Slowing Down A Fast Eater – Ditch the Bowl!
by Ashley Sweeney
The way to a dog’s heart is often through their belly! Some dogs take it a bit further by eating like they have never tasted food before. Scarfing down meals can actually lead to scary health problems for your pup because dogs when they gulp their food, they are also taking in air with each bite. The most obvious danger is choking, but the air and food mixed together in the stomach can cause vomitting.
Taking in too much food and air can also cause Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (aka “bloat”), which may lead to a medical emergency if the stomach twists and ruptures. Bloat is especially dangerous for large chested breeds like Great Danes, Weimaraners, and Boxers.
So how can you bring your dog’s eating speed from NASCAR to Flintstone? Try ditching the bowl!
The biggest benefit of ditching the bowl is that you can use mealtime to strengthen your bond with your pup. It sounds like a lot of work and you’re probably wondering how it all might fit in your everyday routine.
Here are a few ways you can fit non-bowl feeding into your life:
Daily Food Allowance for Training
Take whatever measurement of food your dog receives daily and use it for games and training instead of treats. The benefit here is that you become a walking food dispenser! That alone will motivate your dog to pay more attention to you. Seize the opportunity by teaching commands or tricks that you have been wanting to teach your pup. Take the food on your walks and use it to reward behaviors you want to reinforce, like loose-leash walking.
Play With Their Food
Making mealtime a game is a great way to build confidence in your dog. It is also an excellent way to make a seemingly mundane task like mealtime fun! Games can be as simple as sliding food across the floor to make your dog chase it, or hiding pieces around the house for them to sniff out. Once your pup has mastered this, up the ante by tossing kibble in the grass or making the hiding spots more challenging to find.
This game is so easy to prepare and is excellent for dogs of any age! It is especially rewarding for senior dogs who need a low-energy, low-impact puzzle to keep them stimulated. Take a standard towel and begin to make accordion folds. Place pieces of kibble between each fold and let your dog enjoy.
The bonus here is the mental stimulation of seeking and then finding, which all dogs will love. As with any activity, you want to balance the level of difficulty to what your dog can handle. If they are having trouble solving this activity, set them up for success by making some pieces easier to see or closer to the opening of the towel.
Need the bowl? Try a Slow-feeder!
Not everyone has time to spend playing games at every meal. Slow-feeder bowls come in a variety of difficulties to match your pup’s ability (let’s face it, not every dog is an Einstein). The built-in nooks and crannies make your dog work a little harder to get their kibble out. This naturally slows down their eating, and making mealtime a slight challenge also provides mental stimulation to your pup. If the bowl alone isn’t slowing them down enough, get creative! Try adding pumpkin or a small amount of wet food and then freezing.
Dogs are individuals so it is important to try a few of these things and see which fits best into both of your lifestyles. Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. These simple changes can create wonderful bonding opportunities by presenting new challenges for them to solve. Fulfilled dogs are much less likely to get themselves into trouble by being naughty. So, try it and let us know what your dog liked best!