Why Does My Dog Look At Me When He Eats? [Doggy Dining Etiquette]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Our dogs exhibit all sorts of cute and interesting behavior and often make us wonder what’s going on in their minds.

Although it seems funny at times, there might be reasons why your dog looks at you when it eats.

In most cases, it is probably an innocent way of checking if there is extra food coming its way, or it could be a habit it has developed over time. However, your dog might also be staring at you as a way to show its dominance or guard its food.

Read on as I share more about this behavior and what you can do if it becomes a negative trait that needs to be corrected.

Medical Questions? Talk to a Veterinarian 24/7.
Connect one-on-one with a licensed vet who will answer your questions in minutes.

Ask a Vet Now or Schedule a home visit

*Article may contain affiliate links to retailers like Amazon and Chewy. Learn more on our disclosure page.

Reasons Why Your Dog Looks At You When He Eats

Reasons Why Your Dog Looks At You When He Eats

Have you ever caught your furry friend looking up at you with those big, soulful eyes as they chow down on their food? If so, you may wonder, ‘Why does my dog look at me when he eats?’ 

Keep reading to uncover the fascinating reasons behind this behavior and deepen the connection with your furry companion.

1. Checking To See If You Are Giving Extra Food

Dogs have the instinct to scavenge and store food. 

If they see you approaching while they’re eating, they might look up at you to know if you have more food to offer.

This behavior is commonly seen in dogs that are very hungry or underfed.

2. Trusting Of Its Owner

Your dog may look at you while eating because they see you as a source of protection. They might want to ensure that you’re nearby and available to help.

3. Being Defensive Of Its Food

Some dogs may look at their owners while eating to ensure their food is safe. 

This behavior can be seen in dogs that are protective of their food or have experienced food insecurity before.

Resource guarding can become a problem down the line as it means there is a lack of trust, so definitely something you need to work on.

Doggy says, consider reading this next: Why is my dog covering food with a blanket?

Hey there, sorry to interrupt but I wanted to tell you about an online vet service I’ve been using for years.

An in-person visit with one is great, but it’s not always an option.

Now, thanks to technology, you can speak to one without leaving your home.

Convenience
Accessibility
Time-saving
Remote access
Avoidance of travel
Reduced stress for pets
Immediate access to experts
Quick response time
Cost-effective
Schedule appointments easily
ask-a-vet-a-question-anytime

Got something to ask a vet?
Talk to one anytime, 24/7.

START CHATTING NOW

* Don’t use this service for emergencies.

Alternatively, a vet can come out to you instead (exclusive to our readers: use THEVETS15 for 15% off).

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT HERE

Thank you. The rest of the article continues below.

4. Social Behavior

Dogs are social animals and may look at their owners while eating to seek attention or interact with humans. 

This is especially true for dogs that are used to getting treats or praise during meals.

5. Habits That Has Developed Over Time 

Or it could quite simply have just become a habit for some dogs. 

This behavior may be due to positive reinforcement in the form of extra treats or attention, reinforcing the dog’s desire to look up while eating.

6. Testing Dominance

In some cases, dogs may look at their owners while eating to test dominance or assert their place in the pack.

This behavior is commonly seen in dogs with a high prey drive or has not been properly socialized.

Do you know why dogs stare at the floor?

What To Do When Dog Stares At You While Eating?

When your dog stares at you while eating, it’s a sign that they’re trying to communicate something, or perhaps it’s just a bad habit they’ve picked up. 

Regardless of why they do it, by taking the time to understand what’s behind your dog’s gaze, you can respond in a way that reinforces good behavior and strengthens your bond with your furry friend.

So, what should you do when your dog stares at you while eating?

I have a few tips that might help you out.

Redirect Resource Guarding Behavior

If your dog is guarding their food, it is vital to redirect its behavior and provide them with plenty of positive reinforcement, such as praise and treats. 

You can also teach them to trade or drop their food and gradually desensitize them to yours or others’ presence during meal times.

Check out the video above to learn how to do it effectively for both humans and dogs.

Limit Meal Times For Picky Eaters

If you have found that your pooch is a picky eater, try limiting their meal times to a specific period each day and reducing (better yet, removing altogether) the number of table scraps they receive. 

You can also try changing their food or adding a yummy topper to make their meal more delicious.

Use Multiple Bowls Placed Around The House

Sometimes your dog will stare at you while eating because they want more food.

