by Stacy Braslau-Schneck
Does your dog eat too fast, acting like a vacuum cleaner at mealtimes? There are a number of reasons why some dogs act like every meal is their last, but you can work to control the behavior.
Channeling His Inner Wolf
Our dogs are descended from opportunists -- carnivores that hunted or scavenged when the opportunity became available. It's said that with modern wolves, only 1 in 10 attempts at hunting prey is successful.
A wolf or feral dog is often very hungry when it finally gets a chance to feed, and it might need to feed quickly before another bigger carnivore comes by to take its food.
Many modern dogs still carry this instinctive need to wolf down their food as quickly as possible. Dogs that eat too fast might also have the behavior ingrained in them at an early age if they had to compete with several littermates for access to their mom for nursing, or if they had to share a single food bowl when they were weaned.
Ensure Your Dog's Diet Is Healthy
The first step is to make sure your dog is getting proper nutrition. Talk to your vet or a canine nutritionist. Some dogs eat ravenously because they're lacking something from their diet. Dogs that eat too fast can possibly develop bloat, but they are even more likely to become overweight because their obvious enthusiasm for food and their sadness when it's gone lead their owners to give them more! If your dog has a hearty appetite and is overweight, you'll need to consider other feeding options.
Scrapping the Bowl Prevents Your Dog From Eating too Fast
Feeding dogs a meal in a bowl can be necessary. Most dogs don't have enough mental stimulation in their day, so you can use your dog's food to provide some entertainment in the following ways:
As a training reward:
Many dogs benefit from additional training; you can use your dog's daily allotment of food as a training reward. This way, each piece comes as a reward for a particular behavior, strengthening that behavior as well as slowing down a dog that eats too fast. You'll build your relationship and make yourself more important in your dog's eyes, as well as more obedient to commands. Obviously, this is a dog trainer's preference!
In a treat-dispensing toy:
For a less time-intensive alternative, put the food in various treat-dispensing toys. These are usually hard-sided toys that open up so you can easily pour dry kibble inside. The dog has to manipulate the toy to get the treats out through a smaller hole. Some examples include the Kibble Nibble, KONG Wobbler, Roll-A-Treat, Buster Food Cube, Hi.Q., Tug-a-Jug, TreatStik and Tricky Treat Ball. These toys only let out a few treats at a time, and your dog has to work for them.
As a treasure hunt:
For an incredibly cheap and easy alternative, simply scatter all of your dog's food in the grass outside before you leave, like you're feeding chickens. This will cause him to spend time searching for each piece, and he won't really know when the last piece is gone, so your dog won't have an opportunity to eat too fast because he'll spend quite a bit of time searching. In my experience, once dogs figure out what their owners have done, they seem to really enjoy the challenge of the treasure hunt (though they may still look at their food bowl as if expecting more there too). For wet food, try the classic KONG toy and its many similar imitations. For a greater challenge, stuff the toys beforehand and freeze them!
In a slow-feeder bowl:
You can also divide your dog's food into numerous bowls, block some of the food with a heavy ball, or buy a slow-feeder bowl with raised bumps or obtrusions in the dish. You can find slow-feed bowls both online and at big chain pet stores.
For your dog's physical and mental safety, consider changing to one or more of these methods to get your wolfing dog to slow down!
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Pets | Dogs: Does Your Dog Eat Too Fast?