If from time to time you find yourself stepping on kibble in the most unexpected places around your house or you wonder why your dog runs off every time you give him a treat - you are in the right place. Dogs are incredibly intelligent and caring creatures but their behavior can sometimes baffle even the most experienced dog owner. So why do our four-legged furballs run off with their food and deprive us of the pleasure that is watching them enjoy a delicious treat? Do they not trust us and think we are going to snatch it away from them and take it back? As it turns out there is more than mistrust behind this peculiar yet common behavior.
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The Root of the Behavior
You would think your dog knows your intentions are pure and that you won't take back the snack you had just given him, especially since you're the one that handed him the treat in the first place. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. As soon as your dog gets his food or a treat, he views it as a valuable resource and doesn't really think about how he got it or who he received it from. Whether your canine companion lives in a multi-dog household or not, he instinctively goes into a resource-guarding mode. This is one of the primary reasons why many dogs run off with food away from their bowls to other, more secluded areas where they feel they can safely enjoy it, even if there is no real threat or competition.
The behavior is instinctual and rooted in the concept of a pack mentality. In the wild, wolves and feral dogs live and hunt in packs. However, it is the alpha males in the pack that always get priority in terms of meals, sometimes leaving very little behind. Subordinate or non-alpha dogs usually don't want to fight with the leader of the pack so they run off with whatever food they can get to avoid a possible altercation with other pack members, especially the more dominant ones. In domesticated dogs, the same situation can occur even if there is no real threat as resources are plentiful. Dogs will run off with food just in case their dog sibling shows an interest in it, tries to get him to share his portion, or even initiates a fight for it. You should not be alarmed even if your dog doesn't have any pet siblings but he runs off with his food and eats it away from his bowl. The behavior is instinctual and not something to be concerned about unless it accompanies signs of food aggression, such as growling or stiffening of the body as the dog hunches over his food.
Encouraging the Behavior
The best way to deal with the behavior is to rule out any potential triggers for it. This can be achieved by making sure your dog can eat his meal in peace and away from the other dogs in the house. This should not only reduce the likelihood of your dog moving his food around but also help him avoid rushing his meal. Eating in a hurry is, in general, very unhealthy and can increase the chance of choking. Separating the household dogs during the feeding time will lessen their worries over competition and enable them to eat slowly and enjoy their meal without any fears.
On the other hand, if one of your four-legged family members acts aggressive or overly protective of his food the behavior should not be encouraged in any way. On the contrary, as soon as you notice any signs of aggression make sure to book a consultation with a professional dog trainer who can provide you with some tips as well as train your dog the proper table manners. This is essential for not only preventing potential problems in the future but also for helping your dog familiarize himself with different circumstances and feel comfortable around other dogs even if food is present.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Another possible explanation for the quirky behavior is that your dog gets annoyed with the sound the kibble makes in his bowl. This is often the case with metal or porcelain bowls. Make sure your furry friend's collar isn't ringing against his bowl when he eats. Your canine might be running off with his food elsewhere just to avoid the noise. The clanging of the tag against the bowl is not pleasant for dogs to hear and it can even scare them. Change the bowl or remove his collar to see if that makes a difference in his behavior.
Lastly, if your dog runs off with food but doesn't actually eat it he might be storing it for later. Even though domesticated dogs usually get enough food, they still have their instinctual urges and self-preservation behavior. If your canine isn't hungry, he might run off with his meal in an attempt to hide it somewhere safe for later. Wild dogs and wolves exhibit this behavior as well, especially to prevent it from getting snatched by other members of the pack when food is scarce. If you find little piles of food scattered around the house in different locations, your dog might be doing just that.
Owning a dog can sometimes be a similar experience to having a child. You are responsible for another living being who you have to feed and take care of, who grows up to be well-behaved if you spend enough time and effort teaching him what is wrong and what is right, and who leaves around kibble instead of legos on the ground to step on. However, even with proper training, some instinctive traits will remain and thus understanding the root of the behavior is key to better understanding your furry best friend.