Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
How to Slow Down a Dog That's Eating Too Fast
Learn what causes your dog to want to gulp down his food, what health disorder he may be predisposed to and ways you can finally put an end to this frustrating bad habit.
Why Is My Dog Eating so Fast?
The reasons for a dog eating too fast may be several. First of all, it is a good idea to look a bit back into the dog's ancestry. The dog, ''canis lupus familiaris'', as the name implies, derives from the wolf. If you ever watched a pack of wolves eat, you get the idea where the term ''wolfing down fast'' derives from.
Jim and Jamie Dutcher in their wonderful book ''Wolves at Our Door'' explain how they were able to witness wolves eating. The wolves after killing their prey, gorged themselves with food, sometimes even consuming as much as 30 pounds of meat at a time!
Of course, dogs are not wolves. Indeed, there are many differences between wolves and dogs. However, dogs may retain some ancestral behaviors and one of them is the "feasting instinct," as described below. Not all dogs are this way, but many dogs will "inhale" their meals in seconds.
1. A Matter of Instinct
In the wild, wolves do not get to eat every day, because prey is not always readily available. This means often that they get to eat every 3 to 4 days, therefore when they do eat, they are hungry and as opportunistic beings, they are eager to gulp down as much they can.
Then, the following days are spent lounging and digesting the enormous meal. Now, domestic dogs eat every day, often twice a day, but they still appear to have retained this habit of wanting to gulp down things fast perhaps abiding to their theory ''you never know when your next meal may be.''
2. A Matter of Competition
If you have a multi-dog home, very likely your dog gulps down their food fast to prevent the other dog from having the opportunity to have access to the food. So, the safest way to protect their food is to keep it in the belly!
This behavior is intensified the closer the dogs are within each other when eating. This is why it is best to keep them out of reach from one another.
3. A History of Starvation
Some dogs, especially those rescued with an unknown history, may devour their food. These dogs may have had a history of starvation and being malnourished, and like the wolves, may have a need to finish the food fast in fear of starvation.
Some of these dogs may be so eager to eat that they are also possessive over the food and will growl if anybody approaches .
4 Problems Caused by Eating Too Fast
Dogs eating fast comes with its sets problems. This is another reason why, if your dog is eating very fast, you have to do something about it. Following are some medical conditions or problems that may arise due to eating too fast.
If you own a large, deep chested dog, then you should be concerned about bloat since this condition prefers dogs of this type. Smaller dogs however can also be affected at times.
Bloat may arise when a dog swallows too much air causing the stomach to swell up and put pressure on other organs and even twist upon itself causing its blood flow to be cut off. Bloat can be quickly deadly and requires emergency treatment.
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If a dog eats too much too fast, the stomach many not be able to keep up and to avoid the workload, may send everything back up within a few minutes. If a dog brings food back up before being digested, the dog is actually regurgitating therefore unlike in vomiting, pieces of kibble can be seen, and the food brought up is often of a tubular slimy shape due to having been in the esophagus.
A regurgitating dog also does not have stomach contractions, but rather the food comes up easily with the dog remaining passive and not appearing anxious.
Obviously a dog that eats too fast will likely choke if it is not careful. This is something you want to prevent as choking can be life threatening if the dog is unable to cough the food particle back to its right path.
4. Teeth Problems
One of the biggest advantages of feeding kibble to dogs is that its shape and texture helps keep the teeth clean and its scraping action may help remove some plaque located near the top of a dog’s teeth. Of course, this isn't a substitute for regular teeth brushing in dogs.
If the dog swallows the most of its food, this scraping action will not exist, causing tartar and plaque to accumulate in all areas of the teeth.
How To Stop Dogs From Eating Too Fast
Stopping a dog from eating too fast has never been simpler. Following are several tips that you can implement right away.
1. Keep Distance Among Dogs
If you own multiple dogs, you best bet is to find a distance in which they feel more comfortable. This should be far enough that both dogs do not appear to tense up and are able to ignore each other. If you are in doubt, simply put them in the farthest opposite sides of your home.
2. Invest in Slow-Feeding Bowls
To stop fast eating all together, try the special food bowls on the market made to solve the problem once and for all. These bowls are shaped in such a way that prohibit the dog from eating too fast.
If dogs will want to eat with these bowls, it will have to be slow. If your dog will try to move the bowl around invest in one with a rubbery base that prevents it from sliding and moving around.
