Why Does My Dog Lay Down To Eat?

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By now, I have become the person that all of my friends and family text pictures and questions to about their dogs. The other day, my aunt sent me a picture of her English bulldog laying down on the floor while he ate, head extended, tongue sticking out licking his bowl for the last few kernels of food.

To me, he just looked like the laziest pup that I’d ever seen, more caterpillar than a dog. But my aunt was half panicked that he’d broken his legs or something.

Luckily, I had a quick and easy answer for why her dog was laying down to eat.

So why do dogs lay down to eat? 

Laying down is a natural posture for a dog to take while eating, arguably healthier than the typical standing posture. If your dog has suddenly changed their behavior and now exclusively eats laying down, it may be a sign of a health issue, but most of the time, laying down to eat is perfectly normal.

I mean check this guy out. Look how…..natural! But in all seriousness, there are many dogs that prefer to lay down to eat. 

5 Reasons You Dog Lays Down To Eat

Dogs certainly do a lot of weird things, and laying down to eat is far from the strangest. But let’s take a quick look at 5 reasons to explain why some dogs like to lay down while eating.

Reason #1 – Natural Instinct 

It may be easy for you to forget that your kibble chomping, tail wagging, loud snoring dog is very closely related to their wild counterparts.

Dogs are predators, and like most predators, taking down a live animal typically means a fight, a bite, and holding them down until the pack is able to begin feasting.

This means that wild dogs, wolves, and even big cats all similarly will use their front paws to hold their prey down while they eat.

This maneuver requires them to lay down on their tummies in order to use their hands to hold and stabilize their meal while they bite and pull off pieces.

While all of this is going on, the rest of the pack is usually also closely packed together, all jealously guarding their own piece of the meal.

Holding the food in front of them with their front paws while lying down helps ensure that no one else snags the piece they claimed for themselves.

Indeed, any time you have seen a wild animal eating and a documentary or on TV, they are probably lying down next to their meal and not standing over it and eating bites like we typically see our domestic dog friends do.

Nevertheless, your dog still has a natural instinct to eat in the same posture as their wild ancestors.

This is why it is not uncommon to see your dog choose to lay down and eat from time to time or perhaps even exclusively.

Reason #2 – More Comfortable

Dogs, like other predators, have faces, mouths, necks, and backs all evolved to perform all of the necessary acts to hunt, kill, and eat another animal.

Nowadays, domestic dogs usually eat and drink while standing up. Most people use bowls that are on the ground and expect their dog to drop their head down and eat while all four feet remain on the floor.

But since this is not evolutionarily how canines have eaten, your dog may find standing up to eat to be uncomfortable.

Some studies suggest that it’s better for dogs to eat while laying down or in some other way to create more of a straight line from their mouth to let her tummies.

These studies suggest that this will prevent dogs from eating too much air and will help alleviate stress to their neck and shoulders.

Also, it may be that you are feeding your dog on some sort of non-porous surface. Many people feed their dogs in their kitchens or in their bathrooms or somewhere with tile for easy cleanup.

Your dog may choose to lie down when they’re in these environments in order to put their hot tummies against the cool surface of the floor.

Laying down can alleviate a lot of stress, so it’s really not that surprising when you think about it that a dog may want to lay down to eat.

Reason #3 – Tired

It could also be that your dog is simply too exhausted to stay on their feet any longer.

If your dog has had a particularly tiring day with lots of walks or new stimuli, they will probably still be hungry, but may just be too sleepy to stand up.

If your dog lays down for their evening meal after a long day at the beach, it’s not necessarily cause for concern. They’re probably just pooped!

Reason #4 – Age

Dogs on either extreme side of the age range, either young dogs or dogs who are starting to get older, may still or begin laying down while they eat.

Picture a litter of puppies all nursing from their mom.

They are not standing up all in a row, feet on the ground, heads down eating like she’s a buffet table.

