It’s dinner time.
You put down the food bowl, brimming with kibble. Turning your head for a second, you hear sounds of a dog gulping. When you look back- the food is gone faster than the world’s best magic trick.
How do you get your dog to chew food instead of inhaling it? Luckily, this is a simple problem to solve.
If your dog eats too fast, the logical way to slow him down is to make it harder for him to eat. You can do this by using slow feeder bowls, placing an obstacle in his existing food bowl, or by not using a bowl at all!
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If you want a simple and effective solution, I suggest using this Outward Hound Fun Feeder bowl.
I bought it myself for my dog Maximus and it works very well. With his previous normal bowl, he would finish his food in under 20 seconds.
With this bowl, it now takes him around 2-3 minutes to eat dinner. That’s still fast, but it’s a 400-500% increase in time taken! I highly recommend it.
Why Won’t My Dog Chew Its Food?
Nature of the Beast
The first thing to understand is that dogs are not designed to chew and savor their food like humans do, by nature or by biology.
Dogs are pack animals at heart and even though they are now our pets, they still retain those instincts from their ancestors. In the wilderness, their best bet of survival was to eat any food they found as quickly as possible and then move onto the next location and food source.
They had to maximize their eating speed even within their own packs, as food that was lying around would likely be quickly devoured by others.
From a biomechanical standpoint, dogs’ mouths and throats are made to stretch while eating in order to swallow many pieces of food as quickly as possible.
Unlike humans, who have square, flat teeth meant for grinding, dog teeth are sharp and curved. This allows them to be masters of grabbing, ripping and tearing food- but not of chewing.
Applying this to the Home
Environment can be a big factor in determining just how quickly a dog scarfs down its food.
For example, if your dog is easily frightened by noise or the presence of people nearby, that could prompt it to eat as quickly as it can without chewing at all.
Similarly, if you have several dogs at home, this may activate their innate pack mentality and trigger the fear that they will have to fight for food. This behavior could also have been ingrained from birth as the dog had to compete with littermates for their mother’s milk.
Nutritional deficiency can also play a role in how fast your dog swallows its food. A dog could just be feeling extra hungry if their food does not provide them with adequate nutrition.
Some underlying medical conditions can also cause a dog to eat more rapidly. One possibility is the presence of parasites or worms inside the body of your dog. These negatively affect the dog’s ability to absorb certain nutrients from food. Diseases such as diabetes or Cushing’s Disease cause increased hunger, which in turn leads to the dog eating faster.
Is It Bad If My Dog Doesn’t Chew When Eating?
Swallowing food without chewing can definitely be a hazard for your dog.
A dog that eats too fast can even be a danger for your household. This is because the scarcity mentality which causes it to gulp down food can turn it aggressive towards anyone nearby it thinks is a competitor.
The most common problem that dogs face when they swallow their food whole is that it tends to come back up. This is because whole chunks of food are hard to digest and cause the dog to feel unwell. The result is an upset stomach and a regurgitated meal.
Choking is an ever present concern when dogs swallow foods that aren’t meant to be swallowed. Eating too quickly can cause a dog to gag, and any obstruction to the airway is dangerous.
Finally, the most dangerous issue is a medical condition called gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). GDV is most common in larger breeds of dogs, which coincidentally are also usually the fastest eaters.
GDV occurs when the dog eats so fast that he gulps in an excessive amount of air, food, and fluid. The stomach then expands, and as it expands it twists around its axis. This cuts off the pathway from the stomach to the intestines, stopping anything from getting through. GDV can result quickly in death, and needs to be treated as soon as it is suspected.
How Do I Get My Dog To Eat Slower?
Though it might be in their nature to swallow food whole, it is very beneficial to slow your dog down when they are eating. Here are 5 easy methods you can try:
Use a Slow Feeder Bowl
Slow feeder or puzzle bowls are bowls which have raised walls or barriers within the inner area. These slow dogs down significantly when they are eating, and in my own experience they work very well.
Just check out how long my dog Max takes eating (a test meal) out of his Outward Hound Fun Feeder bowl:
Another way to avoid the issues caused by eating too much, too quickly is to spread smaller meals out throughout the day. This may be more difficult to implement if you have to work away from home during the day. However, technology such as this Smart Feeder can allow you to remotely control portion size and meal times all from your phone.
Place an Obstacle into your Dog’s Existing Bowl
This is how you make a slow feeder bowl: Simply put a smaller bowl upside down into the larger bowl- and there you have it!
You can also quite easily place any medium-sized, non-sharp object into your dog’s food bowl to make it more difficult for it to eat. Now, instead of being able to gulp kibble with reckless abandon, it has to deal with an object constantly blocking his way.
The obstacle itself can range from anything like a tennis ball to a smooth rock. As long as your dog can’t hurt itself pushing against the object, it should be fine. The only concern is hygiene, as whatever you put in there will likely become soiled quite quickly. If that’s a big concern, use something like this Portion Pacer Ball which is stainless steel and dishwasher safe.
Don’t use a bowl at all
By not using a bowl at all, you can turn meal time into playtime all while significantly slowing down eating speed.
Toys like the Bob-A-Lot only dispense a few pieces of kibble at any one time, while the Nina Ottoson Puzzle Game provides mental stimulation while your dog eats. Hiding food in a snuffle mat or even a blanket taps into a dog’s natural foraging instincts and provides a long-lasting challenge.
Switch up your Dog’s Food
If your dog is used to eating only dry food, try switching it onto wet food. Wet food, or dry food moistened with water, helps a dog to slow down and chew.
Even if you stick with dry food, changing to larger kibbles will prevent him from swallowing too many pieces at once. There are also kibbles such as these from Royal Canin with holes in the middle designed to get stuck on a dog’s teeth. This forces them to chew their food rather than simply gulping it down.
Whatever you choose to do, ensure that there is only a single layer of food in the bowl. This makes it harder for your dog to eat a lot all at once.
Make Sure the Environment is Safe and Calm
There are a few simple things you can do to help your dog feel safer while eating:
- Keep any high-energy kids or boisterous activity far away
- Change a metal food bowl with a ceramic or plastic one to reduce noise
- Place the bowl at head-height so it is easier for the dog to access
- If you have several dogs, make sure that they are sufficiently spaced out. If any are particularly aggressive eaters, you can even feed each dog individually.
While it may be nerve-wracking to see your dog swallowing food whole without chewing, this is actually a natural behaviour passed down countless millennia. What you can do to help is to slow down the rate at which it eats.
This can be achieved through various means such as changing their food bowl (or not using one at all), providing a calm environment, or changing their food altogether. By implementing the methods above, you will be well on your way to a big increase in eating duration and a healthier, happier dog.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.