13 Reasons Why Your Dog Pushes His Food With His Nose

Why Does My Dog Push His Food With His Nose

You noticed that your pooch has an unusual eating behavior. 

They’re suddenly being goofy with their food.

Fido keeps nudging their meal. And you wonder what’s up with them.

Is this normal?

Why does your fur baby do this?

Keep reading to find out:

  • Whether Fido’s food nosing is instinctive.
  • Serious medical reasons that cause this behavior. 
  • 13 real reasons why your dog pushes their food with their nose. 
  • And a lot more…

Why does my dog push his food with his nose?

Your dog pushes his food with his nose because they’re a picky eater, curious, bored, seeking attention, caching, or moving their bowl. This could also be due to breed, reinforced behavior, food bowl issue, vision, or dental problems. Or they might want the food you’re eating. 


13 reasons why your dog pushes his food with his nose


#1: Curiosity creeps in

A dog’s curiosity is very obvious in their actions. 

Just like how they find interest in random things. Such as your pillows and shoes.

And this has been a part of their nature. Which often comes from the kick of their extreme senses.

Their smell, for example, is what causes them to be curious about their food.

You can tell that they’re curious if they keep nudging their food plus sniffing it. As if they’re trying to know what’s in there through its smell.

Wondering how they do that?

Dr. Gibeault says that dogs can differentiate trillions of smells into parts. 

Just like when we smell fresh-baked bread. It’s more complex and detailed when it comes to canines. They could be detecting the flour, yeast, and salt in it. 

That’s why their curiosity really creeps up when they smell something interesting. 

The findings of a study suggest that dogs show curiosity if they’re exposed to unfamiliar situations or things. 

In this case, it could happen if you suddenly change Fido’s meal. Say you tried a new dog food recipe.

Your pooch may get used to their usual meals. So now, they could be smelling the newness in it. Which happens to pique their curiosity.

As a result, they’ll nudge their food to investigate it. Trying to decode what’s up with their meal.

If you really want to change your dog’s diet, you may do it gradually. Or try to let them have a taste test first. Do trial and error. See what food will best suit your fur baby’s taste. 

#2: They’re saving it for later 

Who knows? I might be hungry later.”

Does your dog nudge their food and doesn’t eat some of it?

If so, there’s something you need to observe. 

Try to watch them after nosing their food. Then, wait to see if they’ll come back for it later and eat their meal again. 

If this happens, food nudging might be your pooch’s way of caching. 

Caching or storing their food is a behavior that came from their ancestors. 

“What do they do?”

Wolves hunt for their food in the wild. And their hunting varies every time. Sometimes it’s abundant, other times they have none. 

So, wolves know that their next meal will be uncertain. As a result, they try to save something that could last them for days. 

In modern times, pooches display this behavior as a part of their nature. Which they may not only do with their food. It also applies to their toys or favorite objects. 

Reading tip: 7 Strange Reasons Why Your Dog Puts Stuff Under The Couch

#3: Your pooch craves your attention 

Dog Pushes His Food With Nose For Attention

“I’m starved. ATTENTION starved to be exact, hooman.”

Dogs and kids alike have their own ways to get their parent’s attention.

Some kids even get silly because of attention deprivation.

Just like when they intentionally mess around with their food. Because their parents are busy talking. And they want to get noticed.

This could also be the case for your fur baby. You might’ve been too occupied with chores. And you don’t pay attention to them anymore.

Especially if you usually look at them when they’re eating. And praise them for having such a good appetite.

A study shows that attention seeking in dogs is likely to happen due to a strong attachment to their human. 

However, food nudging due to attention seeking might also become a…

#4: Reinforced behavior 

Yes, your dog might want you to notice them.

But does that mean that you should respond with attention?

If you do that, you’re reinforcing the behavior. Your pooch will learn that you’ll be attentive if they nudge their food. 

This response will only motivate Fido to do it repeatedly.

According to Dr. Cooper, a canine’s behavior towards food is easy to reinforce.

One example of it is this scenario:

Your dog pushes their food with their nose. And you reacted as soon as you noticed it.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you like your food?” You ask and then pet them.

This is a winning moment for attention-seeking pooch. They might think that they finally cracked the code.

So, if you’re a fur parent who does this, prepare yourself. Because your pawed baby will likely exhibit the behavior often.

#5: They don’t feel like eating

Having no appetite might also make your dog push their food.

This is the same when you’re served good food. But you just either stare at it or poke it with your eating utensils.

The reason?

You don’t feel like eating it.

But decreasing or having no appetite is just a secondary feeling. It always has an underlying cause. This applies to humans and dogs alike.

So, what could be the reason why dogs have no appetite?

There are a few some of which are:

  • Nausea.
  • Illnesses.
  • Overfeeding.
  • Dental issues.
  • Stomach problems.
  • Recent vaccinations.
  • Effects of traveling (especially if they’re not used to it).

Check out also: 11 Reasons Why Your Puppy Is Suddenly Eating Slowly + Tips

#6: Fido is a picky eater

Your pooch could also push their food because they’re picking the ones they like. And separating those they dislike.

This can be similar to children separating veggies from the food they’re eating.

Some say it tastes awful. Or it looks gross. But sometimes they just don’t like it because it’s ‘vegetables’.

Dogs can also be picky when it comes to their food.

And maybe this is due to their limited ability to taste.

Trivia: Did you know that dogs have fewer taste buds than us?

Canines have only 1,700 taste buds. Compared to us who have about 9,000.

