As humans observing our canines, the things they do may perplex us, but a lot of their behaviors date back to their ancestry as wolves. If your dog flips his food bowl often, there are many possible reasons. It may be that he is trying to forage, or he could be trying to protect or hide his food from potential predators he thinks are in your home. He may also be doing it to signify that he is full or experiencing pain. Or, even trying to play. You may be able to determine his motivations by whatever other clues his behavior might give you.
Determining which of these reasons is the cause can help you take measures to deal with or stop this behavior. If you are unsure why your dog keeps turning over his food dish, consult your veterinarian to help you figure out if there's a health issue at hand contributing to the problem.
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Dogs' ancestors protected food
If your dog flips her food bowl, it's not necessarily a strange behavior. Many canines do this instinctually since they are natural hunters and gatherers. When dogs bury their food, they are looking to hide it regardless of the cause behind it. This is based on what their ancestors did to survive in the wild. They may want to conceal it from other animals and potential predators or preserve it and protect it. Flipping is an attempt to cover the food's odor so it won't be sensed and taken away.
Dogs are often territorial of their meals because in the wild, food is scarce, and they have to hunt for it. They are often snuck up on and feel the need to protect themselves and their pack while eating so it doesn't get stolen. Similar to burying things outside, dogs flip their food bowl to hide what's in it from predators.
Even though domestic indoor dogs don't face the same issues as their wild cousins, their instincts drive them to continue this behavior when they don't want to finish or can't finish their meal or want to keep a favorite bone or toy safe. It's something they are wired to do. Try to be understanding and not take the behavior personally if your dog flips her food bowl. Have patience and contact your veterinarian if you can't figure out a solution to the problem.
Signs of illness in dogs
One reason your dog might be flipping his bowl is that he is not hungry because he isn't feeling well. Lack of appetite is an indication that something is wrong with your pet. If the symptoms your dog has are mild, keep an eye on him.
Watch for symptoms of sickness, including nausea, increased thirst, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and disinterest in things he enjoys. If your dog is acting strange and has any of these behaviors, contact your veterinarian. Some of these symptoms could be a sign of a medical emergency.
Stopping dogs from flipping bowls
If your dog continues to flip her food or water bowl and it's not due to illness, changing the way you feed her may make a difference. Rather than giving her a big helping of kibble or feeding her more wet food than she'll eat, portion things out. Come up with a feeding schedule, providing small meals each day so that she finishes it rather than feeling the need to bury it.
Consider giving your dog different food since she may be flipping her bowl because she doesn't like what she's being fed. You can also purchase a different type of bowl or consider taking off your dog's collar when she's eating or switch out a steel bowl for ceramic since the sound of her tag hitting it could be bothersome to her.