Why does my dog prefer to eat off the floor?


Last updated 11/6/2019 at 3:58pm

Dear Cathy: My Maltese, Tim, is 10 months old. I feed him wet and dry food on a paper plate. He eats a little and then I have to put the food on the floor where he eats some, goes away and then comes back and eats most of it. I tried using a regular dinner plate with the same results. This is my fifth dog and they all ate off paper plates without a problem. We have been crate/potty training him for three months. He seems to get the pooping outside part, but we're not sure about the peeing part and are uncomfortable letting him roam the house. Thoughts? - Roberta Furman, Old Bethpage, New York

Dear Roberta: Small dogs can take longer to housetrain than big dogs. Be consistent with the housetraining and Tim will likely be fully trained within the next two months.

As for eating off the floor, many dogs take food from their bowl and drop it onto the floor or take it to another location to eat it, so there is something instinctive about the behavior and nothing to worry about if he does this. But you shouldn't have to dump the food on the floor to get him to eat.

Find a small dish or bowl you can use every day, and train Tim to eat from it. Put the food down at the same time, twice a day, and pick it up when he is finished or after three minutes, if he walks away. Do not dump the food on the floor. He will get hungry and be more likely to eat at the next meal. He should be eating from the bowl within a few days, but you can also add a pet food topper (available at pet stores and online) to make the food harder to resist.

Dear Cathy: I work about 60 hours a week and have two cats who seem to get by fine. I am mostly a dog person, though, and have avoided getting a dog just because I didn't think it would be fair to a Rover. Can you recommend a certain breed that might not require a constant human companion and be comfortable by themselves while I'm at work? - Alan, Crystal, Minnesota

Dear Alan: Cats are the best pets for people who work long hours. Dogs are pack animals, and they like the company of humans, as well as their own kind.

If you're going to get a dog, though, consider getting two dogs (not siblings, and preferably a male and female dog) who can keep each other company. There are some low-key breeds that might be more couch potatoes when you're not home, including Spaniels, Basset hounds, bulldogs, chihuahuas, mastiffs, and Great Dane breeds or mixes. Stay away from Border Collies, Australian Cattle dogs or poodles who need to stay busy to be happy.

Also, stay away from puppies or young dogs and consider adopting an older dog of any breed or mixed breed. Older dogs are more content sleeping when you're not home and being present when you are. Regardless of the dog, you will need to provide puzzle toys when you aren't home, and lots of exercise (walking) and playtime when you are to keep your dog(s) content during the day. Also, find a friend or hire a pet sitter to give these dogs a daily break outside. Fresh air and sunshine are good for them and tend to make both people and pets sleepy.

Dear Cathy: Our 11-year-old diabetic female cat has started peeing where she shouldn't. Sometimes it's near the box, which is in our cellar on a cement floor, but lately she's started using the two hallways, one tiled and one linoleum, (located respectively) at our front and back doors.

We've started locking her in the cellar room with kitty litter at night because that seems to be when she is more likely not to go downstairs to pee, but otherwise we're at a loss for what to do. We just bought a "calming collar," which we'll put on her today. - Gretchen, Storrs, Connecticut

Dear Gretchen: Diabetic pets pee more, but assume you talked to your veterinarian to rule out any additional health problems. Kudos on the calming collar. Next, I would add a litter box attractant (available online and at pet stores) to lure her back to the box. If that doesn't work, add a second litter box on the main floor. If she got frightened while using the box or is having trouble managing stairs, this second box might do the trick.


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