If your dog chows down his meals within a minute, this is the place for you! We care about dogs eating fast for health and behavioral reasons. If we eat fast as humans, we typically do not enjoy the meal and may feel uncomfortable afterwards. Furthermore, we usually eat fast because we are distracted or stressed. (This is the time to picture me eating dinner while my four year old tries to run away from the table and my one year old is crying at my leg to be picked up. Oh, I am eating fast!). We want to pay attention to a dog eating quickly so we can make changes that allow them to enjoy the meal, consume the nutrients they get from kibble, and minimize stress related to mealtime.
When a dog eats quickly, they are consuming air when eating. The air makes it hard for them to digest their food properly and is uncomfortable in their stomach. You might even see that food come right back up in a big pile; that is called regurgitation. Always consult your vet, but in my experience regurgitation isn't a major health concern, however, it is a signal to you to pay attention to their speed of consumption.
It's always a little easier to notice what happens after your dog eats fast such as throwing up or searching for more food, but you may also get cues before they eat too. You might see them nipping, nudging or barking at you; and you do not want to reinforce those behaviors (or others) when you give them the food while they are excited.
Dogs are tricky huh?! Let's continue by thinking about why they are eating fast. Reasons why your dog might be eating fast:
- They are hungry: Consult with the food guidelines and your veterinarian to ensure you are feeding them the correct amount.
- They have always eaten fast: Puppies are raised sharing and fighting for food from birth. There is an innate need to eat before the food is gone.
- They are stressed: They may be stressed you are going to take their food away or stressed to be separated from you. Maybe you added another dog to the mix and they are stressed the other dog will take the food away.
At this point, you may feel validated that your dog is eating fast, you notice your dog shares some of the behaviors mentioned above, and you have an idea of why they are eating fast. So let's slow them down. We want to slow them down to minimize stress, allow them to enjoy their food and keep their calorie intake as accurate as possible. The ideas below have the added benefit of increasing engagement and making mealtime fun.
If they are willing and motivated to work for their kibble, why not make them work?! I would definitely recommend using their meal or half their meal as training. Replace a treat with a few pieces of kibble.
Snuffling for their food slows them down and engages them mentally. Sniffing is a natural dog activity and when we provide an environment to behave as they naturally would, we build their confidence.
The treat dispensing toy allows your dog to problem solve while enjoying their meal. Again, this is mentally stimulating and a great addition to your dog's day, while also forcing them to eat a few kibbles at a time.
4. Throw the Food in Your Yard
If you have trained with me, you may notice that I throw my treats on the ground. No, I am not lazy (well, sometimes I am!), I am encouraging the dog to have even more fun training by searching and getting his own treat. It's thrilling, rewarding and fun for them to get their own food; and it is more time consuming for them to search for their food instead of eat it out of the bowl.
Note about two dogs: If you have two dogs in your household that are eating fast, my first recommendation is to create a new routine for food. This new routine should allow each dog to eat slowly. Separation is typically required to minimize the stress of the other dog.
You see a common theme here, your dog working for his food. They don't need us to give them their food in a bowl, we do that for them. If they are eating fast, no matter what the reason, we really want to slow them down for their health, prevent unwanted behaviors, and minimize stress in their day. Let's turn mealtime into fun and stimulating!
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