What Does It Mean When a Puppy Pushes His Bowl Away?

Some puppies dig right in, while others play with their food before eating.
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Most puppies are impatient at mealtime. They want their food, and they want it now. If your puppy isn't chowing down right away and pushes his bowl around instead, he might not be feeling so well or he might just have something on his mind besides food.


Since your puppy can't explain his behavior, and even if he could he probably would offer about as much insight as a toddler, behavior experts have come up with theories about bowl pushing. These theories say that your puppy may be pushing his bowl away to try and get you to play with him or to get your attention, especially if he realizes he gets extra attention for pushing his bowl. He may also be doing it to search for different food, hide the food for later, or because he is not hungry or doesn't like where you've put his bowl.

Unlikely Causes

Dr. Jason Goldman, who researched social cognition in animals, says that pet owners often come up with reasons for their puppy's bowl pushing behavior that sound good, but are really unlikely. These include checking to see whether the food is dead or alive, to feel like he is foraging or hunting, or because he is bored or tired of eating the same food all of the time.


Your puppy might not be hungry the moment you give him his food dish, but if he is pushing it away because he doesn't want to eat at all, he could have a serious health problem. If he is acting playful and eats his food a little later he may simply have not been ready to eat yet. But if he refuses to eat, is lethargic and not acting like his usual self, call the veterinarian right away.


If your puppy is healthy and the behavior doesn't bother you, there's no reason to put a stop to bowl pushing. On the other hand, if he is scratching up the floor with the dish, spilling food everywhere or the problem gets so bad that you dread mealtime, it's time to change his behavior. Try ignoring him if he is seeking attention or wants to play when it's time to eat. Put the food bowl on an anti-slip mat, or switch to a bowl that is either too heavy for him to move, like a ceramic crock, or give him one that has a rubber backing that makes it hard to push.

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