As loving dog parents, we are always going to great lengths to choose the right food for our dogs. You put in a lot of time researching what would be best for your dogs, talking with your vet doctors, and making up meal plans that are not just healthy but tasty and nutritious for your dog. In the end, you fill up their feeding bowl with excitement, expecting that your dog would end up gobbling the delicious meal in front of him, but what do you see?

He or she smells the food and then starts to move the bowl of food around without even tasting a morsel of the food. What is going on here? Have I made some sort of mistake? Why does my dog move his food with his nose? What is going to happen to all these berries, cooked chicken, yogurts, and other mouth-watering food you may have presented to them? You have put in so much effort in providing all this food and your dog is treating it this way. Maybe your dog just loves rice, or maybe he is just into raw bones or off-the-shelf food. Whatever it is, the current outcome is making you confused. Your dog seems to be more determined to play with the food than to eat it, this leaves you asking yourself “why does my dog move his food bowl” and what can I do to solve this problem?

The reason why your dog moves his food with his nose are:

  1. It can be due to ancestral instinct
  2. Maybe your dog is not hungry
  3. Your dog might be getting old and senile
  4. Your dog wants your attention
  5. Your dog is ill.

Now let us address each point to understand why your dog is moving his food bowl with his nose.


1.It can be due to ancestral instinct.

Dogs have so many things which they do by instinct even though they do not really need them in today’s world, from wagging their tails, spinning around in circles, rolling on the floor to sniffing each other’s bottom. Dogs engage in some ancestral instinct-based activities which seem senseless in today’s world. So when a dog moves his food around with his nose, he or she is displaying one of those primal instincts that we may not understand.


You see in ancient times life was not that easy for dogs. They hunted for food but it was obvious to them that if they ate all their hunt at once they would starve. So what did they do to manage this problem? They stored part of their food away in places they felt were safe so that they could come and eat it up later. Your dog moving his food bowl around with his or her nose may just be an indication that your dog is trying to put the food away for when they actually start feeling hungry. Your dog is well aware of what is in the bowl and even though they are not ready to eat the food immediately, would still want to keep if for consumption at some later time.

This may be his way of trying to preserve his food and all the work you put in preparing a portion of tasty nutritious food for your dog is not time wasted.


2.Maybe your dog is not hungry

Your dog may be moving the bowl around with his or her nose because they are not feeling hungry at the time of feeding. Dog parents who do not give their dogs food at the structured or specific time usually experience this from their dogs. They are used to giving their dogs food at any time without considering the fact that they may just be overfeeding their dogs. After some time, their dog’s natural instinct of hiding away food kicks in, and they find their dogs trying to save the food for later.

There is also the situation of dogs having a structured feeding timeline but they are not hungry during feeding time because their dog parents have indulged them in lots of treats during the day. When it gets to the time that they are supposed to eat, they are already filled up and have no need to eat at that time. This is where you see your dog trying to bury food with their nose or just moving the food bowl around.

There are also dogs that are very picky eaters, they may be trying to express that they don’t like what has been presented to them, or even more common, your dog may want to have what his or her friend from another household is eating. How can this be so you may ask? Well, when you are socializing your dog with other dogs, they do their own interaction. One of the things they find out from their fellow dogs is the kind of meal they eat. They do this by sniffing other dog’s mouth and nose regions. When they find the smell interesting, they might want you to provide the same thing for them at home. Using their nose to push around the food bowl is one way they use to express this want, unfortunately, it would be hard for a dog parent who is not very into the life of their dogs to even consider this option.

You also have a change in environment. If you just changed location or you are traveling, it is likely that when you get to your final destination. Your dog would not be ready to eat till they adjust a bit to the new environment. This is more so, especially when they ate well before embarking on the journey.

Basically, a dog that is not hungry ends up playing with its food so if your dog dips head in and out of the bowl or just moves his food around with his nose, then it’s likely that he is not hungry at that moment.


3.Your dog might be getting old and senile.

One of the issues with a dog getting old is the failing of their organs and biological systems. You have the failing of their motor functions, their sight, their sense of smell, and even taste. This can be a problem when you give them food to eat as they will try to take their time to properly identify what is in the food bowl before eating it.

