Your dog knows when it's mealtime. Maybe he or she hovers around the bowl, does a little dance, and even drools on your shoe. You put the food in the bowl and put it down, then turn to the next task The next thing you know, your dog is methodically taking his or her food across the room and dropping it onto the carpet, where he or she then proceeds to start eating. Why the carpet? What's wrong with the bowl that you picked out just for your dog? The answer ultimately depends on your dog's own personality, preferences, and even fears, but your dog's ancient pack mentality may be at least partially responsible.
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The Root of the Behavior
When a pack of dogs makes a kill in the wild, it's every pooch for himself (or herself). The pack leaders may jump right in and start fighting each other for the best pieces, but the less dominant canines are less likely to enter into the fray. Instead, they grab a piece of food and drag it off, so that no one will try to challenge them for it. Sometimes, a wild dog will take some of his stash to a hidden spot and secret it away. If your dog seems to be burying food in the carpet fibers or camouflaging it behind a couch corner, he or she might be saving it for later, so that another dog won't get to it first. You may wonder why your four-legged couch potato is behaving like a wild animal. Remember that instinctual fears and protective instincts are deeply seated. Two dogs in a home may be best friends until mealtime when the other is a threat to available resources. Even if your dog is an only child, he or she may feel safer eating alone.
Other dogs, however, prefer to eat with their packs instead of hidden away from them. This may be particularly likely if the human members of the household eat in one area, but your dog eats in another. This arrangement may seem strange and even scary to your dog, a natural pack animal, and so he or she will bring food over to you. But why the carpet in particular? Dogs have sharp senses, and it may be that the sound of kibble on a metal or ceramic dish bothers your dog's hearing. The carpet may be a more appealing dish simply because it is soft and warm. Your ceramic floor or tile floor may not quite cut it as an alternative. It is also possible that it is the smell or taste of the bowl that your dog finds objectionable. For some dogs, however, the carpet is a good place to eat because it makes the food easier to see. If your dog is getting older, and if his or her food is similar in color to the bowl, the food may be hard to see. When he or she eats on the carpet, the food's location is clear.
Encouraging the Behavior
As much as you may want to ask your dog what the problem is, he or she will never be able to give you a straight answer. So how do you respond to him or her carrying food around and eating it on the carpet? First of all, eating on carpet doesn't do your dog any harm. If it's not a problem for you, you can feel free to let it happen. You can even take a picture of it for your furry friend's social media account. If the kibble crumbs on the carpet are becoming an annoyance, however, you may want to discourage the food-carrying.
You can start to figure out the issue by watching your dog when he or she carries food onto the carpet. If he or she is carrying it toward the family, try putting the dog's food in a room where there will be people. Dogs that carry their food to isolated spots of carpet away from other animals, however, may be looking for privacy. Try placing your dog into a room alone or feeding him or her in a crate. You can also experiment to see whether your dog has an issue with the bowl. Try a different material or bowl color and watch to see if your dog seems more inclined to use it. You can also try replacing the food itself, as it can be harder for a dog to carry wet food than kibble.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Whatever you choose to do in order to make mealtime more palatable for both yourself and your dog, make sure that your dog's food and eating arrangement are still healthy. Many experts warn against choosing plastic bowls, for example, as bacteria more easily grow on such surfaces. If you choose to change your dog's food, veterinarians recommend that you do so gradually. For most dogs, you can start with 80 percent of the old food and 20 percent of the new, and slowly work your way to all new food by the fifth day. Dogs who have sensitive digestive systems may need a more gradual approach, however, so it is always best to consult with your veterinary professional before you change your dog's diet in any way.
Whether you think your dog's food carrying behavior is cute or irritating, remember that the most important thing is whether the dog is happy and healthy. Fixing a part of feeding time that makes your dog nervous, whether that is a metal bowl or the presence of other animals, may not only keep your carpet cleaner but could help your dog feel more relaxed. Remember, a chill canine is a happy canine!