Have you ever noticed your dog trying to eat near you? Sometimes they might even skip eating their food if you aren’t in the same room. Is it a cute quirk or a worrying behavior? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, and it’s a question almost every dog owner has; why does my dog eat near me?
Dogs eat near their owners because of anxiety. This nervousness may arise from their environment, trauma in their past, or separation anxiety.
While the behavior itself is not concerning, it may point to a deeper issue that must be addressed. This article will discuss the possible roots of this behavior, whether you should be concerned, and what you can do to encourage change in your dog.
Reasons Your Dog Eats Near You
There are a few key reasons to why a dog would want to eat near you. Below are the 5 most common ones.
It’s A Result Of Evolution
Dogs are descended from wolves and tend to display evolutionary hang-overs of wolf behavior–the inclination to eat in a group setting is one such hang-over.
Dogs may refuse to eat without their owners present because they are naturally predisposed to eat with other creatures. When a dog eats alone, the lack of fellowship may make him anxious. Therefore, your dog only eats with you.
Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Some dogs become overly anxious when their owners leave the house for work or errands, which is called separation anxiety, and this may manifest in the refusal to eat food alone.
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety will display other symptoms of the disorder, most notably mounting anxiety as their owner refuses to leave the house.
A dog will display this emotion through his body language; as you whirl around your house, shutting off lights, grabbing shoes and keys, packing a lunch, your dog will anxiously follow along, panting and whining.
In the event of an owner’s absence, dogs with separation anxiety may also defecate or urinate in the house, destroy furniture, or even attempt to escape the house by crashing into windows or scratching at the doors.
If your dog displays these behaviors, contact a professional dog trainer. They will determine the extent of your dog’s separation anxiety and develop a training program to fix it.
Your Dog Was Socialized Improperly
Some puppies are taught to eat when their human eats, and over time, the behavior becomes so ingrained in their minds that they can only eat when a human is nearby.
It isn’t easy to be sure if this is the cause of your dog’s behavior unless you were the one to socialize your dog. If you were indeed the one who raised Fido from puppy to dog, think back on the experience: when you were teaching him to eat from his bowl, did he only ever eat when you were around?
Your Dog Feels Unsafe
Sometimes, a dog’s environment can make him anxious, resulting in a refusal to eat. When you return home, your dog feels safe because you are his protector.
Only then will he eat. It is essential to investigate your dog’s environment for potential triggers, as well as to pay attention to your dog while in his presence. Does he flinch when you shout in surprise after you stub your toe? Your dog may be afraid of loud noises.
Does your dog avoid a particular room in the house? He may have developed a fear of that room for any range of reasons. When you know what makes his environment feel unsafe to him, you can begin to make changes in your dog’s life.
For instance, if you’ve discovered that unpleasant noises generate anxiety for your dog, consider leaving the TV on when you’re out of the home. In some cases, merely dampening the stressors will make your dog feel safe enough to eat by himself.
The Behavior Was Unintentionally Encouraged
Dogs may learn to eat when their owners are around because the owners unintentionally reward the behavior. This is especially common in dogs that have had eating issues in the past that caused their owners to reward them after eating.
Did your dog ever have difficulty eating? If so, did you praise them or reward them after eating? Now, the consequences of those rewards might be catching up. Your dog has developed a food-based emotional dependence on you–in other words, they won’t eat when you’re not around.
Things To Consider
In short, dogs refuse to eat without their owners because of anxiety. This anxiety may stem from their upbringing, environment, or deeper problem, like separation anxiety.
Is it necessary to train your dog out of the need to have you nearby while he eats? No, not usually. However, encouraging your dog to eat alone fosters a sense of independence and may improve his overall mental health.
How do you begin? An anxiety-inducing environment or separation anxiety are problems that demand particular attention, so before we address the behavior properly, you will need to understand how to solve the environment and separation anxiety issues.
If the environment is the issue, the owner must determine what in the environment causes the stress. Please pay attention to your dog’s behavior when you’re around him.
When does he display stress (often in the form of whining, tucking tail, ducking his head, or panting)? What could be causing the stress? When you have determined what causes your dog stress, attempt to minimize the issue, if not eliminate it outright.
On the other hand, helping a dog through separation anxiety is a lengthier and often more complicated affair. If you believe your dog suffers from separation anxiety, it is essential to contact a dog trainer to create a training regimen that will most effectively help your dog.
In the meantime, you can increase your dog’s exercise (a tired dog is less likely to be anxious), provide interactive toys for your dog while you are gone, or invest in calming treats.
How To Encourage Your Dog To Eat Alone
Once you have minimized any stress in your dog’s life, you can address the problem itself–getting your dog to eat by himself. With some patience, your dog will begin to eat when you’ve been out of the house for hours.
Start by ignoring your dog while he eats. Don’t even look at him. Put his food in his bowl, and then sit down nearby and look at your phone or read a book. If you’re already doing this, great!
Next, start walking away after you feed your dog. Get as far away as you can until your dog stops eating. When your dog stops eating, stay there and wait for your dog to start eating again.
Over time, increase the distance between you and your dog until he can eat when you’re in an entirely different room or on a different floor.
Then, start mixing “treats” into your dog’s bowl before you leave for work. This can be anything, as long as your dog likes to eat it. Think fresh meat, dog treats, puppy chow, or even cat food!
If you come home and find the “treats” untouched in your dog’s bowl, try out a new treat. Keep cycling through treats until you find one that your dog likes. You’ll know you’ve found the right treat when you come home and your pup’s eaten at least some of the treats!
Please wait until your dog eats more than half of the treats you keep out for him. Then, start to decrease the number of treats a little every week. If he ever stops eating treats while you’re gone, stop decreasing the number of treats until he begins to eat again.
Eventually, there will be no treats in his bowl at all, and he will eat his food while you’re out of the house.