Why does the dog just sit and stare at me when I serve her food?

I don’t get it. The owners claim that she eats and finishes her food just fine, but also that sometimes she will wait for the other dog to start eating before she starts. Okay…. And the other dog does, but she will sometimes stare past when he finishes his food. And, her pauses are long enough to cut deeply into my time for other important tasks (I have to watch them eat so that they don’t eat each other’s food.)

She has finished her food in the past with me EVENTUALLY, but it was sometimes well past breakfast time. Now that it’s her fourth meal with me, she’s only finished halfway before staring at me nonstop as if she’s waiting for me to do something. Any ideas?

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Could she be waiting for a “release” word? Our dogs at home have to sit and wait while their bowls are put down, then wait again until we say, OK. Are you able to text the owners and ask?


Yes @Mary.Willmon sounds right, she’s waiting for your command. Just because one dog doesn’t need an invite to start eating, doesn’t mean the other one is the same. I always say ‘okay’ in an upbeat way when food is served up, but they may use a different word.

Just ask the owners exactly what you asked us, they would have simply overlooked telling you the word because they use it everyday in a habit-like way.

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Thanks, everyone! I’ve asked one of the owners directly through text.

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Owners aren’t saying anything. Well then…

Dog will eat eventually, and then if I move even a little, she stops and stares at me almost as if she’s anticipating something or dumbfounded. I don’t know or think there’s a command word according to how the owners are acting. They have read my newer texts that are irrelevant to this situation, too, with positive reply.

I try not to get annoyed, but what seems like what should be an extremely simple and instinctive activity for the dogs eats up my mornings and late afternoons. I had to cancel a few plans because it will take them up to 90 minutes to finish each mealtime. And I have to watch them eat unfortunately. Thank god I don’t have to work much during this sit.

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Why don’t you feed them in separate rooms with one of the doors closed? Then you won’t have to watch them to make sure they don’t eat each other’s food, and you’ll be able to get a few things done while they’re eating. I recently did this with two cats and it worked great.


I agree with @mars - sometimes there’s one dog that might be shy or afraid eating next or around the other dogs.

It’s possible that he might be waiting for you to also sit down and eat your own lunch/dinner. My dog sometimes is fussy about eating alone, and only eats his food when we sit down to eat our own meal. Again not saying he’s the same, just a possibility. It sounds more like he might just be shy about eating in the same room as the other dog.

If she waits for the other dog to eat first, she’ll never eat with the other dog out of her sight completely. This is really weird, but even weirder that the HOs won’t address it.

Just an idea because I don’t know these pets…

I once made an assumption that because I was working long hours at the office, my cat might appreciate a companion. So I got a kitten, who turned out to be a bit of a lunatic. My cat went into a shell. Since this kitten would literally push my cat out of her bowl to steal her food, she began just sitting there quietly, watching the kitten plow its way through both bowls. Only when I tried feeding the kitten first and removing it from the room would my cat eat.

Maybe that’s why the dog is just sitting there until the other dog eats? Because the other dog is the food stealer, so she wants to make sure the food is really all hers?


I had a similar thought when I mentioned the possibility that the dog might be shy or afraid about eating alongside the other dog.

Your story reminded me of when I used to rescue and foster small dogs. During that time, I had my previous Maltese (who passed two years ago). Although he was friendly with other pets, including cats, some foster dogs would get territorial of their food. I had to keep them apart while they ate, or otherwise, they would try to attack my dog.

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My poor cat just shrank from the situation, as she didn’t have a confrontational or disagreeable bone in her body. It took so much coaxing to get her to eat after this. The whole thing was so traumatic to her that I had to rehome the kitten. The new pet parent was very happy, so I just had to make things up with my baby girl.

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Aww poor kitty. I had to stop fostering too because I could tell my little guy’s feelings were a little hurt. He was a bit distant when I was placing most of my attention and energy in trying to rehabilitate other dogs.

Even though I’m tempted to get another dog to keep my little one company when we go out, I’m always a little apprehensive about how he will react. Cats and dogs can be very territorial of their spaces.

I’m so glad you found a good home for the other kitty. :smile_cat:


I like the idea of separating them when it’s feeding time.
Wouldn’t it make our life’s so much easier if we could talk their language?

Hey, what’s wrong, aren’t you hungry?
You put it in the wrong bowl, stupid.

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could it be the order in which all of you eat? Have you tried spitting in his food? Just hear me out…lol

In a pack in the wild, the alpha would eat first and when finished, he’d allow the pack to eat. The Alpha’s saliva would then be in the food and confirm the pack hierarchy.

My first dog turned really aggressive after adoption and the trainer I had taught me this and completely makes sense once I learned the reasoning and I’ve done this ever since.

So, if an owner wants to create pack hierarchy, they would want to be the alpha and thus do things that an alpha does: Go through doorways first, not let the dog walk in front of them on the leash, but beside them and a buncch of other things. Among them to always be the one eating first and then feed the dog and spit in their food. If I don’t want to eat first, I hold the dish up and pretend to be eating for a couple of seconds.

A dog that may be a natural pack dog and more of a follower may look for some of those signs. Maybe the food is normally touched by the owners hand, which will give the scent of the alpha and create the feeling of “the alpha has eaten and it’s now the pack turn”. Maybe the owners unwittingly ate first and then feeding the dogs, not realizing that this matters. It’s similar to training on a release word.

I hope you’ll be able to figure out what works. Good luck.


After a few days of experimenting, it seems completely random as to why she does it.

She will still not eat at all if I leave her in a separate room without him (the other dog) or me. Or, when I am in the same room as she is without him, she will still pause and stare at me for long periods of time like she isn’t hungry or like she is waiting for me to do something, but then gobble it all up within a minute or sometimes goes off to do something else.

I don’t know what the pattern is. I am just sucking it up and dealing with it at this point until the sit is over.

She does seem to obsessively stare at me sometimes outside of mealtimes and follows me around. The owners said she’s an independent cat-dog (meaning she does her own thing most of the time)! But she’s not with me. Can be frustrating that they act so differently than what the owners say.

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It is weird that they won’t address it.

And it’s so random as to when/how she eats. Sometimes she does it without the other dog eating first, sometimes with him having to eat and finish, sometimes it doesn’t matter and she will just do as she pleases. sigh But it often takes her a long while in any case.

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There is a theory that dogs choose the person in their life. The one human that they’re entirely loyal and attached to. Perhaps you’re her person.
Honestly, I would take this as a compliment. Not everyone loves having a dog following them around or staring at them. My dog is like that with me sometimes. He’s like a little shadow that even wants to follow me to the bathroom.

My last sit, both dogs did the same thing. I felt so helpless I ended up handfeeding them, literally scooping the food into my palm, and they are rabidly :person_shrugging:

I have been Googling forever to even find a forum where someone has the same problem as me…this exactly! What is the update that you found on how to solve for this because it’s driving me crazy having to spend 20+ minutes each meal making sure he eats his food

My guess, based on personal experience, is that the dog waiting for something, is stressed. It may take you a few minutes a day but that’s less than you’re spending now. Try sitting next to the dog, hand feeding a few bites and petting him/her. Try to make her comfortable. She likely would prefer you stay in the room so you may as well make it quality time. My guess is she’ll calm down inside and be able to eat. Plus you’ll probably be done with mealtime sooner. After a few days she could just generally be more comfortable. Transmitting your stress over the situation to her (remember they are smarter than we are in those ways), will only exacerbate the issue for both—it’s worth a try. That’s my 2 cents—perhaps you have tried those things. Please accept in the manner sent.