Do you seem to have only just put food down for your beloved pet before the bowl has been licked clean?
- Tricks to Stop Your Dog from Eating Too Fast
- What Causes Dogs To Eat Quickly?
- What Problems Can Be Caused By My Dog Eating Too Quickly?
- Can Quick Eating Cause Other Problems For My Pet?
- How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Too Quickly?
If your dog eats as if food is going out of fashion, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, it’s an all-too-common problem among dog owners.
Many dog lovers wonder why their dog eats so fast, and, more importantly, whether it can cause any problems for their furry friend’s well-being and health in the long run.
Tricks to Stop Your Dog from Eating Too Fast
1. Explore The Wonders of a Snuffle Mat
These cute, fluffy feeding mats are made for your dog’s nose. The idea is simple, you hide treats and/or food under the various bits of fabric, and your dog has to sniff them out.
Using this fun feeder can increase feeding time considerably, and use up a lot of your dog’s energy due to a large amount of mental stimulation is creates. We can happily recommend them for daily use.
Another string to the snuffle mat bow is that it is a fantastic tool for enriching a blind dog’s life.
As with most things, don’t leave dogs unattended when using the mat, as they might start chewing the fabric.
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2. Invest In A Slow Feeder
There are lots of different styles of slow feeders, or dog bowls to slow down eating, available – but they all follow the same concept.
In a way, it’s a puzzle, albeit one which many dogs solve after a couple of tries, and it will increase the feeding time somewhat when compared to a regular food bowl.
Eating fast is not a good idea for humans, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it can have negative effects on dogs too. Choking is a real hazard when your dog is seemingly inhaling food.
For many dogs, primarily large breeds, bloating is a common issue, so a slow rate of eating means there is less chance of ingesting large amounts of air, which in return also improves digestion and potentially reduces gassiness.
Finally, a small point, albeit an important one if you have an early bird kind of dog, that little bit of extra quiet time comes in handy to make yourself a nice cuppa before dealing with your day.
An important thing to note when choosing a slow feeder dog bowl is the size and the shape of your dog’s nose and head, e.g. don’t get a really deep and narrow bowl if you have a brachycephalic dog with a wide head or neither you nor your dog will get any satisfaction from the purchase.
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3. Build a Dog Food Puzzle Box
These can be a lot of fun for both your dog and the owner. It takes a bit of time to prepare – but if you have it, it’s worth doing now and again.
This is a bit like a DIY snuffle mat, with some added benefits and potential for changing the difficulty level. The trick is to make your dog use their brain and cunning to get the food by harnessing their natural foraging skills.
We’ve built these a few times using a large cardboard box. Inside we filled it with spare cardboard, discarded paper wrapping, newspaper, paper towel rolls and other non-toxic, non-choke materials.
Start collecting those toilet paper and kitchen paper rolls, as they are fantastic for this game. We use different methods to distribute the food around the box, most often we drop the food from a height, and we release the dog to the box.
For new arrivals, rescue dogs, nervous dogs, or put simply, dogs who have never done this before, we tend to use large pieces of soft cardboard and place most of the food on top so that it is easy to see and reach. For dogs who are very good at sniffing out the food in the box, we place food inside egg cartons, folded paper rolls, or inside box folds to make it more of a challenge for them.
Finally, we present it to the dog who goes through the box searching out each delicious piece. It’s a great game which keeps them stimulated whilst they eat – and most importantly – they can’t wolf it all down in one go.
The added benefits here are that mental stimulation uses up the dog’s energy, and in return improves general behaviour. You can also add in a couple of noisy items in the box for nervous dogs, however, be careful not to overwhelm your dog or create conflict. With careful management, this is a great tool for desensitising dogs to noisy items.
4. Get a Puzzle Toy Feeder
Toys such as the Kong Wobbler are often used for serving treats and keeping your dog entertained – but they also make excellent feeders for regular use.
Kong has the luxury of being separated into its own category, but most of the products can be described as puzzle feeders.
Nina Ottosson brand is one which dominates the real puzzle category and staying true to the products, it makes it difficult to figure out which one it is that you want for your dog. You really want to take your time to research the puzzles, as there is an increasingly large number of options.
Puzzle feeders are the commercial version of our DIY box at #3, and varying formats require different efforts and use of different senses by the dogs. A really good puzzle feeder will require the use of multiple senses, as well as the paws to reach the desired food.
Depending on your dog, a simple sniffing game will do the trick, whereas a sighthound might prefer a puzzle feeder with moving parts. Make sure you know your dog and their breed traits; this should be the main guide in choosing the perfect puzzle for your dog.
5. Use Feeding Time for Training
This is another technique which combines training with feeding. It’s easily done with dry food, though with a bit of creativity one can use wet or raw food just as successfully (think squeeze tubes, dehydration, ad so on). Training pouches, clickers, special bowls can all be used to help you with the training.
In short, the idea is that you use your dog’s meal instead of additional treats during training, or additional time in the day. We find this works best for counterconditioning (abbreviated as CC), rather than fast-paced trick or obedience training.
With CC, you can control the speed and rate of food delivery, while also allowing you to deliver multiple pieces of food at the same time with minimal stress. This may seem like it would be a tedious option, but dog husbandry is very important, and this is a great use of it.
Using dry food (i.e. kibble) as a reward can work for some dogs, but many see it as too low-value to appreciate it; as long as your dog is happy to take food from you during a training session, you should be good to go.
