Why Does My Dog Play With His Food? – [Dog Behavior Guide]

Pet parents often describe feeding their pet dog food as annoying. Often dogs tend to play with their food. They toss it in the air, throw it across the floor and nudge it around. This can be upsetting for many pet parents. Is it normal for a dog to play with their food?

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Why Does My Dog Play With His Food?

Even though we have domesticated dogs, they belong to the family of wolves. This means they belong to the carnivorous family, which used to hunt in packs, and then kill and eat their food. Many domesticated dogs like your pet retain this quality as muscle memory. Therefore, it is quite natural for your pet to play with its food.

What Causes Dogs To Play With Their Food?

Dog parents love their furry friends. When you get them to your home, they are equal to family members. Dogs are clever, intelligent, and thoughtful. However, observing behavior can be annoying. 

There are many potential causes that contribute to your pup playing with its food. We have listed the possible reasons and how to combat these behaviors below:

Canine Anxiety: 

Pets with canine anxiety tend to play more with their food. When your dog goes through something significantly emotional, they might end up playing with their food. Canine anxiety is observed in dogs that have been separated from their original pet parents or from their dog friends. Dogs also get anxious when their favorite pet parent leaves for a longer duration. 

How to tackle this?

If you leave your dog alone for longer, leave them with your socks or used t-shirt. Smelling your body odor will calm your canine friend. 

Natural Instinct

As we said, your pets’ ancestors were wild animals that hunted and killed their food. So eating food was their exercise. First, they ran behind their prey, attacked it while it still struggled, and ate the kill. Now that in modern days we are giving them food without any excitement, they tend to play with their food.

How to tackle this?

An excellent way to tackle this problem is to take your dog out for extensive exercise twice daily. Especially if you have guard dogs like German shepherds, huskies, alsatians, etc., make sure that these breeds get enough exercise.

Their Stomach is Full

 Just like humans, if the dog’s stomach is full, it will start playing with the food. Likewise, it will play with its food if it is no longer hungry. Some dogs eat their food in intervals too. Try and be patient when your dog leaves it food or plays with it. They might come to eat. 

How to tackle this?

Make sure that you space your dog’s meal properly. For example, don’t overfeed your dog treats right before meals. Also, ensure that your dog’s meal time is approximately the same every day. 

Lack of Exercise

All breeds require 2 hours of extensive play. If your dog lacks exercise, it will not consume enough energy and end up playing with its food. Like humans, dogs need exercise too. Dogs are an intelligent breed, and they love learning new tricks too. 

How to tackle this?

Ensure you take your dog out for walks and play with them in the backyard. You can use toys like balls, tug ropes, and obstacles (if you have the area) to play with your dog. You should get creative with your dog’s game.

Boredom and Attention

Dogs know they will get a reaction from their parents if they throw their food around. This is one of the primary reasons they play with their food. 

Additionally, since dogs are fed the same meal every time of the day, they might get bored of them.

How to tackle this?

Since you have a new member at home, you should pay attention to them. Make sure that you play and give your dog attention. You can make changes to your dog’s meal and add fun things to it.

We understand that kibbles are expensive, and pet parents get impatient when dogs play with them. However, you should be aware that this is not something just your dog does. Many dogs tend to play with their food to make it a fun experience. 


It is usual for dogs to play with their food. In fact, it comes naturally to them. Each dog has different kinds of healthy behaviors, especially regarding meals. There are some biological reasons why dogs play with their food. Keep in mind the following if your dog is playing with their food:

  • Be patient with your dog, as this is normal.
  • Make sure to give your dog adequate exercise two times a day
  • Space out the meals and try not to overfeed your dog treats.
  • Do not play when it is feeding time.


Why Does My Dog Toy Around With Food?

Lack of exercise, boredom, and gaining attention are one of the significant reasons for dogs tossing their food around. If your dog doesn’t like the taste of what they are eating, they might toss it around and play with it.

Why Do Dogs Play With Their Food?

Dogs might want to gain the attention of their owners; therefore, they play with their food. Lack of exercise is one of the primary reasons why dogs play with their food. In addition, many dog owners react to their dogs playing with food. Therefore dogs end up playing with their food.

Why Does My Dog Grab Food And Eat Somewhere Else?

Dogs have evolved from carnivorous ancestors. They were mostly predators. Craving and eating their food elsewhere is more of a biological Instinct in dogs and nothing to worry about.

Why Does My Dog Nudge His Food?

A lot of dogs push their food and food bowls around. If your dog is from an active breed, it might play more with its food. Your dog might want to gain attention. Another reason for this might be that they are bored with their food. Since dogs are fed the same food daily, they might get bored.

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Hi, my name is Dave. I am the founder of dogfoodfix.com. You will find all the vital information about dog food here. Our team has a straightforward aim, to help you make the right decisions about dog food for your furry friend. We will keep posting more fact-based dog nutrition & food-related content. Please give your support & love.