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[UPDATED MAY 2020]
When it’s mealtime for your dog, you place your dog’s food bowl down and by the time you turn around your dog has already scarfed down his entire bowl of food. Chances are this sounds familiar to you, and you have probably been asking yourself why do dogs eat fast?
Most dogs are fast eaters and will eat their food in record time unless of course, they happen to not like what’s on the menu. Many dogs go through life gulping down their food without issue, but they are really flirting with danger.
Fast eating dogs put themselves at risk of vomiting, choking, or gagging on food that was not properly chewed. A more serious condition that could result from a dog eating too fast is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus also known as bloat.
The rapid eating and gulping results in excessive amounts of air being swallowed and the stomach expands with food and air. The stomach can then twist and even rupture. Bloat is a life-threatening condition that can cause your dog to go into shock and die quickly.
Having a fast eater at home may be unsightly to you, but it can also be potentially life-threatening to your dog.
The good news is that there are ways you can slow down your fast-eating dog. We’ll discuss them below. But first, let’s look at the reasons why dogs eat fast.
6 Reasons Why Your Dog Is A Speed Eater
1. Competition Among Littermates
Puppies who are in a litter will compete with each other and fight for food. The alpha puppy will push the other puppies out of the way to get food, and the weakest puppy struggles to get the nutrients he needs. Competing to get enough food before it is all gone is a behaviour that can carry on into adulthood.
2. Competing With Other Animals In The Household
If you have more than one dog in the household, your dog may feel like he has to eat his food quickly out of fear that the other dog will steal his food. Your dog could also be eating fast because he wants to rush over to eat the other dog’s food.
3. Your Dog Is Motivated By Food
Certain breeds are more food motivated than others, and just love to eat anything and everything. Labs and Golden Retrievers are two of those breeds.
4. Your Dog Is Hungry
If you feed your dog only once a day, chances are he is anxiously waiting for his food and is super hungry. Feeding your dog once a day is a long period for your dog to wait for food.
The food you are feeding could also be lacking adequate nutrition that your dog needs, and causing your dog to feel hungry.
5. Anxiety or Fear
Your dog may be gulping down his food because he is anxious or feeling fearful. Many dogs don’t know when their next meal is, and they feel the need to eat their food now and eat it fast, out of fear of starvation.
Dogs who have been rescued may have this feeling of fear and need to eat fast. Rescue dogs with an unknown history may devour their food because they could have a history of starvation and be malnourished.
6. Underlying Medical Conditions
There are certain diseases and conditions that can cause an increased appetite, and can cause your dog to eat too fast, such as Cushing’s Disease, diabetes, and intestinal parasites.
Parasites in your dog’s body feed on the essential nutrients your dog needs and cause your dog to feel hungry.
Certain medications like steroids will cause your dog to feel hungry and ravenous all the time, causing him to devour his food.
10 Easy Ways To Slow Down A Speed Eater
The first thing you will want to do is visit your vet to rule out any medical reasons behind it. Fast eating is very common, and the following are some easy ways that you can slow down your dog’s eating.
1. Give Your Dog Some Space
If your dog is competing for food with another dog in the household, try feeding them separately. Give each dog their own space. You could feed each dog in a different room, or even put food in a crate, this will help your dog feel less stressed, and more at ease to peacefully enjoy his food.
2. Feed Smaller Meals Throughout The Day
Instead of feeding your dog only one meal a day, split up his food into 2 or 3 smaller meals throughout the day. This will help to keep your dog feeling less hungry and he will be more satisfied. Make sure to feed at regular times every day in order to create a sense of food security for your dog.
3. Feed Proper Nutritious Food
Make sure to feed your dog high quality and nutritious food. Avoid any dog food that has cheap fillers and additives, that will leave your dog feeling hungry and unsatisfied. Don’t be fooled by the labels on the food, saying the food is complete and balanced. You actually have to read the ingredients and make sure meat is the first ingredient.
4. Get A Slow Feeder Bowl
Changing your dog’s bowl to a slow feeder bowl is one of the most effective and easiest ways to slow your fast-eating dog down. There are many slow feeding bowls available, and they are all designed to do the same thing, slow your dog down and make him work for his food.
Instead of being a regular bowl that has a smooth interior, a slow feeding bowl has several ridges and looks like a maze. Some are more complex than others and depending on how fast your dog eats, you may want to opt for a more complex one. A bowl with just 3 ridges in the center won’t slow your dog down as much as one that has more maze-like ridges.