An example of this exercise would be a session with nail files. Prepare that nail file, a bowl of your dog’s food, and get working. Keep the nail file hidden behind your back, then bring it in front of you at a distance from your dog, and deliver food to your dog with your other hand.
You can deliver food multiple times while the nail file is in view. Hide the nail file behind your back again, and stop delivering food. Repeat this step many times, until you notice your dog specifically looking for a treat as soon as you present the nail file.
The next step would be to bring the file closer to your dogs’ paws, the step after that would be to hold a paw, then hold a paw with file in hand, then perhaps do a single stroke on a nail step, and so on. Break the training into as many little steps as possible, and keep a track on the progress.
This will both slow down the rate of eating dramatically and result in some amazing looking nails for your dog. Make sure you know read about nail care in advance first, so you know what to look for in terms of nails, and your dog’s comfort.
We have some big dogs with us, so the rate is usually 2-4 moves with the nail file, which in return will provide them with a couple of food pieces. For smaller dogs, 15kg or less, a better rate might be 2 nail file moves, resulting in one treat (kibble piece).
Some tools which may be useful when training:
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What Causes Dogs To Eat Quickly?
All behavioural patterns have an origin somewhere, and usually, dogs create the majority of their behaviour patterns from puppyhood.
One commonly seen behaviour is eating food too quickly. There are several reasons why this behaviour could have become engrained in your pet, however, by far, the most commonly seen reason has to be competition.
When dogs live in an environment with other dogs, eating can become a competitive sport. Your pet may have felt that they had to eat quickly if they were going to get any food at all.
This is commonly seen among larger litters of puppies where the biggest and strongest puppies tend to get the lion’s share of the food.
Of course, not every rapid-eating dog grew up in a competitive environment. Some may eat excessively quickly because they feel threatened for some reason.
Others are fast eaters simply because of their genetics. Many breeds of dog are naturally competitive because of their wolf-like tendencies. This translates into their eating behaviour – the more quickly they can finish their food, the more likely they are to survive and the less likely it is that other dogs will steal food from them.
There are possible health reasons too which may suggest why your pet is eating so quickly. Dogs with parasites like worms may eat quickly because their food isn’t being properly digested. Some dogs may have another medical condition such as Cushing’s Disease which can result in your dog getting through their meals at a super-fast rate.
The problem could even be something as simple as the brand of dog food which you’re giving your pet. When dogs don’t get all of the nutrients they require, they eat more quickly as they become more hungry than they should if their nutritional needs were being met. Changing your dog food brand to a more nutritious variety could resolve the issue.
What Problems Can Be Caused By My Dog Eating Too Quickly?
It’s important to recognise that your pet may actually cause themselves health problems if they continue to eat too quickly in the long-term. When your dog eats too fast, they aren’t chewing their food properly or digesting it thoroughly. Also, when they gulp down their food, excess air gets into their body which is unhealthy. It can cause pain or even choking if your pet swallows their food incorrectly.
One serious health problem which can occur due to rapid eating is gastric dilatation-volvulus. Known simply as GDV for short, or in plain English, gastric torsion, it often follows an episode of bloating. This is actually a life-threatening condition which is caused by food and air combining inside your pet. Dogs can go into shock and can even die.
Can Quick Eating Cause Other Problems For My Pet?
Not only can eating too quickly cause health problems for your pet, but it could also cause issues in other areas of their life. If your dog is allowed to eat too quickly, he learns that being greedy can help them to get what they what in life. This may end up playing out across a range of other situations which could cause trouble not only for your dog but for you too. Equally, a greedy dog who has no manners around food is more likely to end up with resource guarding problems, so make sure you help them as soon as possible.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Too Quickly?
Other than the tips suggested – here are some practical advice on how to get your dog to slow down while eating. If your pet eats their food too rapidly, it’s important that you avoid encouraging the behaviour. If their excessive speed is due to competition or survival needs, you should put some lifestyle changes in place so your pet feels less threatened.
Perhaps feeding your dog alone without any other animals nearby may persuade your pet that it’s safe to take their time overeating.
If the problem is due to parasites or a potential health problem, you should take your pet to the vet for a check-up and a diagnosis. Alternatively, if the problem is because the food brand you’re using isn’t nutritious enough for your dog’s needs, changing the variety for a better quality product could resolve the situation.
If you’ve tried all these things at meal time and had no luck in encouraging your pet to eat at a slower rate, you could consider investing in a specially designed food bowl.
This will have either narrow spaces or a maze to contain the food. These make eating a more challenging experience for your dog since they will have to work harder to get their meal. Not only will it keep your four-legged friend busy, it will also naturally slow their eating pace down substantially. Also, they need to move about while they’re eating, and this makes it harder to gulp down the food and swallow excess air. This makes eating a safer experience.
Another possible solution is to change the way in which your dog eats. For example, if they usually have two meals daily, you could switch to several smaller meals instead served at regular intervals during the day. This helps your pet to adjust to eating more slowly since they have less food at each meal.
All dogs are different in their habits, and this includes the way that they eat. However, if your pet gulps their food as if they haven’t eaten for a year, it’s time to look for a solution to the problem so your dog can learn a healthier way to eat.
Whether it’s simply a habit that your pet has developed over time or whether it’s due to a medical problem, swallowing food at the rate of knots is never a safe or healthy way to eat, and finding a way to slow your furry friend down is vital if they are going to live a long and happy life.