An uncoordinated motor function in their body, together with, a failing sense of smell and taste makes the dog push her food bowl around before eating. There might be situations where your dog dips head in and out of the bowl, your dog bobbing their head around the food bowl, or even pushing his food into his water.

These are all part of the problems that occur as a dog lives a longer life above the expected lifespan. There is really not much you can do for them here. Be patient and gentle. You can even set the food bowl in such a way that it can’t be pushed around. This will keep it more stable and allow this elderly dog to eat better.


4.Your dog wants your attention

Your dog may just be playing with you. You may not have noticed, but your dogs are detectives. They are always investigating things in their environment and trying to understand how things fit into them. Your dog may be moving his food with his nose while investigating its content but realizes that this action is always bringing your attention their way. Now, this is obviously a good thing for your dog, they are engaging in something that is interesting to them and at the same time getting your attention. A double whammy, so if your dog is getting your attention doing this, what makes you feel they would give up this behavior in the long run. Likely not, this would actually make them want to increase the pace at which they move the food around.

You would obviously need to retrain your dog to stop them from continuing this habit. If you feel they just want your attention, ignoring them and positive reinforcement techniques will go a long way to solve this problem.


5.Your dog is ill.

Your dog may be moving his food around with his nose because he is sick. A loss of appetite once in a while is not really a big deal, but when it is accompanied by other symptoms like a bloated stomach, diarrhea, etc. Then it becomes a thing of concern and should be brought to the attention of a vet doctor immediately.

Your dog not eating can be linked to many dog health issues like kidney failure, cancer, liver problems, bacterial infections and so much more.

It is also worth noting that dogs with dental issues would naturally find it hard to eat their food even if they want to do so. Your dog may keep on rubbing his or her nose towards food or dips head in and out of the bowl. Unfortunately, the pain of the dental problem would not allow them to eat the food. Dental issues can range from a loose tooth to a broken tooth, severe gingivitis to an oral tumor. The best way to deal with this issue would be to take your dog for a full dental checkup.

There is also this issue with dogs that have recently undergone one vaccination or the other. Even though these vaccinations are for the good of our dogs, one of the side effects is the temporary loss of appetite in our dogs. This normally on its own would pass away. But if your dog still rejects food after a day, contact your vet doctor.


Now we have answered the question “why does my dog move his food with his nose” in detail. The next thing is what can we do to stop this behavior and get our dog to eat properly again.

Well, the answer is it depends on which of the factors above is causing them to do so. If your dog moving their food around has to do with them getting ill, getting old and senile, or some other health issue, then the only resolution to the issue would be a medical prescription from your vet doctor and a proper diet. This food is still tasty and nutritious to your dog. Be careful when feeding your dog these diets, you should avoid starving them by all means. If necessary use treats to motivate them to eat.

For dogs having dental issues, their medication will usually go down well with semi-solid food. A full dental checkup and treatment are necessary in their case.

If your dog moving his food around with his nose or playing with them is due to ancestral instincts, wanting your attention or just being picky. Then your dog’s problem is behavioral and should be handled as such.


Here are a few suggestions that can help you on your way:

  1. Reduce the number of treats you have been giving your dog, it is important that your dog be receptible to food anytime you bring it and too many treats reduces that possibility.
  2. Structure the time you feed your dog. Are you feeding them twice or three times a day. You can do the feeding every 12-hour interval or 8-hour interval whichever suits you.
  3. Try exercising your dog before each meal, this way they would work up an appetite and make them more receptible to eating their food.
  4. Try making the feeding time fun, feeding your dog by yourself is enough to make it fun for them, incorporate play if necessary, use a food-dispensing toy.
  5. For senior dogs especially, try making the food bowl stick to its position, maybe by placing it on top of a mat or by using a bowl that sticks to the ground. This way your dog would be unable to move the bowl with his nose and would be forced to eat.
  6. You can also switch up their diet, make a few changes, add something new to the diet. Discuss this with your vet doctor or dog expert around you.

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