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Why Won’t My Dog Eat Unless The Bowl Is Elevated



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Do you have a pup who won’t eat unless their bowl is elevated? If so, then you understand the struggles of trying to get them to enjoy mealtime.

But why does this happen in the first place? In this blog post, we’ll discuss why dogs may refuse to eat unless their bowl is elevated and what can be done about it.

From behavioral issues to physical ailments, there are many potential causes. We’ll also provide tips on how to get your pup back to their regular eating habits.

Key Takeaway

  • Your dog may not eat unless the bowl is elevated due to physical discomfort or difficulty in reaching a bowl placed on the ground, often associated with age, breed characteristics, or health conditions such as arthritis or neck issues.
  • Dogs are supposed to have elevated bowls in certain situations, particularly if they have specific health needs such as joint issues or swallowing difficulties, but it’s not universally recommended for all dogs as it may increase the risk of bloat in some breeds.
  • To encourage your dog to eat from an elevated bowl, introduce it gradually, placing treats or favorite foods in the new bowl and praising your dog when they use it, ensuring the bowl is at the correct height for comfort, and maintaining a calm and consistent feeding routine.
  • Old dogs generally prefer an elevated bowl as it reduces strain on their joints and promotes a healthier eating posture, making mealtime more comfortable, especially for those with arthritis or orthopedic conditions (Sources: topdogtips.com, pet-how.com, dogids.com).

Why Won’t My Dog Eat Unless The Bowl Is Elevated

Why Won't My Dog Eat Unless The Bowl Is Elevated

Your dog might not eat unless the bowl is elevated because it can be more comfortable for them, especially if they have certain health conditions like arthritis or megaesophagus.

Comfort and Ease

Elevated bowls can make eating a more comfortable experience for dogs. Some dogs may find it difficult to eat from a bowl placed directly on the floor due to neck pain or other discomforts.

This is particularly true for older dogs, large breeds, or dogs with arthritis. By elevating their food and water dishes, you make it easier for them to reach their meals without straining their necks or joints.


Elevated bowls can also promote better digestion. When dogs eat from bowls that are level with their chests, they don’t have to gulp their food and swallow air, which can help reduce issues like bloating or gastric torsion, especially in larger breeds prone to such conditions.


If your dog has a condition called megaesophagus, an elevated bowl can be a lifesaver.

Megaesophagus means the esophagus, which carries food and liquid to the stomach, is enlarged, making it hard for the dog to swallow.

Eating from an elevated position can help gravity move the food and water down into the stomach.

Behavioral Issues

Sometimes, behavioral issues might be the reason why a dog prefers eating from an elevated bowl.

In some cases, dogs might feel more secure or less threatened when they don’t have to lower their heads too close to the ground to eat.

Are Dogs Supposed To Have Elevated Bowls?

Yes, dogs can benefit from elevated bowls in certain situations, but it’s not necessary or advisable for all dogs.

Elevated bowls can provide several advantages for dogs, particularly those with specific physical conditions or breeds with particular characteristics.

For instance, older dogs or those suffering from arthritis may find it easier to eat and drink from an elevated bowl because it reduces the strain on their neck and joints.

For dogs with megaesophagus, a condition that makes swallowing difficult, elevated bowls can make eating safer and more comfortable as gravity helps move the food down to their stomach.

However, it’s important to note that while elevated bowls can be beneficial for some dogs, they might not be suitable for others.

Certain large and deep-chested breeds may have an increased risk of developing Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) or bloat, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, when using elevated bowls.

Tips To Encourage Your Dog To Eat From an Elevated Bowl

To encourage your dog to eat from an elevated bowl, you can gradually introduce the new feeding setup, make mealtime enjoyable, and ensure the correct height for comfort.

Gradual Introduction

Introduce the elevated bowl gradually to your dog. You can start by placing the bowl slightly off the ground and slowly increasing the height over several meals.

This gradual introduction can help your dog adjust to the new feeding arrangement without feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

Make Mealtime Enjoyable

Make mealtime an enjoyable experience for your dog. You can add some enticing toppers to the food in the elevated bowl or give your dog a treat after it finishes eating from the bowl.

