Purchasing a slow feeder bowl is the best way to get your dog to chew their food. Most dogs inhale their food because they’re eating too fast. When you slow down their eating pace (by using a slow feeder), they’ll be more likely to chew their food.
Some dogs inhale their food quicker than you’re able to pour it into their bowl. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to get a dog to slow down and actually chew food.
Depending on the dog’s motivation for eating so quickly, it’s usually pretty easy to slow down the eating process.
Getting a Dog to Slow Down and Chew Food
Make Mealtime More Relaxing
Canines are pack animals, so they’re conditioned to devour food before another pack member gets to it.
If your dog eats fast, he probably learned this behavior as a puppy when there was a lot of competition for food.
If you have more than one dog, try feeding them in separate rooms so they don’t feel like their food may be stolen at any moment.
Buy a Slow Feeder Bowl
A slow feeder bowl is a food bowl with multiple small compartments in which the dog must work to retrieve each bite of food.
This greatly slows down the eating process because the dog won’t have access to large mouthfuls at a time.
Make Your Own Slow Feeder Bowl
If you don’t want to spend the money on a slow feeder bowl, you can make your own. Take a small kitchen bowl and turn it upside down in your dog’s food bowl before adding food.
Like store-bought slow feeders, this will slow the dog down as he works to get around the kitchen bowl to get to the food.
Placing balls or other toys on top of the food can also work, as long as they’re big enough to not be a choking hazard.
Other Kitchen Items
Feeding your dog from a muffin tin or baking sheet is another way to reduce eating speed. Having to take food from multiple muffin compartments will prevent quick eating.
Something with a flat and shallow surface (such as a baking sheet) will make it harder for your dog to get a massive amount of food in one bite when compared to a deep bowl.
Switch to a Plastic Bowl
The noise and reflection of metal bowls scare some dogs, so they may eat quickly to get it over with as soon as possible.
Switching to a plastic bowl can solve this problem since plastic makes less noise when struck and is non-reflective.
Wet the Food
Switching from dry dog food to wet, or mixing wet food or water with dry dog food will often make a dog more likely to chew the food.
This is an especially good tactic to use with older dogs, who sometimes don’t chew dry food due to dental issues. Wetting the food softens it and can make it easier on their teeth.
Feed Smaller Meals
A dog can only eat as much as he’s given, so feeding two or three smaller meals per day instead of one large meal reduces the amount of food a dog can eat at one time.
More frequent feedings can reduce some of his food anxiety since he knows he won’t have to wait 24 hours until the next meal.
Food puzzles are toys that contain dog food, and the dog has to interact with the toy for small amounts of food to be dispensed.
This is an especially great option for dogs that are left alone for long periods, as the mental stimulation helps ease boredom.
Automatic food dispensers release small amounts of food throughout the day, at the times you schedule.
As with many of the examples listed above, limiting the dog’s access to all the food at once will reduce food anxiety.
Dangers of Eating Too Quickly
Because dogs are designed to eat large chunks of food quickly, their throats are bigger than ours and stretch quite a bit to accommodate large pieces.
Some people assume that unless a dog has digestive issues caused by eating too quickly without chewing, it’s not an issue. However, there are a few dangers associated with eating too fast.
A dog that eats quickly out of stress has the potential to become food aggressive, not only around other dogs, but around humans as well.
Keep an eye out for any behavior that indicates the dog doesn’t feel secure about his food source.
Although dogs have larger throats than humans, choking is still possible when they eat too much too quickly.
This is especially true if the dog is fed something other than kibble, such as large pieces of meat or steak bones.
If a dog eats too quickly, the stomach can fill with air, causing the stomach to twist, resulting in shock and even death. Large breeds are particularly susceptible to this condition.
Things to Look Out For If a Dog Eats Too Fast
As described above, eating quickly is a natural instinct for most dogs. However, if a dog recently developed the habit of eating quickly (meaning they never displayed this behavior in the past), something more might be going on.
Behavior Change or Weight Loss
If a dog exhibits behavior indicating extreme hunger even though nothing has changed regarding food amount or feeding schedule, the dog may have a health issue like parasites, Cushing’s disease, or diabetes mellitus.
If the dog seems hungrier than usual and has lost weight, schedule a checkup with your vet to make sure everything’s okay.
If your dog isn’t eating exceptionally fast, but seems to avoid chewing because of pain, schedule a checkup with your vet right away. Dogs of all ages can have dental issues, making chewing painful, so the dog eats without chewing.
What about Water?
Food isn’t the only thing a dog might consume too quickly. Just like eating too fast, drinking a large amount of water in a short amount of time can lead to something as minor as occasionally throwing up, or as deadly as stomach bloat.
Like overeating food, there may be underlying health issues such as diabetes or hormonal issues, which cause the dog to feel excessively thirsty.
If a dog is drinking more water than usual or can never seem to get enough, schedule a checkup with your vet to make sure there’s no medical reason for it.
Dehydration can also cause a dog to drink too much at once, so make sure he always has access to fresh water. Remind them to drink throughout the day. Many dogs get too caught up in everyday distractions and forget to drink.
Fortunately, limiting the amount of water that a dog drinks at once is just as easy as slowing down his eating. Using slow drinker bowls or placing large objects on top of the water will force him to slow down. Floating ice cubes in the water bowl also works, but they have to be replaced frequently, of course.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.