Monday, March 28, 2016

3 great ideas for dogs that eat too damn fast

Pug looking longingly at food
Is your dog a gobbler? If you live with a pug, I'm sure you know just what I am talking about. Dogs that really love their food simply cannot wait to get all of it inside of their mouths. They open wide, and they inhale. That can cause all sorts of problems, especially for small dogs. A fast gobble could cause a dog to choke, and all of the air a dog pulls in while gobbling could cause vomiting.

You can't make a dog love food a little less. But, there are things you can do in order to make your dog slow down a little while eating. These are three things I've tried.

1. Use dog training before meals. 

My dogs gobble faster when they're in a sped-up mood. And they can get sped up when they're watching me pull their meals together. They know the good stuff is headed their way, and they can't wait to get started on it. If I didn't intervene, they'd take all that anticipation and frenzy and apply it to the meals.

Training can help a ton here. I ask my dogs to sit nicely while I am preparing their meals, and I make them sit until they calm down. That means no moving, no trembling, no barking and no scrambling. When they are still and focused, then I give the release word and they start eating.

Pug and Boston terrier waiting to eat

Yes, that means these dogs have to hold their horses for a long time before they eat their meals. But it does keep them from choking.

2. Use a big bowl.

Traditional dog trainers would have you believe that smaller bowls make for slower eating. They reason that a tiny bowl is hard for a dog to work with, and that means the dog will need to eat slowly and maneuver carefully to get all of the food out.

Unfortunately, stress tends to cause even faster eating. My dogs get so worked up when they can't actually get to the food that they will paw at the bowls repeatedly, until all of the food falls all over the floor. And the noise of the bowl falling and the food spilling makes the dogs even more frantic.

A larger bowl allows them to eat the food without feeling stressed about it. And that might help them to eat a little slower.

Liam the pug eating his food

3. Break up dog feeding times. 

Fast-eating dogs are sometimes driven by hunger. They gobble because they just can't believe how long it's been since you handed out food the last time. Feeding them more frequently can help. And sometimes, that means feeding dogs more than twice per day.

My two eat when the humans eat, and that means they eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have the benefit of working from home, so I can manage that. But I do think it makes for a better and less stressful mealtime for them.

One thing I didn't mention: Puzzle bowls. I've never used them, as most are made of plastic. My two can't handle plastic. But if any of you have used them for feeding and you've found them helpful, I'd love to hear from you! Drop me a note in the comments.

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