No, they are all lying down, probably pressed up against each other and for sure laying on the ground while they eat.

This is how most dogs will consume most of their food for the first few weeks of their lives.nIf you have a puppy or a younger dog, this behavior may just be a holdover from the habits they developed when they were suckling from mom.

On the other hand, an older dog may begin to lay down while they eat too.

Just like people, getting older comes with a whole long laundry list of debilitating issues. Some of these include arthritis, osteoporosis, information, or weakening of the joints.

Frankly, any number of age-related illnesses could cause your dog to feel more comfortable laying down. They may be laying down more often throughout the day, or they may just simply find the stiff posture required to eat while standing is too much for their old bones. 

Reason #5 – Health

It doesn’t take old age for a dog to contract an illness.

It is possible that your dog is laying down while they eat to alleviate some discomfort that they are feeling related to a disease or possibly even a side effect of prescription medication.

It could be anything from head to toe on your dog.  Arthritis is common in older dogs or in dogs who have spent a long time doing vigorous exercises, like ex-racing greyhounds.

They may also have an issue related to their tongue or throat, making it difficult for them to swallow their food in the standing position.

Obesity, hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, or issues with their digestive tract, such as gas or bloat, may make your dog suddenly start laying down to eat. 

What Should I Do If My Dog Lays Down To Eat?

As I said, this is a perfectly natural and comfortable way for dogs to eat. If you find that they eat laying down sometimes, you don’t need to worry about it.

However, any sudden change in behavior in your dog is usually a sign that something is wrong. This is true of any canine behavior whether that’s their sleeping habits or how they approach the food bowl owners should take notice of sudden changes. 

Dogs are creatures of habit, so a sudden change from never eating while lying down to always eating laying down may indicate that they have one of the aforementioned health issues.

If this is the case, you should take your dog to your vet so that they can rule out any health issues that may be causing your dog pain when they eat while standing.

However, assuming everything checks out, it is probably just that your dog just likes to eat like that and you should take steps to help support this natural instinct for your dog.

If you use a dog bowl, you may find that it is difficult for your dog to eat while laying down from them.  This may end up in a mess of scattered kibble or even worse if you feed wet food.

Consider switching from a classic dog bowl to something more conducive to eating while prone, like this feeding mat, which may make things easier for them.

But if you are more of a traditionalist and want to stick to a bowl, you could also consider picking up one of these elevated dog bowls. It’s adjustable, so you can ensure that it will be just the right height for your dog.

So long as your dog is healthy, there is no good reason not to support your dog and their eating habits.

So long as you work out a system that is clean and effective, you might as well just let them do their thing. 

What About Drinking Water While Laying Down?

It is less common for a dog to drink water while laying down than it is for them to eat while laying down.

It is much easier for a dog to choke or aspirate on the water while laying down than on food. However, some dogs still choose to lay down to drink from time to time.

In the wild, a canine approaching a body of water to have a drink would typically avoid laying down at the water’s edge.  This allows them to avoid any predators in the water and allows them to remain alert and dry.

However, a very hot dog may excitedly drop down in the cool banks to have their drink.

If they are laying down to drink water, they are probably tired or maybe it was a little too hot outside for a walk

Or if they often eat while laying down, they may just be drinking while laying out of habit.

It’s very important to rule out any potential medical issues to make sure that your dog is as healthy and happy as they can be, but most of the time, unless this is a sudden onset behavior and they are exclusively drinking while laying down, it’s no cause for concern. 

Your Dog Lays Down To Eat

It can seem kind of silly when you first see your dog sprawled out on their bellies, happily munching away at their dinner.

I’m guilty of occasionally enjoying a meal while plopped on the couch, so it’s a relief to know that I’m in the good company of dogs, who also enjoy comfortably munching while laying down.

Watch out for other signs of stress if your dog has suddenly changed their behavior and laying down. It’s possible that they’re in pain, but more often than not, they just hanging out, snacking.