Have you ever sat and watched your dog eat their food?
You will oftentimes find that your dog has little routines that it does before, during, and after eating, just like people.
We all know the person that can only eat one item on their plate at a time before moving on to the next item.
Dogs are very similar in that they will have routines they perform when eating.
Frequently times these can be strange to us, such as our canine friend bobbing their head up and down or side-to-side right before eating.
Dogs will often bob their head before eating because it is a routine that they have been doing their whole life. If your dog has just started doing this it is recommended that you contact your vet to make sure they don’t have any concerns.
Dogs have hundreds of routines that they do each and every day.
Think about when you let them out the back door or take them on a walk.
Do they always go to the same spot first?
Dogs, just as humans, have routines that they do every day and many of these routines focus on what they do with and around their food.
Heading Bobbing can be an Instinctual Behavior for Dogs
Many dogs begin to bob their heads at a young age, around 6 months, and will continue to do so till they are over 3 years old.
This is often a routine that they have established when they are preparing to eat.
However, if your dog is older, then you might want to investigate why they have begun this routine.
Regularly it can be caused by something outside of their control or as a reaction to something.
Here is a list of different instinctual behaviors that many dogs exhibit
- Circling their bed before they lay down
- Kicking up grass or dirt after going to the bathroom
- Your dog leaning up against you
- Shredding paper or toys
- Your dog gets the “zoomies”
- Carrying bits of food to different locations
- Burying bones or toys
When You Should Worry About Your Dogs Head Bobbing
The main thing to worry about your dog’s head bobbing before eating is when you are determining the cause. Some dogs will bob their head right before eating and then act as if nothing is different.
Others will develop a tendency to bob their heads as puppies, but will slowly outgrow it.
However, some breeds develop what is called; “idiopathic head tremors,” which can suddenly appear and you have no idea why they occur.
There is no known medical cause for this behavior.
Vets will frequently recommend ignoring the head bobbing unless it impacts your dog’s quality of life.
Breeds Known to be Affected by “idiopathic head tremors”
- Doberman Pinschers
- Cavalier King Charles
- Many mixed breeds
Other Possible Causes of Head Bobbing
1. Low Glucose Levels
This can be a common cause in dogs that are lactating or having hormonal issues.
If it persists past one or two times, contact your vet.
If it is related to low glucose levels you can rub a small amount of corn syrup or honey on your dog’s gums to fix their blood sugar levels.
2. Calcium Deficiency
Non-idiopathic head bobbing has been known to tie in with puppies having low calcium levels.
Your vet can direct you to the best supplement for your dog.
3. Heartworm Medication
Head bobbing can occur shortly after an administration of heartworm medicine.
This has not been thoroughly studied but has been noted by many vets.
If you suspect heartworm medication may be the culprit of your dog’s recent head bobbing, contact your vet about possible solutions.
Also write down the name of the medicine, so that you do not use it again in the future.
Other Behaviors to Watch for While Your Dog is Feeding
1. Being scared of metal food bowls
This can be because their tags or collars bang against the bowl making an unpleasant sound.
Also, it might be because your dog is wary of its reflection, which it is not used to being able to see.
2. Your dog would rather not eat out of a bowl
This can be caused by them not liking a certain aspect of their bowls, such as material (metal) or smell.
Another cause could be if they are eating in a group with other dogs.
Often in the wild dogs would pull their food to a separate place to eat in peace and safety.
Some dogs need more enrichment in their lives than we provide because of work and family commitments.
This is often more common in high-energy breeds, such as Border Collies, German Shepherds, Greyhounds, and Belgian Malinois.
This can be displayed by them knocking their food bowl over and attempting to chase the food.
A way to fix this is by providing enrichment toys or bowls that provide additional stimulus.
4. Resource Guarding
Food is a resource to dogs and they can sometimes be very protective when they eat, even if it is you, that they are protecting it from.
This can often be seen in homes with more than one dog or in new puppies because they have not learned any better.
It is best to work with a dog trainer in fixing this behavior.
There are many excellent online courses now because of Covid, or you can find one locally near you.
It is fairly common for dogs between the ages of 6 months to 3 years to bob their heads when approaching food or doing other activities.
It is a routine or habit that they have been doing for the majority of their lives.
This will normally begin while they are young and persist through their adolescent years.
It is best to alert your vet if head bobbing has suddenly begun or if the head bobbing interferes with your dogs’ everyday functions.
Normally head bobbing is idiopathic and your vet will make the appropriate recommendations to help your dog.