Why Do Dogs Bring Pieces of their Food Back to Owners?
Dear AKC: I have a 3 year old Shih Tzu and an 11 year old Yorkie. The problem is with the eating habits of the Shih Tzu, she takes the pieces of her food out of the bowl and distributes them all over the floor even onto the living room carpet area. She does not eat all of the food she takes out of the bowl. Her procedure is to take the pieces out of the bowl then eat off the floor leaving behind what she does not eat.I have tried decreasing amounts but still end up with a mess. I believe she was exposed to this habit by my sister's dog who did that but her dog ate what she put on the floor. I continue to put the bits back into the bowl on a daily basis and the mess seems to be keep getting worse. Any suggestions as to how to avoid the eating habit mess? -- Leaving a Trail
Dear Leaving: This particular habit is common among dogs. Some think it goes back to the mammal/wolf instinct of taking food away from the "kill" or to protect their portion from other's stealing it while they are eating. Other owners report that their dogs bring the food out of the bowl away from a hard floor to a softer surface such as carpet or towels. Dogs also pick-up behavior learned from others, so it's logical to think that your sister's dog taught her this trick. I'm curious does the other dog eat the leftovers on the floor? If so, just be aware that the Yorkie doesn't overeat and gain weight.
Cleaning up the Mess
Whatever the reason what you need now is instant relief. My first thought is to confine your Shih Tzu in a smaller area such as a crate or place a baby gate at the kitchen door into the living room. By cutting off access to the area she drops her food, it will force her to change her behavior. Two other thoughts might be to change her food to something that is not a "moist" such as dry kibble if you are concerned that canned or packaged food is making a gooey mess of your floors and rugs. You might also try changing her bowl. I had a dog once that wouldn't eat out of his stainless steel bowl because it made a "clangy" noise when his metal collar tag hit it while eating. Depending on what you are using, maybe a switch to a ceramic or rubber bowl and put it on a small piece of carpet or towel and maybe she will just take her bits out of the bowl and deposit them nearby on her new "placemat." Finally, maybe she is trying to keep her food away from the other dog if she is close by at feeding time. Trying feeding them in different rooms if this seems to be a contributing factor.