Here is the POV: you give your GSD food to eat, and you stand back to watch him devour his food as usual. You notice something interesting about the way he eats. Why does my German Shepherd lay down to eat? – you ask yourself.
Wait… has he been doing this for as long as I can remember, or is this a new behavior? Well, that is a very important question that can give you insight into what is actually happening with your GSD.
Whether you can remember if this is the usual way your doggo eats its food or if you realize this is new behavior — there are 9 possible reasons why your dog might be laying down to eat.
As we go through the reasons, you will notice most of the reasons are connected with the temperament of your dog. The traits responsible for your dog’s interesting way of eating can be developed either during its lifetime or it can be born with them.
Most of the reasons we mention are not life-threatening, and they can be treated — if you want to. Sometimes, they eat lying down because they really like it, and there’s nothing wrong with that, which means there is no need to correct this behavior.
In some other cases, we need to take our dogs to the vet and see what can be done.
Let’s see 9 answers to the question: why does my dog lay down to eat?
Why Does My German Shepherd Lay Down To Eat?
When it comes to answering the question of why my German Shepherd lays down to eat, the type of dog food you give to your lovely GSD is not important. Your dog can eat like this whether you give it kibble or canned food.
They will lay down on their belly and eat dry food, boiled chicken, or raw meat in the same manner — like they are tired. Are they tired?
It can be more than just feeling tired or your German Shepherd’s eating habits. It is important to go through all of the reasons for this behavior because sometimes the reasons can be health-related. And, when it comes to our pooches — it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Alright, let’s get into it… 9 reasons why my German Shepherd lays down to eat.
The first reason on our list is the natural behavior of a dog. We are all well aware that dogs originated from wolves. The instinctual behavior of wolves can still be seen in our family pets, even after more than 20,000 years since the first domesticated dog joined humans.
Those instinctual behavioral patterns can be seen in the way they communicate with other dogs, in the way they express loyalty, in a pack-like form of social relationships, in the way they eat, etc.
If you turn on David Attenborough’s “Life of Mammals” and see the way the wild dogs and wolves hunt and eat their prey, you will see a lot of similarities between them and your tiny silky Shih Tzu.
One of the instincts is to lay down and put their front paws around the prey (food bowl) and hold it tight. This way, the prey cannot escape, and no one can take a bite from them.
This position also gives dogs (or wolves) an excellent view of the surrounding area so that nothing can surprise the dog while it’s in a “vulnerable” position. It is quite different for a dog to put its head all the way down and eat, and to lay down and eat with its head free to inspect the area.
Of course, our German Shepherds don’t have to be on alert and worry if something will come and take away their food or if something will endanger their pack. But, it’s like wanting your dog not to wag its tail.
These are instinctual behaviors, and they cannot be easily erased from a canines’ brain. The important thing is to check if your dog has any health issues that might cause this behavior and compel us to ask the question: Why does my German Shepherd lay down to eat?
If there are no problems, then let your Chihuahua be a mighty wolf that protects its prey.
As obvious as it sounds, being tired can cause your dog to simply lay down and eat its food from this position. We’ve all been there… when you have such a hard day, you are so tired that you don’t have the strength to properly sit in your chair and eat.
Well, a German Shepherd is a well-known hard-working and active dog that can become very tired after a long day of either playing or working.
If you want to know if tiredness is one of the answers to the question, why does my German Shepherd lay down to eat — pay attention to some other signs. The first and obvious sign is whether your dog had a lot of work to do or had some playtime prior to the feeding time.
Maybe he is breathing fast or he keeps laying down instead of being in a standing position while he drinks water.
If it is tiredness that is the reason behind the laying down behavior, then there is nothing to worry about. Your dog will need a good rest, but other than that — everything is alright. Of course, you will need to pay attention if your dog gets tired easily.
Getting tired easily is a normal thing in older dogs, but it can also mean your dog might have some health problems. Your dog can also have a certain health condition that is preventing him from having normal activities without getting tired too fast.
If you suspect there might be an underlying cause responsible for your dog laying down to eat, the best option is to take him for a vet checkup.
We did say that German Shepherds are all-around working dogs, famous for their looks and working abilities. However, some GSDs are just… lazy.
Yes, this is a possibility. There are certain temperamental and physical traits that are characteristic of a dog breed, but every dog is unique. So, this means that you can get a pretty lazy German Shepherd.
They won’t be as lazy as Bulldogs, but they won’t be as quick to do some work as you might expect them to be. And, that laziness can show in the way they eat their food.
If you notice your German Shepherd is not that keen to run or go on long walks, or if he just plops down when it’s time to eat — you have a one-of-a-kind lazy GSD.
Even though there is nothing wrong with your dog if it’s a bit lazy, you have to be certain it is laziness that is causing this behavior and not some issue related to your dog’s health.
The best way to check this is to pay attention to some other signs. For example:
- Check their tail — is it tucked down all the time, do they wag their tail as usual, etc?
- Does it have diarrhea?
- Does it throw up or gag?
- Feeling lethargic all the time
- Drinks a lot of water
4. Food Too Low
If you have noticed that your dog lays down to eat its food, check its feeding bowls. Maybe they are too low, and your German Shepherd has problems comfortably eating.
German Shepherds are not as tall as Great Danes or Saint Bernards, but they can still have problems eating in a standing position because the food is too low to the ground. They have to bend their knees and lower their head in such a position that makes it uncomfortable to eat.
