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Here’s Why Your Dog May Not Want You Near During Meal Time (& How to Fix it)

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
January 9, 2023
5 min read
Here’s Why Your Dog May Not Want You Near During Meal Time (& How to Fix it)
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Ding, ding! The sound of the kitchen timer rings, letting you know your dog’s dinner is warm and ready to go. You carefully transfer your pup’s dish into his favorite bowl and place it on the ground before them.

But instead of chowing down, they ignore it.

“Hm, maybe they just need a minute,” you think as you go about your chores on the other side of the room.

Then you hear it, the sound of your dog chewing. “Yay! they’re eating,” you think.

But as you rush over to praise them, their chewing automatically stops. Puzzled, you pause and go back to what you were doing…and you hear them chomping away again.

You take two steps in their direction, and they stop eating…again!

Is this some type of game your dog is playing? Why won’t they eat in front of you?

Generally, dogs that don’t eat when you’re around could have fear or anxiety around food, past trauma, negative experiences, or could be acting from their pack instincts. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to help your dog feel more comfortable around mealtime.

In this article, I will reveal why your dog doesn’t want you near while they eat. I will also tell you how to help your dog feel more comfortable around mealtime.

Tired of playing hide-and-go-seek with your pup at mealtime?

Well, I’m here to help you put an end to this dynamic.

Let’s get into it!

Reasons Your Dog Doesn’t Want You Near While They Eat


If it seems like your dog doesn’t want you around during meal times, you’re probably not imagining it. They may very well feel uncomfortable eating when they’re in your presence.

But try not to feel bad!

Your pup isn’t trying to hurt or reject you. But there likely is a specific reason that they prefer you not to be near them while they eat.

Here are a few:

Fear or Anxiety Around Food

Your pup may not feel comfortable eating near you if they have fear or anxiety around food.

It may be tricky to pinpoint what could make your dog feel fearful or anxious around food. But there could be something about your pup’s food that harms them or makes them feel unsafe in some way.

To get to the bottom of things, observe your pup’s mealtime routine and ask yourself some questions like:

  • Is your dog’s food too hot, causing them to burn their mouth?
  • Could your pup’s food be too spicy or taste yucky to them?
  • Is your pup’s food expired and making them sick?
  • May your dog’s bowl be broken or have jagged edges that cut them?
  • Is your dog’s food placed too high or too low, forcing them to strain to reach it?

There are many things about your pup’s mealtime experience that could cause them to be uncomfortable and become fearful or anxious around food. This may cause them to want to eat without you near.

Past Trauma or Negative Experiences with Food

If your dog was rescued from an abusive home or lived on the streets, they may have negative or traumatic past experiences with food.

Some of these experiences may include:

  • Having to fight other dogs just to get enough food to survive
  • Being intentionally starved or force-fed by their owner
  • Having been fed rotten, harmful, or inappropriate items
  • Suffering through physical abuse surrounding or during meal times
  • Never knowing where their next meal would come from or whether they would eat at all

These and other past traumatic and negative experiences associated with food may cause your pup to shy away from you during mealtime. They may feel safer this way.

Your pup may not want you near as they eat because they act out of their pack instincts. Your dog likely views you as the leader of their pack…which technically means you eat first!

This instinct may cause your dog to wait to see if you will eat before they take a bite. It may also feel natural for them to eat in secrecy. Dogs in packs would often drag their prey off somewhere safe and secluded before they dig in!

How to Help Your Dog Feel More Comfortable Around Meal Time


If your dog doesn’t want to eat near you, they may feel uncomfortable doing so for some reason. Of course, your pup can’t verbalize exactly what’s up, so see if making some little adjustments to their mealtime environment helps.

Creating a Positive and Relaxed Meal Time Environment

Making an effort to cater to your dog’s comfort could really help them relax at mealtime.

Here are some tips to try:

  • Make sure mealtime is safe, quiet, calm, and free of chaos or any distractions
  • Quarantine other household animals or children who may try to steal your dog’s food
  • Test out different temperatures, portion sizes, and foods to see if there’s a favorite
  • See if a yummy topper of cooked chicken or sweet potato may intrigue your pup
  • Switch up your pup’s food and water bowl to a new location or replace them altogether

Training and Conditioning Techniques to Improve Meal Time Behavior

In addition to making mealtime safe and comfortable for your pup, there are training and conditioning techniques you can use to help your pup too! These are just simple tricks that can help to improve mealtime behavior.

Here are a few:

  • Make meal time fun with games, puzzles, toys, and treats to help your pup eat and learn
  • Create a predictable routine so your dog knows when, how, and what they will be eating
  • Encourage your dog with praise and treats when they eat the way you want them to
  • Don’t freak out or show big negative reactions when they slip up
  • Keep rewards and correction consistent, so your pup knows what is and isn’t okay
  • Feed your pup when they are calm and behaving as you would like them to
  • Use simple commands like “sit,” “stay” and “eat” to teach and train your pup

Seeking Professional Help if Necessary

Sometimes creating a nice mealtime environment and home-training hacks may not be enough. Your pup may feel so uncomfortable at mealtime that it proves impossible for them to allow you to be near them at all.

This can be frustrating!

If you think your pup may need some extra help with their mealtime behavior, I recommend reaching out to your vet or a trainer for further assistance.

Just Wanna Be Close to You


Meal time is a bonding experience for humans and animals alike. So it can be discouraging if you can’t ever share in your pup’s meal time because they can’t bear to have you near!

This can be confusing, but please try not to take it personally. Your pup is likely acting this way because of their own anxiety, fears, past trauma, or instincts.

In short, it’s probably nothing you’re doing wrong. But you can help make things right by being the solution for your pup.

With some patient tweaking of your dog’s mealtime environment and maybe a little training, your pup will be pigging out in front of you in no time!

Dog BehaviorsDog Training
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