Dog Eating Habits: Slow Down Eating
Does your dog only take a few seconds to finish their food? Eating fast may seem like one of the normal dog eating habits, but eating too fast can cause problems. Here's our advice on how to get your dog to slow down and savor their meals.
Is your dog food-motivated? Can you bribe them into doing most anything with the promise of a treat? Do they gobble every meal like their life depends on it?
Dogs who scarf their kibble are at risk for choking, regurgitating their food, and the dangerous condition known as bloat. Luckily there are some methods to help slow dog eating habits and even correct these habits over time.
If your dog needs to slow down during meals, read on to see what you can do to help combat this risky behaviour.
Slow Feeder Bowls
Some dog bowls are designed to eliminate the "smorgasbord" effect that allows a dog to inhale a pile of food heaped into their bowl. These devices typically feature dividers or a large obstacle within the bowl that a dog's mouth will have to maneuver around.
While you can certainly put a large rock or overturned bowl inside of your current dog bowl to mimic this effect, some dogs are smart enough to remove these obstacles in order to get to their food more easily.
Instead, try a slow feeder like the Slow Eating Dog Bowl. This feeder has a labyrinth-style design which causes dogs to have to slow down in order to forage through each channel of food. It is made of dog-safe ABS plastic and features a non-slip grip for better stability.
A slow feeder bowl is an inexpensive option that doesn't require expensive accessories and lengthy retraining of your dog. Most animals become immediately accustomed to this type of bowl with little issue.
Food puzzles are devices that typically have only a small space for food to come out of. As a dog interacts with these toys, kibble comes out in intervals which prevents Fido from taking large mouthfuls of food. These puzzles dispense food only as your dog moves them around, so be prepared for dinner time to spread all over the house.
These feeder toys are mentally stimulating to dogs since it causes them to have to work for their food. They also have the added benefit of increasing a dog's play time.
Varieties do exist for wet foods as well, where you stuff the toy full of food and allow the dog to work it out of the toy with their tongue. These toys need frequent cleaning, as food bits can remain lodged inside and spoil over time.
The Muffin Pan Method
If you already have baking sheets or tins around the house, this method is one you can try today! As long as you don't mind sharing your kitchenware with the family dog, that is.
Dispense little scoops of kibble into the bottoms of muffin pan cups and place it where the dog's dish usually goes. Spreading small amounts of food over a large space prevents your dog from being able to eat it in big mouthfuls. The dog will have to use their snout and tongue to get at the bits of food within the cups, which can slow eating time considerably.
One potential downfall of this method is that dogs with big paws can tip over an unstable pan and send the food flying everywhere. If this happens to you, consider using a flat cookie sheet and spreading the food out all over the sheet instead to similar effect.
Hand Feeding During Mealtimes
If your dog is not possessive during meals, you may want to try hand feeding them. This is the most time consuming method, but does allow you to have tight control over feeding time.
You can use regular food to reinforce obedience training and build a bond with your pet. Some dogs really enjoy hand feeding, but others may not take to this method. Hand feeding does require you to be present through the entire meal, but can be worth is so you can closely monitor your dog's feeding habits.
Hide and Seek Food Games
For owners who don't have time to sit through pet meals, or don't want to touch their dog's food, hand feeding is not an ideal solution. Instead, you may want to distribute food in small piles around the deck or yard and allow your dog to play hide-and-seek with their food. This spreads out the feeding time and appeals to their natural desire to hunt and track.
Placing the food in small quantities in a variety of locations means dogs have more time to digest their food as they go. This may also be more satisfying for dogs, so they don't beg for more food after mealtime is through. Just make sure that your pet finds all of the hidden food caches, so it isn't left out for pest animals.
Correcting Dog Eating Habits Your Way
The best method to help correct dog eating habits is the one that fits best with your dog's personality and your family's lifestyle. If you're looking for something that requires little change, a slow feeder bowl is a great choice. If you want to use mealtimes to help with dog training, perhaps try the hand feeding method instead.
It may take a few tries to determine the best solution for your pet eating problems. Don't get discouraged if the first attempt isn't the one for your pup. You might try mixing a few methods into your dog's feeding routine to keep them engaged and stimulated during different meals.
For more advice and pet parenting tips, visit our blog at Pet's Finest today.