Why Does My Dog… Eat His Food Away From His Bowl?

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It can be a peculiar sight: After you put food in your dog’s bowl, he takes a mouthful, walks across the room, drops it onto your carpet and then munches away. And he repeats this curious ritual until his chow is all gone.

It doesn’t seem like an efficient way to eat — not to mention that he’s getting crumbs on your rug.

So what gives?

Possible Reasons Behind the Curious Mealtime Behavior

The answer to this propensity lies in two words: pack mentality.

When dogs in the wild make a kill, the outranked animals drag pieces of food away so they don’t have to fight the leader or a more dominant canine for it, says Dr. Julie Albright, MA, DVM, DACVB, an assistant professor of veterinary behavior at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Fighting is obviously very risky, so most animals, especially subordinate ones, will go to great lengths to avoid an altercation,” says Dr. Albright.

Although the competition in your house may not even be real — particularly if you only have one dog — it’s his evolutionary instinct taking over.

Another possibility: If you use a metal bowl, the noise of the food moving around in the dish or even his collar tags hitting the side can be frightening or annoying, notes Dr. Albright, so he may be taking the kibble away from the trigger of the sound.

How to Put the Kibosh on This Kibble Ritual

If you want to curb this unusual eating behavior, Dr. Albright suggests swapping metal bowls for plastic versions or paper plates to rule out issues with noise.

“If the dog still takes the food away, find a more secluded or confined area for him to eat,” she says. “And if there are other dogs in the house, separate them at feeding time to allow for privacy, so there’s no threat of competition — either real or imagined.”

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Sick — 7 Symptoms to Watch Out For

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Is he acting differently? 

The most common sign of illness in some cats is hiding in a quiet, out-of-the-way place. Sick cats often lie quietly in a hunched position. 
They might neglect grooming. They may be purring, which cats do not only when they’re happy, but also when they’re sick or in pain. A cat with breathing difficulties may refuse to lie on his side and may keep his head raised. Cats with neurological problems may be confused, have seizures or press their heads into furniture or walls. This is not the head butting that cats do on your leg affectionately but rather prolonged pressing on a surface. 

Is he eating, drinking, urinating or defecating more or less than normal?

Cats who don’t feel well usually don’t want to eat. Some illnesses, however, can cause increased appetite, so don’t ignore your suddenly ravenous cat. Increased thirst and urination may indicate kidney disease, diabetesor other illness. Frequent, sudden attempts to urinate, especially if only small amounts are produced or if accompanied by signs of pain (including meowing or straining in the litterbox), may indicate a urinary tract infection or blockage. Inability to urinate is a life-threatening emergency that is all too common in cats, especially males. 

Is he regurgitating or vomiting?

If your cat regurgitates food soon after eating, he may have a problem. Vomiting food after it’s been in the stomach can indicate poisoning, blockage or a host of other problems. If your cat vomits for more than a few hours or vomits repeatedly for more than a day, she probably needs to see a vet. And if any vomiting episode is accompanied by lethargy, diarrhea or reluctance to move, you should seek medical attention. When in doubt, it is always better to call the vet instead of waiting to see what will happen. 

Does he have diarrhea or constipation?

Diarrhea can result from nervousness, a change in diet or water, food sensitivities, intestinal parasites, infections, poisoning or many illnesses. Watery diarrhea, diarrhea with blood, or diarrhea accompanied byvomiting or other signs of illness warrants a call to the veterinarian. Cats commonly become constipated. They may strain to defecate; cry or meow in the litterbox; pass only small, hard feces; or pass small amounts of watery feces. Examine your cat’s litterbox to make sure he’s defecating as he should be. 

Is he coughing?

Coughing can be caused by a variety of conditions, including foreign bodies, hairballs, allergies, asthma, tumors, heart disease, lung disease or several contagious illnesses. If coughing persists for more than a day, don’t wait — contact your veterinarian. If your cat is coughing over and over, has difficulty breathing or has bluish gums, he needs to see his veterinarian immediately.

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5 Ways to Help Make Your Dog Happier

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1. Give her great self-entertainment options like food puzzles.

Most of us are guilty of giving our pets extra treats to compensate for not spending enough time with them, but we all know that’s not a great plan. Giving your pup new and interesting ways to get her daily nutrition is a far healthier option.

Behaviorist Dr. Wailani Sung is a big proponent of food puzzles, which are toys created to hide food so your pet has to work to find it. “Puzzle toys/interactive toys are great in keeping our dogs mentally stimulated,” she explains. “It is fun for owners to watch their dogs try to figure out how to get the food out, and [these toys] give dogs a great outlet for their energy, both physically and mentally,” Dr. Sung says. She compares the extra mental effort food puzzles take to the extra effort and focus it would take for her to read a textbook rather than a trashy novel. Having to think about how to get his food — and physically work at it — means your dog expends more energy.

