Karen B. London
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Unusual Eating Behavior
It’s not clear what’s going on
Gertie eating several feet from the source

Gertie has an unusual eating behavior. She can spend hours polishing off a couple of cups of dry dog food. She takes a few pieces of kibble from her bowl, carries it a few feet away, drops it on the floor, and then eats it piece by piece with painstaking slowness. It reminds me of the way chickadees eat from birdfeeders, taking one item from the feeder and flying to a nearby tree to eat it before returning to the feeder again. Here is a short video of Gertie eating, which starts with her walking away from her bowl with some food in her mouth and then dropping it on the floor.

Honestly, I don’t have an explanation for this behavior, though a few other guardians have mentioned that their dogs feed in a similar way. My brother-in-law, who takes care of Gertie when her guardians are out of town, thinks this behavior relates to experiences with fire ants in her earlier life before being adopted into a loving home. She was tied up, and where she lives in Florida, fire ants can find food extremely quickly. Since the sting of these ants is very painful, perhaps Gertie is using her food-moving behavior to take the food away from fire ants in her bowl. It’s certainly an interesting speculation, but I have no idea if it’s true.

Here’s what I do know: At her own home, Gertie consistently eats in this way, day after day, meal after meal. When she is visiting my brother-in-law and his family, she alternates her usual feeding behavior with eating right out of the bowl at a slow but steady speed. That’s what this video shows—some carrying of food and some eating it right from the bowl. The change may be a result of visiting a home with another dog—Tucker, a Miniature Pinscher mix who will try to eat her food if he is not kept away by a barrier. If Tucker is around, she will usually eat more quickly and do it directly from the bowl.

Have you ever known a dog who eats like Gertie does? Do you have a possible explanation for the behavior?



Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

screen grab from Eating Habits in Dogs

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Submitted by Sheila | July 3 2014 |

My girl does the same thing. She does not carry it as far but she does take it away then eat it and return. She only does this with dry kibble, wet or a bone she is all over it. I often thought it was because she didn't like the kibble; however she has done this since I have adopted her at the age of 6 months and I have tried several kinds of dry kibble with the same result. Not sure about this mysterious eating habbit either.

Submitted by Frances | July 3 2014 |

Sophy ate kibble in a similar way, often carrying it into a separate room one mouthful at a time, and then eating it piece by piece, and there were never any ants around! I think she just prefers eating on a carpeted surface - once another dog was in the house I started feeding her in the sitting room on a dog blanket, and that, combined with the threat of competition, speeded things up somewhat! Now she gets a home prepared diet, and eats much more quickly!

Submitted by Jan | July 5 2014 |

My story is similar. I adopted a tiny little guy 2 years ago, and he came home with a complimentary bag of kibble from the shelter. I planned to upgrade his diet, but didn't want to do it too quickly, so I continued with the kibble. He'd not only pick pieces out of the bowl and put them on the floor to eat, he'd also push the bowl around with his nose for some reason. I quickly realized he really enjoyed my cats' raw+canned food and would gobble up the leftovers given the chance, so I bought some canned dog food and the odd behavior toned down a bit. When I then transitioned him to a balanced raw diet, the behavior disappeared completely and he's quite the 5 pound chowhound these days!

Submitted by Lorraine Martinez | July 5 2014 |

My 14 yo Chihuahua, Jerry, does the same--carries a mouthful elsewhere to eat--but not all the time; sometimes he eats "normally". His littermate, Ben, rarely eats this way, and possibly only because he's seen Jerry do it. Another thing they both do, though, is to take a mouthful of their kibble and place it on the floor near the bowl, then inspect each one carefully, and choose to eat only certain ones, leaving the rest on the floor (they always come back and eat them later, though). I've been feeding them a high-quality food (Fromm's)for years. Can it be that there's some variability in the makeup of the individual kibbles that they can detect?

Submitted by Marjorie | July 5 2014 |

How often do you wash your dog's dish? If dishes are not kept clean a bacteria will grow and dogs will remove their food away from the dish to eat it. Be sure to wash your dog's dish daily.

Submitted by Roxxi | July 5 2014 |

My puppy Cooper,who is an eight month old Yorkie/Pomeranian mix does the same thing. I found that he eats better if I move his dish beside where I am sitting. I believe he does this because he feels safer and comforted being near me. I got Coop at 14 weeks, at first I thought he was just scared about being away from his mommy..but I soon realized that he was terrified to be touched. In my opinion he was abused by never being held or socialized. It has taken a lot of time and work to make him feel safe..he is still afraid of most people trying to pick him up, but he loves to give them kisses & play with them. Today he is healthy, happy and becoming braver each day...So as long as he eats I don't care where he does it!!

Submitted by Diana Curfiss | July 6 2014 |

Our English Bulldog Grisella Ann would carry pieces of her food to the living room or dinning room. I often wondered if it was because she wanted to eat with someone in the room with her. She never finished off her portion of kibble at one standing. We bought her at ten weeks old and she lived up to 12 1/2 years old. We took very good care of her and maybe her slow eating helped her live a long life.

Submitted by Diana Curfiss | July 6 2014 |

I always wash my dogs dish's before each meal. One vet told me old water can cause a dog to get a urinary infection. Our new little Bree loves her fresh cool water.

Submitted by Diana Curfiss | July 6 2014 |

Our English Bulldog Grisella Ann carried pieces of her kibble to the living room and dinning room. She never finished off her kibble in one standing. I think she just wanted to be with us while eating her food. We bought her at ten weeks old and she passed at 12 1/2 year's old. We love our bulldogs and take very good care of them. I think Grisella Ann lived so long because of her slow eating habit and exercise.

Submitted by Brenda | July 6 2014 |

Our first dog that my husband and I adopted together as a couple used to do this. I had forgotten all about it until I read this. She has been gone for 10 years now and I still miss her dearly. Our Jetty was the best, most loyal dog we could have ever hoped for. We've continued to adopt through the years, and currently have 3, but Jetty will always be our first baby. Funny the little things that you forget over time. No idea why she did it, but she almost always did.

Submitted by Valeria | July 9 2014 |

I read, many years ago, that this behavior was part of the stalk, chase, kill, carry and consume behavior in wild canines. If I recall, because our domesticated dogs do not always display instinctual behaviors to their completion they sorta get stuck on one, i.e. the carry and consume. I don't remember where I read it or how accurate the explanation is, but a little food for thought :)

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