For these dogs, it is much simpler and more comfortable to sit down or lie down and eat without any restraints. If they continue eating in a standing position, it can result in back pain or neck problems.
Some people use elevated dog food bowls to make feeding easier for their large and tall dogs. Also, some people think that putting bowls above the ground prevents bloat. However, this has not been proven.
There is no proof showing that feeding your dog from elevated food bowls either prevents bloat or causes it. The opinions are divided when it comes to this matter.
But, when it comes to tall dog breeds, the better option is to either put their food a bit higher from the ground or let them lie down to eat.
5. Health Issue
Why does my German Shepherd lay down to eat? Maybe he has some health issues preventing him from eating while standing up.
There are numerous health problems and conditions that can lead to this. Most often, problems with joints are the reason for this behavior. The German Shepherd is a large dog breed, and as such, it can be prone to a problem called dip dysplasia.
One of the first signs of hip dysplasia is limping, joint pain, and overall avoidance of using the affected leg. Generally speaking, you will notice your dog has trouble walking, and maybe it has problems using the stairs, jumping, or running.
This health issue is hereditary. If you plan on getting a GSD puppy, always ask for a health check or health guarantee from your breeder as proof that your new puppy’s parents don’t have this issue.
If you suspect your dog might have hip dysplasia, take him to the vet. They can do the proper examination and decide on the best treatment options.
Other possible health issues are:
- Muscle spasms
- Various bone diseases
6. Getting Old
Another reason for this behavior is old dog age. A German Shepherds’ average life expectancy is around 10 years. This means they reach their old age faster than some other dog breeds with a longer average lifespan.
Depending on the way of life they had or the work they had to do, hereditary health issues, feeding, amount of exercise, etc., German Shepherds can start exhibiting old-age behavior as soon as they reach 6 or 7 years of age.
Besides your GSD laying down to eat, they will also show other signs:
- They have a lower appetite than before
- They are not as active
- Losing weight (not drastically)
- Bad breath
- Panting at night
So, if you notice your dog starting to lie down while eating, think about its age. Is your doggy becoming a senior? If this is the case, you can make his life as easy as possible. Make sure everything is accessible — from food and water to toys and their favorite bed.
Another common reason that we are often unable to see is dog obesity. We got used to our dog, and we think he looks perfect — with or without those extra pounds.
A fat German Shepherd is not a good thing. They are more prone to various health issues and diseases, and they also have a much shorter lifespan.
It is very important to maintain your dog’s healthy weight. Through this, you are helping your dog’s immune system; making it stronger and more effective in the fight against various diseases.
This is not just the case with GSDs. Obesity can be a problem for all dog breeds, from Greyhounds to Corgis.
If we want to help our dog and keep its weight healthy, we have to change its diet, avoid giving treats, and give our dog more physical stimulation — playtime, walks, hikes, etc.
Changing its diet means giving your dog food that is rich in proteins and low in carbohydrates. The food must also have minerals and vitamins. We can add some of those via fresh veggies or fruits that are safe for a dog to eat.
Related post: Are Green Beans Good For Dogs?
8. Food Guarding
If you have asked the question: Why does my German Shepherd lay down to eat and growl?, the answer might be he is overprotective of his food.
This is commonly an issue with dogs that didn’t have proper socialization. The process of socialization is a must for all dogs, no matter how naturally obedient and loyal they are.
This process involves getting your dog familiar with all kinds of sounds, noises, and sights that are common to a household or family life. It also means getting your dog used to other dogs, and other animals, and calm behavior in various life situations.
People think German Shepherds are aggressive, so they think every GSD will guard its food. But, this is a misconception. Dogs are not born aggressive. It doesn’t matter if it’s a GSD, a Chihuahua, or a Dalmatian.
Socialization and dog training are done when the dog is still a puppy. However, there are ways to socialize an aggressive adult dog as well. You will need more patience because it will take some time, but it can be done.
And… finally, the last on our list of possible reasons for your dog laying down to eat is stress or anxiety.
We know that German Shepherds are brave dogs that will do anything to save their owner. Their bravery and intelligence made them excellent Police and Military dogs.
But, they are still just dogs with their own feelings. And, a dog can also get stressed or anxious — German Shepherds, too!
If this happens, they often go back to their basic instincts we already talked about and choose the most comfortable and safest eating position — lying down. This position gives them a sense of security.
If you want to help your GSD, you can distract him by giving him some chewy toys. Also, give your dog lots of positive reinforcement, make sure to establish and stick to a puppy schedule, play with your dog, and give him lots of love and cuddles.
As you can see, there are 9 answers to the question, why does my German Shepherd lay down to eat. These answers are all possible reasons for this behavior, and in most cases, they are not serious.
To sum it up, if my dog lays down to eat:
- He could be tired
- He could be old
- He could be overweight
- He could have some medical issues
- Or, it could be a temperamental / instinctual behavioral trait
The best way to be sure it is not a health issue is to take your dog to the vet. Prior to that, pay attention to other signs that can point you and your vet in the right direction. What is your dog’s appetite? Is it playful? Does it have diarrhea?
Think about your dog’s age as well. Older dogs have more joint and bone issues, and they tend to lay down often. Whatever the reason is, the best option is to take your dog for a full examination done by a professional — a DVM.
This way, we will be certain we didn’t miss anything, and that we did what is best for our furry friend.
Read Next: Why Is My German Shepherd Skinny?