As a dog parent, you are familiar with canine meal-related rituals and quirky behaviors. From nudging food bowls through playing with the kibble to nose-poking around the food. However, the habit of rubbing the nose towards food is perhaps the “weirdest.”
Why is your dog rubbing their nose towards its food? Although there can be several reasons why dogs rub their noses towards food – from playing to boredom, the most probable cause is that your dog is true to its ancestral heritage. Namely, in the past, wild dogs hunted and had to kill the prey before eating and then burry the leftovers for later. Rubbing the noses is part of that routine – your dog is behaving like its kibble is live prey, and then once satiated, it is trying to hide the remaining food.
In this article, we will go through some common yet unusual food rituals in dogs. Although modern dogs have regular meals served in fancy food bowls, some behaviors are instinctual and remnants of the dog’s wild ancestry.
WHY DOES MY DOG RUB HIS NOSE AROUND HIS FOOD?
You have probably seen your dog rubbing its nose around his food. If you are outside, this behavior makes more sense than if you are inside and your dog is rubbing into the tiles, wooden floor, or carpet.
Anyway, as unusual as this may seem to use, dogs have a perfect reason for doing it – they are trying to hide the leftover food and save it for later when they are hungry.
In the wilds, dogs are opportunistic eaters – they eat when they can and what they can. This also means that they appreciate food sources and, if satiated, will try to save the reserves for later.
Namely, if your dog leaves some amount of food in its bowl and then tries rubbing its nose around it, chances are it is digging a hole where it can burrow the leftovers. Although the hard floor surfaces are not suitable for digging, your dog’s instincts are pretty much, well, instincts.
Once again, this may seem unusual, but it is a normal dog thing. However, there is one thing you should be concerned about – why is your dog leaving food in its bowl in the first place?
If your dog is leaving food, you may be overfeeding. Overfeeding can cause serious problems. After all, not all dogs are so self-vigilant when it comes to figuring food management. Check the manufacturer’s feeding instructions and make sure you are feeding your dog the right amount.
There is one more potential reason – your dog is sick and experiencing decreased appetite. There will be other accompanying signs of illness in such cases, and it is critical you schedule an appointment with your vet.
WHY IS MY DOG NUDGING THEIR FOOD AROUND?
Some dogs like to nudge or simply push their food bowls around. There are various possible reasons for this rather despicable and messy behavior.
The most common reason is that your dog is in the mood for playing rather than the mood for eating. Dogs need tons of physical and mental stimulation to remain healthy and challenged.
If you are not playing with your dog enough, it will find ways of entertainment. With that being said, dogs lacking entertainment can engage in an array of activities just to fight boredom.
Another reason your dog might be nudging its food bowl around is that it dislikes the food taste. Just because some dogs like eating inedible items does not mean they do not have a delicate palate when eating kibble. Luckily, if this is the case, the solution is pretty simple – just change the food brand you are using.
Dogs also like to work for their meals – hunting is part of their genetic makeup and an ancestral instinct. Chasing the food bowl before eating its content might be a remnant of your dog’s wild heritage.
Finally, dogs thrive on human contact and attention. In these terms, if your dog is nudging its food bowl around, it might be trying to steal your attention (almost all food bowls make annoying sounds when pushed around). If your dog is an attention seeker, even scolding it will mean your dog won – it got your attention.
WHY DOES MY DOG RUB HIS FACE ON HIS FOOD?
Some dogs like to rub their faces into food. Usually, dogs that display this behavior are more inclined to rub when offered a new food – something they have never been served before or something they are rarely allowed to eat.
Either way, there is no scientific explanation for this habit. However, there are suggestions that they like to take in as much scent from the food as possible. We all know how scent-driven dogs are. Considering the importance of smell to dogs, it is safe to assume that this theory holds.
You can quickly test the theory by paying attention to when your dog’s face rubs its food – always, at specific times, or when offered specific food items.
WHY DOES MY DOG DO A RITUAL BEFORE EATING?
Every dog has a different ritual before eating – some nudge the food bowls, others play with the food, and there are those that perform a little “happy dance” before diving into the meal.
Although some dogs have more voracious appetites than others, all dogs see food as an essential resource, and feeding time is associated with happiness and a positive experience.
WHY DOES MY DOG PLAY WITH ITS FOOD BEFORE EATING?
Wild dogs had to run and hunt to get a meal. Modern dogs have premium kibble served in high-end food bowls. However, there is one thing domesticated dogs miss – the thrill of the hunt.
If your dog is eagerly playing with its food before eating, it is because its instincts demand a tiny chase and hunt before being rewarded with food.
Usually, dogs that get enough physical and mental stimulation are less likely to exhibit this behavior. On the other hand, dogs lacking motivation will find ways of self-entertainment, and playing with the food can be one of them.
Watching your dog play with its food instead of eating it can be very unpleasant if you are concerned about your dog’s health. However, your dog is not to blame. Instead of feeling frustrated and scolding your dog, make a new schedule – plan your dog’s daily walks before its mealtimes.
As mentioned, dogs are genetically wired to work for their meals. Physically challenging your dog with a nice walk or mentally stimulating it with an interactive game before its meal will provide your dog with the feeling it has worked hard enough for the reward – meal. You can even use interactive stuffing toys.
WHY DOES MY DOG ROLL IN ITS FOOD BEFORE EATING?
Rolling in food is weird from a human point of view, but for your dog, it is actually a practical choice. If your dog rolls in its food, it is not hungry at the moment and is trying to make the food unappealing for other dogs.
Namely, when rubbing, your dog will leave its scent all over the food, thus informing other dogs that this particular meal already has an owner. Even if you are a one-dog household, your dog can still feel inclined to protect its food from others.
However, rolling in food is, in fact, a waste of food and is a habit you will have to discourage your dog from doing.
For example, you can offer your dog its food bowl and observe its behavior. If it starts eating, let it have its meal, but if it starts rolling, just take the bowl and offer it again later. Most dogs have voracious appetites meaning they will probably get hungry enough by the time you re-offer the food and eat instead of roll.
WHY IS MY DOG RUBBING ITS FACE ON THE FLOOR AFTER EATING?
The answer to this question is perhaps the most nerve-wracking on this list. If your dog is rubbing its face on the floor after finishing its meal, it is because it uses your floor as a napkin.
Yes, as “dirty” as dogs can be, they still dislike the scent and crumble remnants from their food on their faces. However, this does not have much to do with personal hygiene but practicality.
Namely, getting rid of the food scent is a tactical decision – in the wild, the smell of food can attract other predators. Your house is definitely free from predators, but your dog’s instincts are sometimes more powerful than reason.
Dogs display an array of behaviors we often classify in the “being weird” category. However, that is because we think like humans, not like dogs.
Before being domesticated, dogs were skilled hunters and had to hunt to get a meal. The hunt was both physically and mentally challenging. Plus, it culminated in a tasty meal.
Modern dogs do not need to hunt – this is a convenience on the one hand but a drawback on the other. In simple words, modern dogs have too much time and not enough energy outlets, thus allowing free time for some ancestral habits to kick in.