3. Use Food Puzzles
One of the best ways to slow down dogs who eat fast is offering food puzzles. You can for example feed your dog's meals in a Kong Wobbler. I love to provide this toy to all my doggy guests coming over for boarding and training so to keep the dogs mentally stimulated and happy. Other options are Buster Cubes or an IQZoo.
4. Organize Treasure Hunts
Another fun way to keep your dog's mind busy while also slowing down his eating, is organizing fun treasure hunts. Simply ask your dog to hold a sit/stay or a down/stay, or have a helper hold him, while you hide his kibble around the house or in the yard. Then release him and send him on a fun treasure hunt!
5. Try a Licki-Mat
If your dog is fed raw or canned food, you may find a Licki-Mat helpful. A Lick-Mat helps promote slower eating, reduce bloating and gulping. You can use it to spread on top canned food or raw meats, but also other goodies such as yogurt, peanut butter and spreadable treats.
6. Engage with Snuffle Mats
Snuffle mats are simply special mats that allow dogs to find dry kibble that you've strategically hidden. They offer another form of engagement/enrichment while also slowing your dog down. There are many different models of snuffle mats on the market nowadays.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 31, 2021:
Many feel that it's better to feed dogs on scheduled feedings rather than leaving food out all the time (free-feeding). This because you can easily monitor their food intake and dogs appear to digest better in scheduled feedings rather than all in one setting.
Using the muffin tin or a slow bowl or any of the other ways to stop a dog from eating too fast mentioned in this article should help her slow down.
Christy Pitty Mom on February 07, 2019:
So we just adopted a 12 week old pitty. We have an existing pitty mix and had to put down our 16 year old pitty mix. Both the other pits we had/have, we were able to leave the bowl out and they grazed when they wanted too. (Neither were/are overweight). Now this new puppy inhales her food. I put her food either in a muffin tin or spread it out. She gets plenty of food and is fed 3-4 times a day. How do I get her to slow down??? That divider bowl will NOT help.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 09, 2017:
Meryl, how about feeding your dog using a Kong Wobbler?
Meryle on December 01, 2017:
I have a slow bowl and she still eating too fast l also tried a bowl with a huge rock in it it worked fine but now she knows how to move it quick so now she is eating fast ☹️
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 30, 2012:
Yes, eating fast does not help your dog's teeth. Also, look for some good dental chews to help scrape away tartar, best wishes!.
Lorna on October 30, 2012:
I just acquired a 2 yr old dog with vacuum syndrome...no wonder the vet said her teeth weren't so good for her age....no cleaning from the food...!
Love the fact that there is a special bowl - another example of Keep It Simple.....! Thanks for this....hopefully save me $$ for teeth cleaning.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 01, 2012:
Bukarella, happy you do not have this problem! My male was a sort of Hoover vacuum when he was younger. Happy you liked the picture, that's my Petra~!
Lyudmyla Hoffman from United States on June 30, 2012:
Okay, this is not a problem with our dog, but I had to stop by and comment on the picture - I love it!
mybabytia1 on March 03, 2011:
Wow my dog also eats very fast. I never knew it was cause for concern. Thanx for the hub now I know he needs to slow down. He hasn't had any of the problems you listed but better be safe than sorry again thanx for sharing!!!
DogToys from England on March 02, 2011:
Ha ha! my dogs eat so quick.
GetSmart on March 02, 2011:
I have the pacer balls - same concept only the ball isn't attached so you can put it in any bowl. These work great and those prices on amazon are much lower than at the pet stores.
Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on February 24, 2011:
Very informative. I did not know they have these types of bowls. Thanks
lindatymensky on February 19, 2011:
Very useful hub! Next time I'm at the pet store I'm going to look for one of these bowls that slow a dog down when gulping food. I need one. I didn't know they existed.
Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on February 18, 2011:
Flag up and "useful!"
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on February 18, 2011:
wow! these are so common yet I see solutions nowhere but you always have it. I remember my st bernard moving the bowl around when she ate & she did scarf down the food. I actually think she wanted to eat fast so she could get the other dogs food. we soon moved his bowl into another fenced off location so he can eat in peace. But then it seemed odd, as he'd leave some food for her to get once he's done.
Perpeptua on February 18, 2011:
Stop them from eating fast food? Why, what's the matter with burgers?
Peter Owen from West Hempstead, NY on February 18, 2011:
these actually do work. I use the bowl with the big metal ball in it. doees't slow the dog down from trying to eat fast, but does limit how much he can get in with each bite
SUSIE DUZY from Delray Beach, Florida on February 18, 2011:
Thanks for the tips. I try to get my dog to eat slower too.