Why Do Dogs Look Away When You Eat (2023)

Why do dogs look away when you eat?

This Article Was Written By Israel Olaniran Reviewed By Dr Jenna Fred.

Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by israel olaniran

Do you ever wonder why your furry companion looks away when you’re enjoying a delicious meal? Dogs have an innate ability to communicate through body language, and their behavior around food can be influenced by various factors. In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind why dogs exhibit this particular behavior and explore the intricacies of their interactions with food.

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Why do dogs look away when you eat?

Dogs may look away when you eat for various reasons, and their behavior can be influenced by a combination of instincts, social cues, and individual temperament:

  1. Instinctual Behavior: In the wild, dogs and their wolf ancestors often exhibited submissive behavior around the alpha or dominant members of the pack during mealtimes. Avoiding direct eye contact is a sign of deference and submission.
  2. Respect for Your Space: Dogs may understand that when you’re eating, it’s your personal space and time to consume food. They might look away to give you privacy and not appear threatening or intrusive.
  3. Avoiding Conflict: Some dogs may have learned through past experiences that staring at humans during meals can lead to negative responses or discipline. To avoid potential conflict, they choose to look away.
  4. Desire to Avoid Begging: Dogs are naturally curious and often associate humans eating with the possibility of receiving food. To discourage begging behavior, some dog owners may have trained their dogs to look away during meals.
  5. Sensitivity to Social Cues: Dogs are highly attuned to human body language and can pick up on subtle cues. They may sense that you prefer they not stare at you while you eat and choose to look away to comply with your unspoken wishes.
  6. Respect for Hierarchy: In households with clear rules and boundaries, dogs may look away as a sign of respect for their human caregivers, who are perceived as higher in the social hierarchy.
Why do dogs look away when you eat
Why do dogs look away when you eat? Image by Moshe Harosh from Pixabay

Understanding Canine Behavior

To comprehend why dogs look away during mealtime, it’s crucial to consider their evolutionary roots and pack mentality. Dogs, descendants of wolves, still retain some of their ancestral traits, which influence their behavior around food.

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Dogs have an instinctual need to protect their resources, including food. This behavior, known as food guarding, stems from their pack mentality, where resources were limited and had to be protected for survival. Looking away while eating may serve as a way to avoid potential conflicts and maintain social harmony within the pack.

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Additionally, dogs are highly perceptive animals capable of reading human body language. They can sense our emotions and understand subtle cues. When a dog looks away, it may be an attempt to avoid eye contact and prevent any accidental reinforcement of begging behavior.


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Why do dogs look away when you look at them?

Dogs may look away when you make eye contact as a way of showing submission or avoiding confrontation. Some dogs may find direct eye contact uncomfortable or threatening.

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Evolutionary Factors

The behavior of dogs during mealtime can also be traced back to the evolutionary factors that shaped their domestication. In the wild, wolves exhibit a hierarchical structure within their packs, and food distribution follows a strict order.

During the domestication process, dogs have adapted to human households and have learned to adhere to certain mealtime etiquette. Looking away may be their way of respecting the hierarchical structure, acknowledging that humans are the providers and leaders of the pack.

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Moreover, dogs have learned to associate mealtime with potential dangers. Historically, they had to scavenge for food, and eating in the presence of larger predators or aggressive competitors was risky. By looking away, dogs may be instinctively trying to remain vigilant and alert to potential threats.

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Sensory Overload

Dogs possess highly sensitive senses, including a remarkable sense of smell and acute hearing. These heightened senses can contribute to their behavior of looking away during mealtime.

The captivating aromas emanating from our food can be overwhelming for dogs. Their sense of smell is estimated to be tens of thousands of times more sensitive than ours. The array of scents can be distracting and enticing, causing them to momentarily shift their focus away from us and our food.

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Furthermore, dogs may find certain noises in the dining environment unsettling. The clattering of cutlery, the sound of chewing, or even conversations at the table can create auditory distractions that draw their attention away from the food being consumed.

Additionally, dogs have a remarkable field of vision. They can perceive movements and objects in their peripheral vision more effectively than humans. This enhanced visual perception may cause them to look away as they become engrossed in their surroundings.

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Learned Behaviors

A dog’s behavior during mealtime can also be influenced by training and conditioning. Through consistent reinforcement, dogs learn which behaviors are rewarded or punished, shaping their responses in various situations.

If a dog has been consistently rewarded for looking away during mealtime, they may repeat the behavior to seek positive reinforcement. Conversely, if they have experienced negative consequences, such as scolding or being denied access to food, they may look away as a way to avoid punishment.

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Separation Anxiety and Stress

Separation anxiety can play a role in a dog’s behavior during mealtime. Dogs are social animals that thrive on companionship and can experience anxiety when separated from their human family members.

During mealtime, dogs may be concerned about missing out on social interactions and the opportunity to share the experience with their owners. Looking away could be an indication of their distress and a way to cope with their anxiety.

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Additionally, stressors in the environment can contribute to a dog’s tendency to look away. Loud noises, chaotic surroundings, or other disruptive elements can create an environment that makes dogs feel uneasy. In such situations, looking away may serve as a means for them to find temporary solace and reduce their stress levels.

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Health Concerns

Sometimes, a dog’s behavior of looking away during mealtime can be attributed to underlying health issues. Several medical conditions can affect their appetite and cause discomfort while eating.

Dogs experiencing dental problems, such as gum disease or toothaches, may find it challenging to chew their food comfortably. In such cases, they may look away due to pain or discomfort.

