5 ways to stop your dog eating too fast

17 May 2021 - 4 min read

This article was written for the United States market and the advice provided may not be accurate for those in the United Kingdom.

Dog eating a carrot

If your dog gobbles down kibble like they’re training for a speed-eating competition, it may be time to switch up your feeding strategy. Read on to find out the potential dangers of your dog eating too fast and some ways to slow them down.

What happens when dogs eat too fast?

Dogs eating too fast can result in symptoms such as vomiting, gagging and inhaling excessive air, which leads to bloat. Sometimes this can progress to a potentially life-threatening condition called gastric dilation-volvulus, or GVD

GVD causes the stomach to twist, cutting off blood supply to vital organs. If you notice GVD symptoms, which include drooling, pacing, shortness of breath and a distended stomach, it’s time to seek immediate veterinary attention.

Why do dogs eat so fast?

A dog’s behavioural history can sometimes affect their eating habits. Dogs that have had to compete for food, including newborn puppies in large litters that had to wait their turn for milk, often gobble their food quickly. And if your pup originally came from a less-than-happy home, take note: speed eating is common among dogs that aren’t fed on a regular schedule or don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Dog with carrot in mouth

How to stop dogs and puppies from eating so fast

Speed eating can be a hard habit to break, but there are strategies that can help. Try one of these five techniques to help slow down your dog’s eating:

Dog with special bowl

1. Buy a special bowl for your dog

Special dog food bowls to slow eating feature nooks, crannies and maze-like structures embedded into the design that make it impossible for your dog to inhale large portions of food all at once. 

Slow-feeder bowls come in different designs and sizes for different-sized dogs. A bowl with smaller nooks and crannies might not do much to slow down a large breed dog, so be sure to purchase the right size slow-feeder bowl for your dog.

2. Try food puzzle toys

Food puzzle toys are interactive feeders that require dogs to push levers, open doors and shift pieces to access small amounts of their food. 

This can be a big help in slowing down your dog’s eating, while also providing essential mental stimulation. These toys are also often recommended to help occupy dogs with separation anxiety when you leave the house, as well as for dogs who are overweight.

Dog getting treat

3. Hand feed your dog

Offering your dog smaller amounts of food to eat out of your hands will help slow down your dog’s eating.

Of course, hand-feeding is slower and messier than slow food bowls or puzzle toys – and it’ll take a lot less time to hand feed a little Toy Poodle than a 10 kg Labrador. But if you have the time, it’s a great way to slow their eating, while bonding in the process.

You can also feed your pup their kibble as a training reward while you take them for a walk.

4. Place your dog’s food in a muffin tray or baking sheet

Spreading your dog’s food out across a sheet of baking paper or putting small bits of kibble in each compartment of a muffin tin — basically a DIY version of a puzzle feeder — also forces a dog that eats too fast to slow down.

By spreading the food out over a bigger surface area, dogs can’t pick up such big scoops at a time. Instead they have to eat a few pieces at a time and they take in less with each bite.

Dog with timed feeder

5. Make portions smaller and more frequent

Feeding your dog smaller portion sizes at more regular intervals can reduce the amount of air they take in with each gulp. Although they may still eat quickly, it minimises the risk of bloating and GDV.

To make sure you’re getting the portion sizes right, it’s always best to get out the scales. While scoops are quick and easy, nothing is more accurate than weighing your pet’s meals. 

Combined with this, feeding your dog on a consistent schedule and separating them from other animals in the house at meal time can also help. By embedding a consistent routine, your dog may gradually begin to trust that regular meals will be provided. 

When should I visit a vet about my dog eating too fast?

If you do see symptoms of bloat — a swollen belly, shortness of breath, and excessive drooling or pacing — you should call your veterinarian or get your pup to an emergency clinic right away. A dog with acute GDV needs swift treatment, and may even need emergency surgery.

Sudden or uncharacteristic changes in eating habits could also point to a health problem. If your pup goes from delicate eater to speed eater overnight (or vice versa), you should give your vet a call.

Jodi Helmer is a freelance journalist who writes about pets, food, gardening, farming, the environment, and sustainable living. Jodi's work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Hemispheres, Civil Eats, National Geographic Traveler, and more.