With this being said, foods to us will taste different to them. And that could be a factor in their picky eating behavior.

You might also like: Feeding Schedule For 5-Week Old Puppy: When & What To Feed

#7: Doggo’s boredom strikes

Dog's Boredom Strikes

Has your pooch been inactive?

If yes, then this could be the cause of your dog’s boredom. Which might also be the reason why they push their food with their nose.

Fido’s boredom is often caused by understimulation.

Meaning: their minds aren’t exercised enough. Because of having no activity, training, or little play.

Remember the time when the lockdown happened?

Some people thought it was fun at first. No going to school and working from home. 

But our activities were limited. We weren’t allowed to run outside, play at the beach or even chit-chat with people on the streets anymore.  

And later on, a lot of us felt bored of staying indoors.

Some people might have tried doing other things to keep them entertained. Even the ones they don’t usually do. Such as repainting the walls and trying a new hobby.

You see, this is how understimulation affects us. We try to do things to keep ourselves busy. And the same goes for our pooches.

Now, your pooch might be pushing their food because it cures their boredom. They could be playing with it by nudging to have fun. Just for the sake of doing something out of the ordinary.

#8: Wants the food you’re eating

Picture this:

It’s dinner time. You gave your dog their meal.

After that, you sat on the couch and started eating cookies. But your pooch suddenly leaps up to you.

They started sniffing your face. Then they went to their feeding bowl again. And they begin to push their food with their nose.

Fido looks back at you as if saying:

“This doesn’t smell like your food, Mom/Dad.”

Yes, your pooch could be wanting to have a taste of your food.

A study suggests that dogs will seek the same food as their humans.

And some dogs may bark at you to convey that they want some of your meal. 

Further reading: 7 Reasons Why Your Dog Barks While You’re Eating + 5 Tips

#9: Food bowls issue

Food nudging can also be due to inappropriate food bowls.

It’s either the bowl’s opening is too narrow for your dog’s muzzle. Or its shape makes it hard for your pooch to eat their food.

Say, your dog is a growing puppy. So, of course, you’ll start with giving them a small feeding bowl.

But some dogs grow faster than others. Such as Great Danes and Alaskan Malamutes. And the change might be unnoticeable for you since you always see them every day.

Now, your pooch could outgrow their feeding bowls. And it could be difficult for them to access their food.

If this happens, try to find a feeding bowl with a wide opening. And let your dog use it. 

#10: They’re trying to move it in a different place

“I want a fresh eating environment, hooman.”

Food nudging can also mean that your pooch wants to eat somewhere else.

This could be the case if your pooch is pushing their food along with their bowl.

Also if they nudge their food and pick some of it. And then carry it to another location.

Some dogs adore a certain spot in the house. It could be in the corner where there’s great ventilation. Or near the window where they can watch people passing by.

And they might also want to eat their meals in their favorite place. So that’s why they try to bring their meals there by pushing it.

#11: Breed-specific trait

Breeds can also influence your dog’s behavior when it comes to food.

If your fur baby is a hunting dog, they’ll likely display scavenging actions.

As their name suggests, they hunt for a living. During their days in the wild, they find food through foraging.

In domestication, pooches still exhibit this trait. You may often see dogs diving into garbage bins. And even to soils they see when walking.

And this instinct is also applied to Fido’s food. They might nudge their food as if they’re trying to find more of it.

Now, try to see if your dog belongs to the hunting dog breeds. Here are some of them:

  • Vizsla.
  • Beagle.
  • Brittany.
  • Bloodhound.
  • English Setter.
  • English Pointer.
  • Golden Retriever.
  • Labrador Retriever.
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

#12: Vision problems

Sad to say, food nosing in dogs may have underlying medical causes.

And one of them is vision impairments.

Canines may push their food because they can’t see it clearly. And they might be checking it through smelling.

This is likely to happen if your dog is aging. Which vision loss is a primary problem.

Also if they had an injury on their eye or near it.

Eyesight issues can either be gradual or sudden. And may also range from minor to complete vision loss.

Note: MVS says that blindness or eye problems may be an effect of serious health problems. Such as:

  • Heart disease.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Liver problems.
  • Systemic disorders.

You may spot signs of vision problems in your dog. Which include:

  • Cloudy eyes.
  • Eye irritation.
  • Easily startled.
  • Bumping into surfaces.
  • Red, puffy and swollen eyes.
  • Repetitively pawing their face.
  • Refusing to be in a new environment.
  • Suddenly unwilling to move in high places. 

If you’re suspecting vision problems in Fido, seek the help of an ophthalmologist right away. 

#13: Their mouth hurts when they eat

Another thing to be concerned about is dental problems.

Canines push their food with their nose because their mouth could be in pain.

Your pooch might want to really eat their food. But they can’t because it’s painful. So, as a result, they’ll just have a sniff at their food.

VCA Hospital says that dental problems are a common health issue in dogs. It affects about 80% of dogs mostly when they reach 3 years of age.

Symptoms of dental issues in dogs are:

  • Drooling.
  • Bad breath.
  • Missing teeth.
  • Difficulty eating.
  • Swelling under the eyes.
  • Discharge from the nose.
  • Pawing at the teeth or mouth.
  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums.
  • Tooth discoloration or visible tartar.
  • Sudden weight loss or loss of appetite.

How to avoid this?

Brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Plus, don’t let them bite into hard objects. Such as rocks and bones. Particularly pork bones or small bones. Because this may cause cuts in their mouth. And obstruct their throat.