Why Dog Carries Food Away: 4 Common Reasons

If you’re constantly stepping on kibble after mealtime, this may be why.

This article was originally published in 2016 and is regularly updated. It was last reviewed for accuracy and updated on June 5, 2024

why dog carries food away
Why dog carries food away? Don’t worry — it’s pretty normal behavior. Photo: Andres Rodriguez

Feeding time is a happy time when you have a dog.

They are nearly bouncing off the walls when you’re getting ready to fill up their food bowl.

Usually when we put food in our dogs’ bowls, they dive right in and start eating. But some dogs do some pretty strange stuff at feeding time.

One behavior that may have you scratching your head is when your dog carries their food away from the bowl before eating the food.

If your dog does this and you can’t figure out why, keep reading because I have a few ideas.

4 Reasons Why Dog Carries Food Away

Dog steals other dog's food
Oh, so this is why some dogs carry their food away — so it doesn’t get stolen. Photo: Viral Paws

1. Your Dog Wants to Protect or Hide the Food

Some dogs, particularly those in multi-dog households, may carry their food away as a way to keep it to themselves.

Before dogs were domesticated, they often ran in packs. The more subordinate pack members would carry food away to hide it from other members of the pack.

“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-Keck, DVM, DACVB, assistant professor of veterinary behavior at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dogs aren’t looking to start a fight — that would be dangerous. So trying to put the food out of sight is a compromise between giving up their food and fighting for it.

“Rather than stay in the pack and fight for what is theirs, they will snag a piece or two and run away with it,” explains writer Langley Cornwell.

“This means they get to eat without the risk of a fight. It also ensures they get some of it without another dog trying to take it away.”

If you have more multiple dogs, try feeding them separately to see if that helps.

In single-dog households, it may be easier to use a crate or block the exits to the room so your dog can’t carry food elsewhere.

Dog carries food away
Some dogs carry their food away because they prefer to be in the company of others, rather than eating alone. Photo: Jeannine S.

2. Your Dog Doesn’t Want to Eat Alone

Dogs feel loneliness just like people do.

If you’re in another room and your dog is alone in the kitchen, they may carry their food to where you are to eat it.

“Dogs naturally long for companionship, so he may just want to see you or be near you while he eats,” says Cornwell.

Dogs are family members but often don’t eat with the family. Carrying the food to where you are could be a sign that your pet simply wants to be part of the family dynamic.

As a pet sitter, I’ve seen this behavior firsthand.

One of my clients simply will not eat if she’s all alone in the room. When I sit for her, I usually set up my laptop nearby or even bring her food bowl outside so we can enjoy the sunshine together.

I’ll sit or stand nearby while she eats. This makes her happy, and she eats right from the bowl every time.

Dog kicks metal bowl
Some dogs don’t like metal food or water bowls. Photo: Pawsdeluxe

3. Your Dog Doesn’t Like Metal Bowls

If you have metal dog dishes, your dog may be annoyed or frightened by the noise the dishes make when they clang together.

Even the sound of their tag hitting the bowl can startle a dog, so they may take the food and carry it away from the source of the noise.

The easy answer to this?

Just swap the metal bowls for plastic ones. Then your dog isn’t startled by the metal-on-metal jangling and can eat in peace.

Then again, plastic bowls are pretty terrible. You could try paper plates instead — though, depending on the type of food you feed your dog, this could get messy.

Dog carries food away to couch
“Why eat on the floor when I can eat up here on the sofa?” Photo: David Pickman

4. Your Dog Is Creating a Personal Stash of Food

When in the wild, dogs or wolves would often drag remaining prey away and hide it somewhere. Your dog could be doing the same thing.

In their book How Dogs Work, Raymond Coppinger and Mark Feinstein explain that dogs “sometimes store food that they have foraged by digging a ‘cache’ and hiding it away for future consumption.”

If you stumble across dog food in random places, your dog may be “caching” some of the food. The solution, again, is simple: Make sure you’re not overfeeding your dog, and then block off the exits to the room they normally eat in.

If your dog is carrying food away, it may be because of one of the above reasons — or something else could be at play. As always, check with your veterinarian if you’re concerned.

Tips to Manage Your Dog’s Food-Carrying Behavior

  • Feed in a Quiet Space: Provide a calm, quiet environment for your dog to eat without distractions or competition.
  • Separate Feeding Areas for Multiple Dogs: Feed dogs in separate areas to prevent competition and protectiveness over food.
  • Use Different Bowls: Try using non-metal bowls if noise is an issue; consider plastic or ceramic alternatives.
  • Stay Nearby During Meals: Stay close to your dog while they eat to provide companionship and reduce loneliness.
  • Monitor and Adjust Portions: Ensure you are not overfeeding your dog to reduce the need for storing food.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why do dogs take food from bowl and eat elsewhere?

Dogs may take food from their bowl and eat elsewhere to protect it from perceived threats or to be closer to their owner.

Why does my dog drop his food on the floor before he eats it

Dogs might drop their food on the floor before eating it due to discomfort with their bowl or to examine it more closely.

Why do dogs take their food to another room

Dogs take their food to another room to eat in a quieter or more comfortable location or to be near their human companions.