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Dog Won’t Eat out of Their Bowl but Will from the Floor or Hand? Here’s Why

By Aviram K.
September 11, 2022
5 min read
Dog Won’t Eat out of Their Bowl but Will from the Floor or Hand? Here’s Why
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Shoes. Plants. Toys. Other dogs’ poop.

These are just a few random items you’ve looked at in horror as your dog devoured. It seems that your dog will eat nearly anything at times…except for their own food from their bowl!

And it can be even more confusing when they decide to eat their proper food, but they’ll only eat from your hand or the floor…but never from the bowl.

Are they just being difficult? Why can’t they simply eat food from their bowl?

There are many reasons your dog may eat from your hand or the floor but not their bowl. The dog may be acting from their instincts to eat alone. They may also fear or dislike their bowl, want to socialize with you, have a health problem, or dislike their food.

In this article, I will explain why your dog won’t eat out of their bowl but will eat from the floor or your hand. I will also give tips to help your dog eat from their bowl.

It can be very frustrating if your pup isn’t eating food from their bowl. But on the bright side, at least they are eating! Dealing with a picky dog that won’t eat at all is an even bigger issue.

Since your pup is eating, you’re already in great shape…now you just have to get them to eat from the right place!

And I’m here to help you get them to do just that.

Let’s go!

Table of Contents
Why Your Dog Won’t Eat out of Their Bowl but Will from the Floor or Hand
How to Get Your Dog to Eat out of Their Bowl
Your Dog Will Be Eating out of Your Hand, Er Their Bowl in No Time

Why Your Dog Won’t Eat out of Their Bowl but Will from the Floor or Hand


It can be a peculiar situation when your pup will eat food from the floor or your hand but refuses to touch their own bowl. This can be annoying because it seems like they’re just being a picky prince or princess!

Rest assured, your pup isn’t plotting against you by trying to find ways to make mealtime difficult. However, there’s certainly a reason behind why they are acting this way.

Here are some of the potential reasons behind their behavior:

They’re Acting out of Instinct

Your dog’s wolf-pack ancestry may explain their strange eating habits.

Way back in the day, a dog would have to drag its prey away from the pack to be able to savor their meal. This way, they could chow down without any interruption or competition from other canines.

Not that your dog knows or remembers any of this, of course. But they could instinctually feel that eating from their bowl provides them with less privacy, especially if other dogs are around. They may instinctively choose to eat from your hand or the floor because it feels more natural.

Something About Their Bowl Scares Them

Think back. Has your pup ever been startled by a loud noise while eating out of their bowl? Have they been rescued from an abusive home where they may have been rushed, forced, or harmed while eating? Maybe they’ve cut themselves on an old, broken bowl?

Your pup may have a very deep and negative association with eating out of their bowl. It may be so bad to the point that they are even fearful of it.

If your pup trembles, runs, and hides from their bowl, barks, or growls at it, this could be a good sign something about their bowl scares them.

They May Not like the Bowl

This may seem like a silly, surface reason, but your pup may simply just not like their bowl for whatever reason.

Maybe it’s the color, pattern, shape, size, or height. Even the sound the food makes as it hits the bowl or how their collar drags against it while they eat. Who knows.

Your dog may be onto something, though. A bowl that is not well-suited for your pup can cause them actual health problems. For example, a bowl that is too high can increase your dog’s risk for canine bloating, which is way worse than when a human is simply “bloated.” Canine bloating is a serious medical condition for dogs that can turn deadly.

They Want to Socialize with You

If your dog prefers eating out of your hand to their bowl specifically, they may want more time with you!

They may figure, “I have to eat either way…if I can eat and get fed by my best friend at the same time, all the better!”

Your pup may see being hand-fed by you as your special time together to bond and socialize. It makes sense why they may choose that over their bowl!

There’s Something Wrong with Their Health

Your pup may be dodging their bowl because of an underlying health problem they have going on. And something about their bowl may aggravate the condition.

For example, a pup with some kind of dental problem may prefer to eat from your hand because you crush the food up for him, making it easier to chew.

Your pup could also have funny eating habits if they’re having issues with their tummy. Maybe they’re already feeling full, or they may have something more serious going on.

Your Dog Doesn’t like Their Food

Fido may avoid their bowl altogether if they aren’t enjoying what they’re eating. This may be confusing because they may still eat from your hand or the floor in this case.

But they may just be eating because you’ve coaxed them into it or because you’ve been hand-feeding it directly to them.

How to Get Your Dog to Eat out of Their Bowl


The solution to getting your pup to eat out of their bowl depends on why they’re not doing it in the first place.

I recommend carefully observing them to try to figure out the issue. Regardless of if you think there’s something wrong with them physically, a trip to the vet may be the best place to begin.

This way, you can ensure they’re okay and know if their eating preferences are due to a health issue.

Even if there’s nothing wrong with their health, a vet may have useful tips to help your pup learn to eat from their bowl.

Since your dog’s canine ancestors preferred to drag their food off to eat in private, this could also be hardwired into your pup!

To see if this is all it is, try moving your pup’s food bowl to somewhere more secluded. Switching the bowl’s direction, placing it in a different room, or simply allowing your pup to chow down without being watched may make them feel more comfortable.

If you think there’s something about your pup’s bowl they don’t like, try simply replacing their bowl with a new one. Switching their mat might be worthwhile, too, while you’re at it. A bowl or mat with a totally different appearance may be all that is needed to fix the problem.

Your pup may want to eat out of your hand if they want to spend more time with you. If you think your dog could be subtly asking for more quality time, give it to them!

Try adding an extra walk or more playtime into your routine. This may help your pup focus more on their food than on getting your attention since they’ll be confident that they’ll receive an abundance of it.

If it seems like your pup may be avoiding their bowl because they don’t like their food, there are easy ways to fix this.

You can try switching their food altogether or adding a delicious treat or topper to entice them to their food bowl. A yummy topper like canned chicken, sweet potato, yogurt, beef, or pork may be the perfect way to get your pup interested in their bowl.

Your Dog Will Be Eating out of Your Hand, Er Their Bowl in No Time


Having your dog eat out of your hand sounds like a good thing, but sometimes it’s not! In a perfect world, it would be nice to sit and hand-feed your pup and spend that precious time with them.

But many days, it’s simply more convenient and efficient to know that when you place your dog’s food in their bowl, they will eat it! You don’t want to worry that your dog will only eat their food from somewhere random off the ground or that you’ll have to drop it directly into their mouth for them.

With the tips in this article, you’ll be able to ensure that your pup will go to one place and one place only at meal times: their own dog bowl with the food you’ve lovingly prepared just for them!

EatingDog Food
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