“In the wild, animals have to spend significant amounts of time hunting/foraging for food. In our typical households, the dog does no work prior to getting his meal,” Sung says. “If we provide our dogs with an opportunity to work out his energies, then you have a healthier dog, physically and mentally. If your dog is busy working for his meal, he does not have time to chew on your table leg or counter surf or exhibit other inappropriate behaviors.” 

2. Organize outings to see other dogs or people.

Want to make sure your dog gets to see his canine buddies but don’t have much time? Do what parents of human children do: Plan play dates. If you have friends who also frequent the  dog park, make a point to find out when they’ll be there so that even if you stay only 15 minutes, your pooch is guaranteed to get time with a pal. Or forget the park and just get your dogs together at one of your homes. (And if, during a busy week, you really can’t give your dog one-on-one time, consider taking your pooch to doggie day care, where he can get some socializing in.)

Of course, if your dog isn’t interested in his fellow pups, you can also take him out to an establishment designed for humans but that is dog friendly, like a coffee shop with a patio. Get creative — maybe you can take your laptop and get some work done while he takes in the sights (and smells), or perhaps you can catch up with your friends somewhere new that is conducive to bringing your canine companion along. 

3. Provide some structure.

You probably feel better about your day when you have some semblance of an idea about what’s going to happen, right? When it comes to rest and activity, that’s something your dog enjoys, too.

“Keep in mind that in nature, canines have periods of rest but also periods of activities,” Dr. Sung says. “If the owners provide more structure to their dogs’ days, that can be really helpful for dogs to know what is coming next. Almost all animals follow a schedule during the day and night; it is what we encounter along the way as we move through our day that keeps it different.”

So, making a point to always give your dog a walk or play session — even a short one — at the same time of day isn’t just good motivation for you; it also can be beneficial to her state of mind.

4. Teach her a new trick.

When you use positive reinforcement to teach a dog a new trick, it becomes more like a game than anything else. And, yes, that’s even true for the stubborn ones. The best thing about this is that you don’t need to dedicate an hour every day to training — five minutes here and 10 minutes there of focused attention is all you really need. And it might be all she can handle at one time anyway.

Of course, the bonus to this one is that you’ll be able to track her progress as you go along. If you’re coming up short on tricks to teach your pooch, follow along with Mikkel Becker’s training videos. You and your dog will both be likely to learn something there.

5. Make daily grooming more of a bonding opportunity than a chore.

Do you dread brushing your dog almost as much as she dreads you trying to brush her teeth? Maybe 2015 is the year for you to reset your approach. Sure, you probably look at it as something you just need to get done, but what if your routine became a five-minute ritual you both looked forward to?

This might mean you need to start from scratch, so let her get comfortable with the brush or any other tools you need to use. Give her plenty of positive reinforcement and move slowly, making sure to give her love, praise, belly rubs and treats as you go. Once you both learn to relax a bit, it might truly become a process you enjoy.

Your favorite dog will be on his best behavior this holiday season, and throughout the year, if he masters these 5 dog training commands.

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Wait at the Door

Teaching your dog to wait at the door isn’t just good manners, it’s also a safety precaution, especially during the holidays. With people coming and going, your pooch may take the opportunity to dash outside and could get lost or injured. To help prevent this, begin practicing this command before guests arrive — and if you’re spending the holidays away from home, be sure to review at your destination as well.

Greet Calmly

Your dog may be excited to see your guests, but they may not be as enthused when their best holiday outfits get ruined by muddy paws. The risk, however, goes beyond having to pay for a dry cleaning bill. If your dog greets guests by jumping on them, it can be dangerous, especially for the very young and the elderly. To prevent problems, teach your dog to greet guests only when he is calm and has all four paws on the floor. Alternatively, have your dog greet people by performing a trick that limits his ability to jump, such as sitting or hand targeting.

Shake

A paw shake is a fun way for guests to interact with your dog, but it is more than just a cute trick. It creates a controlled and specific way for your pooch to say hi and interact with visitors. Training your dog to shake (and informing guests this is how he likes to be greeted) also provides an opportunity for your dog to control how people approach him. One of my Pugs, Willy, prefers to shake in greeting, like humans do, before allowing people to pet him. A shake works both for dogs who are excited about greeting people and those who are a little uncertain.

Come When Called

Teaching your dog to come when called is a vital command for your pet to know year round, but it is especially helpful during the holidays. If your pet gets outside, his safety may depend on him coming immediately to you when you call, but this command can also be used to interrupt behavior that’s not appropriate or that may be unsettling to guests, such as getting too close to a child or being a little too interested in the food on the buffet table.

No Begging

Your dog’s begging face may be adorable, but that doesn’t mean this is acceptable behavior. Mooching food from the table is not just rude, it can also be dangerous: Guests may accidentallyfeed your dog something toxic or enable him to overindulge to the point where he becomesphysically ill. Put a stop to begging by teaching an alternative behavior, like staying on a mat, that he can do during dinner

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