How to Slow Down Your Dog’s Eating
Have you seen that video of the spaghetti eating competition between a Golden Retriever and German Shepherd? It perfectly illustrates the huge differences in speed in which our dogs eat. While some dogs delicately chew each piece of food others scarf it down within seconds.
Why do some dogs eat so fast? Some dogs eat fast because they feel like their food will get eaten up by someone else if they don’t get to it first, some eat fast due to certain medical conditions or medications, and others eat fast due to excitement. (If you have multiple dogs and one of them is a fast eater I recommend separating them for mealtime; it should help cut down on the feeling that dinner time is a competition.)
Regardless of why your dog is eating fast there is a valid reason to be concerned — it can be dangerous to your dog’s health. Fast eating can lead to stomach upset, gagging, choking, vomiting and a life threatening condition called bloat. (Large, deep chested breeds such as Great Danes are especially susceptible to bloat)
If you’re concerned about how fast your dog eats there are a few things you can do to help slow them down. Here’s 3 ways to slow down your dog’s eating.
Use a Food Dispensing Toy For Their Meals
Food dispensing toys are awesome for keeping your dog mentally stimulated, but when it comes to feeding your fast eating dog they come with an added benefit — they make it impossible for your dog to scarf down their food. Food dispensing toys (sometimes called treat dispensers) are designed to only let one or two pieces of food come out at a time.
They’re available at most pet stores (and on amazon), and they’re easy to fill up, use, wash and reuse the next day. My favorite is the Bob A Lot because it’s pretty heavy duty and the hole is adjustable. You simply fill it up with your dogs meal, hand it over to them and encourage to engage with it. As they roll it around the food will start to spill out.
It takes my dog about 10 minutes to finish her dinner out of the Bob A Lot, compared to the 30 seconds it would take if I just put it in her bowl. It’s an easy way to slow down her eating, and the best part is she really enjoys it. As soon as I pick it up she starts dancing around and getting excited.
When it comes to picking a treat dispenser for your dog there’s a few things to keep in mind. Is the toy you’re looking at going to be tough enough for your dog? Some toys (especially the ball shaped ones) are made of soft plastic that probably won’t hold up very well if your dog is a big chewer. Will your dog’s food fit through the hole, or is it adjustable? Is it easy to wash and/or dishwasher safe? If you answered yes to all three of those you’ve found a good one.
Buy or Make a Slow Feeder Bowl
There’s a lot of dogs that eat fast, and if you had any doubt about how common it is check out just how many different slow feeder bowls there are on amazon. They come in so many shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common — they’re designed with ridges inside to make it hard for your dog to gulp down their food.
If you’re looking for a quick and low effort way to help slow down your dogs eating a slow feeder bowl can help. You fill it with your dog’s food just as you’d normally do, and the bowl itself does all the work. The raised ridges act as obstructions, and they help slow down your dog’s eating.
When choosing a slow feeder bowl for your dog it’s important to remember that some are a lot more complex than others. Depending on how fast your dog eats, and how good they are at solving puzzles you might want to opt for a more complex one. A bowl with just 3 solid raised ridges in the middle won’t slow down your dog nearly as much as one with a more complex maze design.
If you want a pretty easy DIY option try feeding your dog out of a muffin tin. Spreading their food out between each muffin “hole” should slow down their eating. If it doesn’t slow them down enough you can make it a bit more challenging by adding some tennis balls on top.
Turn Mealtime into Game or Training Time
If you have a few extra minutes during your dog’s mealtime one of the best ways to slow down their eating is to turn it into a game or training session. You just measure out your dog’s meal as normal, and set it aside for the game or training session of your choice.
One of my dog’s favorite food related games is a nose work game called “find the treats.” While my dog is in a stay position I’ll go around the house and hide pieces of her food. (if your dog is new to this game start with “easy” hiding spots that are in plain sight) Once they’re all hidden I’ll tell her to go “find the treats” and encourage her as she finds each one. It’s mentally stimulating for her, and it prevents her from being able to gobble up her food in one gulp.
Using your dog’s food as a reward in training sessions is another way to help slow down their eating. You can work on some cool new tricks with your dog such as weaving through legs, or just brush up on the basics. Using your dog’s food as a training reward not only helps slow down their eating, it can help boost their confidence, keep them mentally stimulated, and improve their focus.
Is Your Dog a Fast Eater?
Does your dog eat too fast? What methods have you used to slow down their eating?
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