Similarly, dogs with gastrointestinal issues or dietary restrictions may experience discomfort or digestive upset during mealtime. Looking away may be a way for them to cope with these issues and alleviate any associated discomfort.

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Strategies for Managing the Behavior

If your dog consistently looks away during mealtime and you find it problematic, there are several strategies you can employ to manage this behavior effectively.

Firstly, consider providing your dog with a designated feeding area. This can create a sense of structure and routine, allowing them to focus on their own meal without distractions.

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Teaching your dog impulse control and patience can also be beneficial. By implementing training exercises that encourage waiting for cues or practicing commands before mealtime, you can help them develop self-control and prevent impulsive behaviors like begging or looking away.

Utilizing positive reinforcement techniques is another effective approach. Rewarding your dog for appropriate behavior during mealtime, such as staying calm or sitting patiently, can help reinforce those desirable behaviors.

Why do dogs stare while you eat?

Dogs often stare at people while they eat because they are curious and hope to receive some of the food. It’s a form of begging behavior, and they may have learned that staring sometimes results in getting a treat or a scrap of food.

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Is it OK to eat in front of a dog?

Yes, it’s generally fine to eat in front of your dog. However, you should avoid giving them human food from your plate, as some foods can be toxic to dogs. It’s important to teach your dog good manners and not reward begging behavior.

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Why do dogs look away when you eat their food?

If a dog looks away while you approach their food, it could be a sign of trust. They may feel comfortable with you being near their food and don’t see you as a threat to their meal.

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Why does my dog look away when I talk to him?

Dogs may look away when you talk to them for various reasons. It could be a sign of submission, distraction, or simply a way to communicate that they are not interested in engaging in the conversation at that moment.

Why do dogs look away when you pet them?

Dogs may look away when you pet them as a sign of relaxation and trust. They feel comfortable and safe enough to not need to maintain constant eye contact.

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Why do dogs look away when they are guilty?

When dogs feel guilty or know they have done something wrong, they may look away to avoid direct confrontation or conflict. They may sense your disapproval and try to diffuse the situation.

Why does my dog look away when I try to kiss her?

Dogs may look away when you try to kiss them if they are not comfortable with close facial contact. Some dogs are more tolerant of kisses than others, so it’s important to respect their boundaries.

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Why does my dog look away when I try to take a picture?

Dogs may look away from a camera because they are not accustomed to it, find it intimidating, or are simply distracted by their surroundings. Getting their attention with treats or toys can help capture a better photo.

Why do dogs stare at you?

Dogs stare at their owners for various reasons, including seeking attention, communication, or because they are anticipating a reward or activity.

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Why does my dog stare at me while I eat?

While some dogs may look away during mealtime, others may stare intently. This behavior can stem from their natural curiosity, the desire for food, or simply seeking attention and hoping for a share of your meal. It’s essential to establish boundaries and provide consistent training to discourage begging behaviors if they become problematic.

Can I share my food with my dog?

While it may be tempting to share your food with your dog, it’s important to consider their dietary needs and potential health implications. Some human foods can be harmful to dogs or upset their digestive system. It’s best to consult with a veterinarian to determine safe and appropriate treats or snacks for your furry friend.

Is it normal for dogs to beg for food?

Begging for food is a common behavior exhibited by dogs. It often arises from their natural instinct to scavenge for food and seek social interactions with their human family members. However, consistent training and establishing boundaries can help manage this behavior and prevent it from becoming excessive or disruptive.

How can I train my dog to be more relaxed during mealtime?

Training your dog to be more relaxed during mealtime requires patience and consistency. Start by establishing a designated feeding area and teaching basic commands like “sit” or “stay.” Gradually increase the duration of their wait time before allowing access to food. Positive reinforcement, such as treats or verbal praise, can be used to reward calm behavior.

Should I be concerned if my dog refuses to eat?

A temporary loss of appetite can occur for various reasons, such as stress, changes in routine, or minor illnesses. However, if your dog consistently refuses to eat or exhibits other concerning symptoms, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian. They can assess your dog’s overall health and provide guidance on appropriate dietary measures or potential underlying issues.

Why does my dog back away when I feed him?

A dog would back away when you feed him whenever it isn’t interested in the food or whenever it has had it’s fill.

Should you let your dog stare at you while you eat?

If you are still training the dog on it’s feeding habit then yes if not you can drop a piece for him to eat.

Should I eat before my dog?

The time you eat doesn’t have an effect on your dog however it is advisable to have a feeding plan for both you and your dog.

why do dogs look away when you eat

Final Thoughts On why do dogs look away when you eat

In conclusion, the behavior of dogs looking away during mealtime is influenced by a variety of factors. Their instincts, evolutionary background, sensory overload, learned behaviors, separation anxiety, and health concerns can all contribute to this behavior.

Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s actions can help you respond appropriately and ensure their well-being. By providing a conducive mealtime environment, employing positive reinforcement techniques, and addressing any underlying health issues, you can create a more harmonious and enjoyable dining experience for both you and your furry companion.


  • israel olaniran

    Israel Olaniran is an accomplished animal content writer with five years of expertise in creating engaging and educational material about cats, dogs, and other animals. When he's not writing, he dedicates his time to caring for his beloved four-year-old rescue puppy. Israel's work has been featured in renowned publications like "Pethouse," and he actively collaborates with local animal shelters and rescue organizations to raise awareness about their important work. His vast knowledge in animal care and ownership, as well as his up-to-date understanding of various breeds, making him a trusted source for global readers seeking reliable pet content.

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