food was dropped. Of course, this is not impossible, but it is unlikely. However, don't make a habit of doing this, as you don't want to increase these odds.
When to see a vet
If your dog exhibits any signs of sickness, like diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, lethargy, or anything else unusual, you should call your vet. Additionally, if you can't train your dog to eat from his bowl, you could always ask your vet for further advice.
Most dogs will not get sick from occasionally eating a small amount of food off the floor, but you should not make it a regular habit. Make sure he does not get ahold of foods that are toxic to dogs, and that he does not lick a floor that was recently cleaned with chemicals that are not pet-safe. If either of these things happen, contact your vet immediately.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.