The positive association created with the elevated bowl can encourage your dog to eat from it.

Correct Height

Ensure that the elevated bowl is at the correct height for your dog. The bowl should be level with your dog’s chest when it is standing normally.

If the bowl is too high, it could be uncomfortable for your dog to eat from, and if it’s too low, it defeats the purpose of using an elevated bowl. Adjust the height as necessary until you find a comfortable level for your dog.

Patience and Consistency

Patience and consistency are key when encouraging your dog to eat from an elevated bowl. Don’t rush the process and give your dog time to adjust.

Be consistent with the use of the elevated bowl and stick to a regular feeding schedule. Over time, your dog should become accustomed to eating from the elevated dish.

Do Old Dogs Prefer an Elevated Dog Bowl?

Yes, older dogs, particularly those with joint issues or arthritis, may find it easier and more comfortable to eat from an elevated dog bowl.

As dogs age, they may develop health issues such as arthritis or other joint problems, which can make bending down to eat or drink from a ground-level bowl uncomfortable and painful.

An elevated bowl can help alleviate this discomfort by allowing the dog to maintain a more natural, upright posture while eating or drinking. This reduces the strain on their neck, back, and joints, making meal times more comfortable.

However, it’s essential to tailor the height of the bowl to your dog. The bowl should be approximately at chest level when your dog is standing normally. This position allows for the most comfortable and natural eating and drinking posture.


Q: How can I help my dog eat from their bowl?

A: If your dog prefers not to eat from their bowl, there are a few things you can try to help them. Firstly, you can try using a different type of bowl. Some dogs may prefer ceramic or stainless steel bowls over plastic ones. Additionally, you can try feeding your dog smaller portions and more frequently throughout the day. It may also help to establish a regular feeding routine and create a calm and quiet environment for your dog while they eat.

Q: Is it okay for a dog to eat from my hand?

A: It is generally safe for dogs to eat from your hand, as long as they are not displaying possessive or aggressive behavior. Feeding your dog food from your hand can be a bonding experience and can help establish trust. However, it’s important to note that relying solely on hand-feeding can reinforce picky eating habits, so it should be done in moderation and within the context of a balanced diet.

Q: What is the best dog bowl for my dog?

A: The best dog bowl for your dog will depend on their individual needs and preferences. Some dogs may prefer shallow bowls, while others may prefer deep bowls. Ceramic or stainless steel bowls are generally recommended over plastic bowls, as they are easier to clean and less likely to harbor bacteria. It’s also important to choose a bowl that is an appropriate size for your dog’s breed and size.

Q: Can a dog prefer to eat from the floor rather than a bowl?

A: Yes, some dogs may have a preference for eating from the floor rather than a traditional bowl. Some theories suggest that this behavior is rooted in a dog’s natural instinct to protect food resources or their preference for a more natural feeding position. However, it’s important to ensure that your dog is consuming their food safely and without potential hazards, such as ingesting foreign objects or having difficulty accessing their food.

Q: Why won’t my dog eat from his bowl but will eat from my hand?

A: There can be several reasons why your dog may prefer to eat from your hand rather than their bowl. It could be due to the novelty and excitement associated with hand-feeding, the desire for attention and connection with their owner, or discomfort or dislike of their bowl. It may also be a learned behavior if your dog has been consistently hand-fed in the past. If this behavior continues, it is best to consult with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer for guidance.

Q: Can a dog’s eating habits change over time?

A: Yes, a dog’s eating habits can change over time. Just like humans, dogs may go through periods of increased or decreased appetite, develop preferences for certain foods or feeding methods, or experience changes in their digestive health. It’s important to monitor your dog’s eating habits and consult with a veterinarian if there are any sudden or concerning changes in their appetite or behavior.

Conclusion and final thoughts

In conclusion, elevating a dog’s food bowl to help them eat is an effective strategy for many pet owners. It can reduce stress and improve their eating habits.

While there are no definitive answers as to why some dogs won’t eat unless the bowl is elevated, it may be beneficial in helping your pet feel more comfortable when they’re eating.

Finally, if you find that your dog isn’t eating, it’s important to speak with a veterinarian to ensure they don’t have any underlying health issues.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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