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Why Does My Dog Flip Their Bowl? 5 Common Reasons & Solutions

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By Nicole Cosgrove

woman gives her labrador retriever dog food in a feeding bowl

Their desire to devour every last tasty morsel in their food bowl makes dogs exceptionally messy eaters. But it isn’t always their eager nose that leads to accidental food spills — sometimes, your dog makes a mess by deliberately flipping their bowl over.

Although this habit can be amusing, it can be a nuisance to clean up. It can also be concerning if your dog has never shown this behavior before. Fortunately, many of the reasons that your dog flips their bowl are benign and easy to fix.

First, you have to figure out why your dog has developed their new habit. This guide includes the likely reasons that your dog has started flipping their bowl and how to stop it.

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The 5 Reasons That Your Dog Flips Their Bowl

1. Noisy Bowl

The material that your dog’s food bowl is made of can cause problems if it makes noise when your dog eats out of them. For example, metal tags can rattle against the rim of metal food or water bowls, which can disturb your dog as they eat.

While this problem might not bother dogs that are accustomed to the noise, dogs that are used to quieter bowls might have an issue. You can give your dog a noiseless name tag, but remember that metal bowls are also lighter and easier for your dog to move around. An empty one will rattle more than a bowl made from another material.

2. Privacy Please

Sometimes, your dog gets uncomfortable when their food bowl is too crowded. Even if your dog is used to your screaming toddler or the new rambunctious puppy being in the house, they could be flipping their bowl as a way to protest the placement of their feeding spot. Dogs can be territorial about their food, and too much activity around them can make them feel uneasy.

Try moving their bowl to a quiet spot in the house, somewhere away from the busier areas. If you have more than one dog, try to space out their bowls more when you feed them. Eating too close together can cause some dogs to feel anxious.

dogs eating
Image Credit: Phuttharak, Shutterstock

3. Too Smelly

Dogs are sensitive to smells, and certain scents in or around their food bowl can put them off their food. If you haven’t washed their bowl in a while, your dog might be grossed out by the smell of old food leftover from previous meals.

Give the bowl a quick scrub to clean it out before their next meal, but be mindful of the soap that you use. Strong fragrances can linger even after you rinse the bowl out, and your dog might find the smell displeasing.

If you recently bought a new bowl — or purchased one secondhand — the smell of the new plastic or the bowl’s previous canine owner can be off-putting too. Try a stainless-steel bowl that won’t cling to odors, or wash the bowl before using it.

4. Underlying Health Issue

A less likely but still possible reason that your dog keeps flipping their food bowl is due to an underlying health issue. If you’ve tried changing to a new food bowl, cleaning the old one, or switching the food brand and your dog is still flipping their bowl, it might be time to check in with a veterinarian. This is also something to consider if the behavior starts suddenly, especially if your dog has never had a habit of flipping their bowl before.

If your dog isn’t feeling well — whether it’s because of toothache or stomach upset — they might be flipping their bowl because they’re not hungry. Loss of appetite can be caused by myriad reasons, from minor to severe. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the root cause of your dog’s new habit.

woman feeding her dog
Image Credit: RossHelen, Shutterstock

5. Wrong Bowl

The shape and size of the bowl can affect your dog’s eating habits. If the bowl is too small, your dog might not like the limited space as they eat. The height of the bowl can also be a problem, especially if you have a large breed.

The bowl might be getting flipped over so often simply because it’s too light or doesn’t have a non-skid base. Metal bowls in particular are easy to move around, which can lead to your dog chasing theirs around the kitchen as they try to eat. Flipping it over might be just their way of stopping the never-ending chase.

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How to Stop Your Dog Flipping Their Bowl

Most of the reasons that your dog flips their food bowl are relatively easy to fix. Once you figure out the possible cause of your dog’s new habit, try out these tips to stop it.

1. New Bowl

Changing your dog’s food bowl is sometimes the easiest way to solve your dog’s new habit. A wider dish can help if your dog doesn’t like how their whiskers touch the sides of their existing bowl. You can also invest in a raised dog bowl if your large breed is uncomfortable eating from a bowl on the floor.

You can also consider heavy bowls, ones with non-slip bases, or even a mat to help stop your dog from pushing the bowl around while they eat.

French Bulldog is busy with his meal eating
Image Credit: Tienuskin, Shutterstock

2. Switch Dog Food

Sudden behavior changes in your dog’s eating habits — like flipping their bowl — can be a result of them disliking their food. Dogs can get bored if they eat the same flavor of food day in and day out. If you’ve been using the same brand or food flavor for a while, your dog might be protesting the monotony. They could also be complaining about an unannounced recipe change.

Check the brand of dog food that you typically use to see if there have been any recent changes to the recipe. Otherwise, it might be time to try a new flavor or another brand.

3. Treasure Hunt

If your dog gets bored easily and flips their bowl in an attempt to make their mealtime more interesting, give them a treasure hunt instead. This works great if you only feed them kibble and only have one pet.

At mealtime, instead of using a bowl, hide your dog’s kibble around the room so their noses can lead them to their food. Remember to measure out the correct portion size so you don’t overfeed or underfeed them.

4. Visit the Vet

More often than not, the cause of your dog’s bowl-flipping behavior is simply them disliking their bowl. But if changing the bowl or switching dog food brands doesn’t stop the behavior, it’s time to visit your veterinarian. They’ll be able to determine if your dog has an issue with their teeth, for example, or is just feeling sick for some reason.

cute young dog in veterinarian hands
Image By: In Green, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Dogs can flip their food bowl for several reasons. It can be a result of them disliking the noise that their tag makes against a metal bowl or wanting to make their mealtime more interesting. Sometimes, the habit of flipping their bowl can be due to an underlying health issue, like a toothache or lack of appetite.

We hope that this guide has helped you figure out why your dog has started flipping their bowl and how to stop it.

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Featured Image Credit: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock

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