I like the Outward Hound Fun Feeder. It comes in 3 sizes and 5 different styles to choose from. This slow feeding bowl is dishwasher safe, and great for dry, wet, or raw food. The bowl is BPA, PVC and Phthalate free.
5. Put An Obstacle In The Way
If you have a regular food bowl, you can place a tennis ball in the center of the bowl and put the food around it. This way your dog will have to work his way around the ball to get the food. Just make sure that the ball is clean and large enough so that your dog cannot swallow it.
6. Use A Puzzle Feeder or Treat Release Toy
Using a puzzle feeder or a treat-dispensing toy for mealtime is a great way to stimulate your dog’s mind. He will have to use his brain to figure out how to get the food out of the toy.
Both puzzle feeders and treat dispensing toys engage your dog’s natural instincts, to hunt for food. Instead of your dog’s mealtime lasting 30 seconds, it will last a lot longer.
There are many options to choose from, and you can choose toys that match your dog’s skill level and type of play.
I like the PetSafe Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble because you can feed your dog his entire meal with it. Your dog will have fun rolling this ball trying to get the food out. You can make it easy for your dog by filling the ball with smaller kibble or treats, then increase the level of difficulty by placing larger treats or kibble inside.
The Petek Interactive IQ Slow Feeder Training Puzzle is another great option for those dogs who want to test their smarts. Just fill the wheel with kibble or treats, and your dog will have to paw at it or bump his nose at the wheel to make it turn, dispensing the food into the puzzle bowl underneath.
This food dispenser can be height adjusted, making it great for small or medium-sized dogs. It features a non-slip bottom and is made from non-toxic materials.
7. Use A Muffin Tin Or Cookie Sheet
Using a muffin tin or a cookie sheet to feed your dog, are simple ways to slow down a fast eater. By portioning your dog’s food into several muffin cups, your dog will have to go from cup to cup eating his food.
Spreading food onto a cookie sheet will make it harder for your dog to gulp his food. Especially if you feed kibble, your dog will be forced to take tiny bites, and do a lot of licking.
8. Hand Feed Your Dog
If you have the time and patience for hand feeding, you can give it a try. By hand feeding your dog, you will be in charge of how much food your dog eats at once. Just be prepared for messy fingers.
Hand feeding is a great bonding experience, and it encourages polite behaviour. You want to make sure to feed your dog small amounts of food from your hand, letting him chew thoroughly before you offer the next handful.
By only offering your dog food when he is sitting politely, not barking, whining or pawing at your hand, your dog will learn that good behaviour will get him the reward.
9. Incorporate Training Into Mealtime
To slow down a fast eater, why not use mealtime as a time to teach your dog some new tricks, or sharpen your dog’s obedience skills. Instead of simply putting a bowl of food down for your dog, reward your dog with bites of food after he has completed what you ask. Not only will this prevent your dog from gulping his food, but his brain will be stimulated, and his body will be moving.
10. Get A Snuffle Mat
Step up your dog’s eating with a snuffle mat. A snuffle mat is basically a cloth dinner mat, made from long strips of fabric tied to a backing. This mat is designed to resemble long grass and encourages your dog to sniff and forage for food. Just like your dog would have to do in the wild.
This mat is only intended for dry food or treats, and not for wet or raw food. Instead of feeding your dog his food in a bowl, you simply scatter the food into the snuffle mat. Your dog will have to do some nose work sniffing out every piece of food, and it will take him a few minutes rather than a few seconds.
I like the PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat. It is perfect for all breeds and sizes of dogs, and it is machine washable. The manufacturer also offers a 100% money-back guarantee, in case your dog doesn’t like it.
Why Do Dogs Eat Fast? Final Thoughts
If your dog eats his meal within seconds of you putting it in front of him, then you will certainly want to slow him down. As we have learned, fast eating is not just unsightly, but it can pose a real danger to your dog.
You want your dog to slow down and actually taste his food, rather than gulping it and being at risk for choking, gagging or more worrisome bloat.
Any of the ideas mentioned above are great ways to slow your dog’s fast eating. Every dog is different and you can try a few of the suggestions to see which one works best for your dog.
Is your dog a fast eater? What are some ways that you slow your dog down? Let me know in the comments below.