Typically, we humans prefer to take our time eating and savoring the food in front of us. However, dogs usually have an entirely different approach to food. Many dogs tend to gulp down their food in a matter of seconds. While this behavior may be natural to dogs, it can be frustrating and worrying for us owners. So why does this competitive behavior happen, and what can you do to stop it? The following are the reasons your dog may be eating too fast and what you can do about it.
The most obvious reason your dog is eating so fast is that they are hungry. If your dog ate a long while ago, or they are only getting small portions throughout the day, they would be starving and eager for their next meal. As a dog owner, it's important to remember that your dog's nutritional needs depend on various factors, including age, breed, weight, and whether or not they are pregnant or nursing. If you are unsure of the proper feeding schedule for your dog, be sure to talk to your veterinarian to find out how much food they should be eating.
2. Scared of losing their food
If you own multiple dogs in your home, chances are good that one of them is stealing the other dogs' food. As a response, other dogs might start to eat faster, so they don't lose their food to the "thief." This can cause a problem if your dog can’t eat properly, as their appetite may decrease because they are afraid the other dogs will take their food away from them. It's crucial to monitor all your dogs' eating habits to ensure no one is being deprived of food in any way. Consider separating your dogs during feeding time. This could include different rooms or simply opposite sides of a kitchen island.
3. An underlying illiness
Your dog may also have an underlying health condition that could be causing them to eat too quickly. Common causes of rapid eating include parasite infection, diabetes, and Cushing's disease. If your dog has been trained to eat slowly but suddenly started eating fast, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment with your vet to determine if your dog is suffering from any disease.
4. Anxious or stressed
Dogs who are experiencing anxiety or stress also tend to eat quickly. It is a way of coping. This behavior is especially true when dogs are left alone for long periods of time. This includes when they are crated during the day while you're at work. If left untreated, stress and anxiety can lead to more severe behavioral problems in dogs, so it's essential to address the issue as soon as possible.
5. Rewarded for eating quickly
Some dogs have been conditioned to expect rewards when they finish their meals quickly. For example, if a dog is used to receiving a tennis ball when they finish their meal, they will continue this behavior even if you stop giving the ball as a reward. It's vital to break this habit by changing how you reward your dog so that they understand that their food is the reward, not how quickly they can finish it.
How to help your dog eat slowly?
Eating too quickly can be harmful to your dog's health and digestion. This habit can lead to obesity, gastrointestinal upset, and other issues. If the cause of your dog's eating habit is not an illness, there are several ways you can encourage them to eat more slowly.
Use a slow feeder
In fact, get several different slow feeders. Slow feeders feature openings that are too small for a dog to gulp their food through quickly. Instead, they have to take smaller bites, encouraging them to take more time with each bite. These feeders are also designed to help control portion size by limiting the amount of food they can consume at once.
Increase feeding times
One of the simplest ways to slow your dog down when eating is by feeding them more frequently throughout the day. As a rule of thumb, dogs need two meals a day. But for fast eaters, try giving them smaller portions three times a day so they won't be too hungry during mealtimes. For bigger breeds, you may also have to increase portion sizes if more frequent feedings still don't slow them down. If you are not sure how much food your dog needs per day, ask your vet for guidance.
Use your hand.
Another way to slow your dog's eating is to feed them by hand. This will allow you to watch their eating habits and give them a mini massage while eating. Studies have shown that massaging a dog when eating will help them relax and encourage them to eat more slowly.
Use the Zilla® Food Container
Another great option to help your dog slow down when eating is the Zilla Food Container. It is an innovative, hexagon-shaped container made of natural, non-toxic rubber. The Zilla food container is similar to the Kong extreme dog toy. You can fill the Zilla with different food and treats. You can also freeze the filled Zilla container for longer lasting enjoyment. The meals frozen in hard rubber food containers will make them work for their food, thus slowing down their eating. The Zilla food container is also designed to fit BarkerFun Treat Clinchers and Zilla Clamp. This allows you to keep any mess in one place.
For fast eaters, consider putting their entire meal into several Zilla food containers. A Zila food container turns their meals into enrichment. Since your dogs will now have to work a little harder for their food, the process will use their brain and tire them out.
A win-win to slow down fast eaters and include enrichment at the same time.