If this is the case, try using many bowls around the house to allow them to “graze” throughout the day. 

This can also help prevent boredom and reduce stress during meal times. 

Ensure You Are Giving Enough

Always ensure you provide enough food based on their age, breed, weight, and activity level.

You can also try feeding smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. 

Feed In A Different Room Or Area

Sometimes if a dog is anxious, it might stare at you, and you can tell by its wimpy eyes.

In such a situation, you can try feeding them in a different room or area away from distractions and interruptions. 

This can help create a peaceful and calming environment for them during meal times.

Do Not Punish  

It is important not to punish or scold them if you see them looking at you, as this can worsen their behavior and further increase their anxiety or stress. 

Instead, use positive reinforcement and training methods to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed during meal times.

Dog overprotective of new puppy? What can you do?

How Can I Ensure That My Dog’s Eating Environment Is Calm And Relaxed? 

From improving their digestion to reducing stress levels, a calm eating environment has many benefits for your dog.

This is especially more so if you have a rescue that has been through harrowing times in the shelter, and has developed an anxious demeanor.

By taking a few steps to create an inviting and relaxed atmosphere, you’ll foster a positive eating experience and strengthen your bond with your canine companion. 

So, let’s explore how to create a calming dining atmosphere for your beloved pup!

  • Provide a quiet and secluded area for your dog to eat, away from distractions or interruptions
  • Place the food bowl on a non-slip surface and make sure it is at a comfortable height for your dog
  • Ensure the feeding area is well-lit and free from loud noises, as dogs can be sensitive to sudden sounds and changes in lighting
  • Introduce calm and relaxing elements such as music, a comfortable bed or mat, and a familiar scent
  • Gradually adapt your dog to the feeding environment by offering small treats and positive reinforcement
  • Avoid feeding your dog in the presence of other animals or people who may cause distress or anxiety for your dog
dog essentials banner in content

Doggy says, consider reading this too: Why does my Shih Tzu stare at me?

How Can I Reduce My Dog’s Food Aggression?

Maintaining healthy eating habits and reducing food aggression in dogs is essential for promoting their overall well-being and forming a harmonious relationship between pet and owner. 

Food aggression can cause stress and discomfort for the dog and its caretaker and can lead to dangerous situations and unnecessary injuries.

By addressing and reducing food aggression, you can create a safer and more relaxed household for your furry friend and strengthen your bond with them.

To reduce your dog’s food aggression, you can try the following:

  • Gradually introducing your dog to new people, animals, or objects near their food bowl
  • If you have multiple pets, feed your dogs in separate rooms or at different times
  • Providing plenty of toys and chews to keep your dog occupied and distracted during your mealtime
  • Gradually reduce the number of treats and human food you feed your dog
  • Gradually increase mealtime duration and teach “leave it” and “drop it” commands
  • Slowly adding new foods to your dog’s diet
  • Seek the help of a dog trainer if the issue persists

Doggy says, consider reading this too: Dog avoids eye contact

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Does My Dog Look At Me Before They Eat?

Dogs may look at their owner before eating for various reasons, such as seeking extra food, showing trust, being defensive of their food, social behavior, developed habits, or testing dominance. Understanding your dog’s behavior is essential to create a calm and relaxed eating environment.

Should I Pet My Dog While It Is Eating?

It is generally not recommended to pet a dog while they are eating as it can create food aggression and cause discomfort for the dog. Wait until they are finished with their meal to provide affection.

Why Does My Dog Guard Its Food?

Dogs guard their food when they perceive a threat to its food, such as a person or another animal approaching, and act to protect it. This behavior is often seen in dogs who have experienced food insecurity or have a high prey drive.

What Are The Signs Of Resource Guarding In Dogs?

Dog resource guarding is indicated by growling, snapping, and biting when their food, toys, or other valued items are approached. Other signs include freezing, stiffening, and tensing up, as well as eye contact and a raised hackle (fur on the back of the neck).

In Conclusion: Why Does My Dog Look At Me When He Eats?

In most cases, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about, as long as the behavior does not cause any distress to both you and your dog.

Only if it becomes an undesirable behavior should you need to step in.

Check out other dog behavior articles such as why is my older dog regressing with a new puppy, why does my dog keep ringing the bell to go outside, why does my puppy sleep in the crate at night but not during the day, and many more on our blog!

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

Share this post!
Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Daily Dog Drama!

no more bad dog breaths banner