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tranquilsea's avatar

Why won't my dog eat anywhere but where ever I happen to be?

Asked by tranquilsea (17655points) December 29th, 2011

I have a well trained poodle (that’s him in my avatar). He’s seven and for years now he will not eat his food if I’m not in the room with him. My daughter just fed him and his bowl was at the back of the house (because that’s where I was this morning when he ate). He came to me an whined and whined until I went and got his bowl and moved it into the living room.

Does anyone know what may be going through his head?

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16 Answers

DrBill's avatar

your dog loves you

my dog is the same way

tranquilsea's avatar

@DrBill GA :-)

He won’t eat at all if I’m not home either. I can see the look of relief when I finally do get home.

keobooks's avatar

Only a wild theory, but maybe he is so well trained that he sees you as the alpha dog and won’t eat until you’ve demonstrated that you don’t want any for yourself. Or maybe he wants to make sure he has your permission to eat.

I seriously don’t know, but I have heard that dogs have pretty strict hierarchy rules that deal with eating in their own packs. I also know that many people with very well trained dogs say that the dogs won’t eat without their owners permission. (Which is essential with guard dogs that you don’t want your dogs wolfing down food the burglars gave him so he’d let them in the house)

DrBill's avatar


I was in the hospital last year and my dog did not eat the three days I was gone. Ate like a starving pig when I got home

tranquilsea's avatar

@keobooks that’s a good theory.

rooeytoo's avatar

I personally have never known a dog who would starve itself to death. I think if you waited long enough and didn’t give in, the dog would eventually eat no matter where you or the food is. I could be wrong but I owned a boarding kennel for over 15 years and I had dogs who would go off their feed for a day or so but then would give up and eat.

Is your dog neurotic in any other ways, separation anxiety, etc?

fizzbanger's avatar

My mom’s Boston terriers eat whenever someone eats at the table next to their bowl. They like to “participate” in whatever the humans are doing.

Mariah's avatar

My cat actually does the same thing to a lesser extent. He always wants somebody to watch him eat, but he won’t refuse to eat if he’s alone. I’ve always wondered why pets do this. Maybe they view eating as a social activity like humans do. :)

tranquilsea's avatar

@rooeytoo He’s not particularly neurotic. He’ll whine a bit when I leave but he settles within minutes. He was crate trained and that worked miracles with training. He’s not in a crate anymore but he’s very good when he’s alone in the house.

rooeytoo's avatar

@tranquilsea – well if you have the nerve, I would go on the no dog will intentionally starve itself to death theory. He will eat when he gets hungry enough! But if it is not a problem and the rest of his behavior is normal, why worry?

tranquilsea's avatar

@rooeytoo I’m not worried at all, just curious.

Randy's avatar

My mom’s yorkie will actually carry a mouthful of food to wherever my mom is in the house, set it down and eat it while she’s in sight. Have you had your poodle since he was a pup? I’d guess it’s something with you being the alpha of your little pack.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’ve had him since he was 4 months old. He went right from his mama to me. He loves me. He follows me every where and if I head some where and call him he come a runnin’.

He is a great dog.

Pandora's avatar

Next time he is hungry, hand the bowl to your daughter and have her give it to the dog with you present. Then once it is established that you have granted permission to her to feed him, then have her get the food and present it to the dog. Each time going further and further from the room till he begins to associate her as being able to feed him. Then go back to you feeding one day and her the next. Eventually the dog will get the idea.
You can have her start with treats for following an order. He needs to know that its acceptable to eat from someone elses hands in case you ever end up ill again.
My dog started like that as well but I started to feed him or give him treats and walk away. When he tried to follow me I would go in the room for a second and then walk away quietly.
Sometimes it didn’t work. Ah, I just remembered how I got him out of it. I got him use to eating with the family at dinner time and breakfast. I put his bowl in the dinning room and I think after a while he just got use to the idea to wait till we sat to eat and his bowl was filled. He ate with the pack. Of course he tried some begging to get what we would eat but I would tell him no. After a while of watching us eat and sure we were about done then he would go for his bowl.

woodcutter's avatar

Could be a little separation anxiety happening.

stemnyjones's avatar

I agree with @keobooks that it may be a “pack mentality” thing. He may see you as the alpha and, out of respect of that, want to be in your presence when he eats.

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