In today's episode of Dog Sense, Sarah and I will be discussing a super exciting topic: How to feed your dog!
Feeding your dog is one of the few basic skills you have to learn (yes, it’s not as straightforward as you might think) before bringing your new best friend home.
However, we're not going to be talking about nutrition. We will leave that to the nutritionists.
Instead, we'll be discussing the practical things: how you can feed your dog, what equipment you need, and really, does the type of bowl you use really matter?
As it happens, yes, it does! Not all bowls are made equal (for example, none of my dogs eat in plastic bowls, and it's not because they're fancy dogs).
So, if you want to learn everything about how to properly feed your dog, what type of bowl to use, and when to use food toys, this episode is for you!
All About Bowls
The number one thing you need to know is what kind of bowl you want to use. Yes, not all bowls are created equal.
How many types of bowls are there really, Kathy?
Actually, more than you’d think. There are ceramic bowls, stainless steel bowls, plastic bowls, and everything in between. Now, if this plenitude of bowl choices is giving you a bit of a panic attack, don’t worry, because I’m here to help!
There are many things you need to keep in mind before choosing the perfect bowl. Is the bowl raised? Does it have a non-skid pad on the bottom? Is it the right material?
What you choose depends not only on your personal choices, but also on your dog. For example, my dogs don’t eat from plastic bowls. This is because the chemicals in plastic can turn a dog’s nose pink and they’re easily chewed or scratched, leaving places for bacteria to build up.
So, what do I personally go for? I prefer using stainless steel bowls. They’re sturdy — if your dog knocks it over it won’t break like a ceramic one would —, they’re not coated with chemicals, plus, they’re better for the environment. So, for me, that’s a win!
However, there are times when stainless-steel bowls are not a good idea. If you have a noise sensitive dog, stay away from them. Your best friend could get frightened by the sound of his collar tags hitting the bowl, and you don’t want that to happen.
So, in the case of a nervous dog, opt for ceramic bowls with non-skid pads instead. They make less noise, and they won’t prevent your friend from enjoying his meal!
Or you can use food toys, which brings us to our next section…
What About Food Toys?
So, your dog is in the habit of inhaling his food? Well then, you might want to invest in food toys. They’re a great way to combine feeding and mental exercise, especially if you’re using puzzle toys.
If your dog is too smart for regular food toys, go with frozen ones. That’ll keep your four-legged friend occupied for longer, plus, it’s just super fun for him!
Every morning, my dogs get a frozen puzzle toy. I’ve found that it’s a sure way to get them all happy and tired right at the beginning of the day. It’s a great challenge for them to wake up to, and they’re always super excited when they get to eat and play a fun puzzle game.
Slow Feeders Are Also an Option
Slow feeders are also a great option for dogs that gobble down their food in seconds. Eating too quickly can cause bloat, which is as uncomfortable for dogs as it is for us.
Slow feeders are also helpful if you live in a multi-dog household. You don’t want the fast eaters to finish their food then try to eat from another dog’s bowl. That’s inviting trouble; dogs can get pretty territorial when it comes to their food — I mean, you would do the same if someone tried to eat from your plate —.
Another thing to do in a multi-dog household is teaching your dogs to eat in their crates. They can be a safe space for them, which means they won’t feel the need to finish their food as quickly as possible. And again, this will also help avoid fights around food.
Combining Feeding and Training
Now, another thing you can do that will make feeding time even more exciting is incorporating some training. This is actually my favorite way to feed my dogs, because I get to train them and hand feed them at the same time (which makes for a great bonding experience).
So, let’s say you’re doing your training session in the morning or night, and your dogs are hungry. You can leverage what they want (food) into what you want (results). This doesn’t mean you’re depriving them of food. You’re going to feed them anyway, but the added incentive is a great way to get some training in.
This always makes my dogs really excited about training because they know it will yield food. They’re smart like that!
What if My Dog Is Resource-Guarding?
So, your dog doesn’t want you anywhere near him or his food bowl when he’s eating? First of all, don’t take that personally, he doesn’t hate you, he’s just trying to protect his food. A lot of dogs are like this, and it’s actually a very common issue!
One way to make your dog less reactive is by dropping something of higher value in his bowl when he’s eating. If he’s eating kibble, walk by and drop a piece of chicken or some cheese into his bowl. Try this a few times and your dog is going to start thinking: “Oh my god, I love when she comes by, she always has better stuff!” This is classic conditioning at its best!
You can do this even if your dog isn’t in the habit of resource guarding. This is a preventative measure, and at best, a band-aid. If your dog has real issues with resource guarding, reach out to a professional with experience in this type of behavior.
Knowing how to feed a dog is one of the basic skills you need to learn before welcoming your new best friend home.
But for now, let’s talk about you! What’s your bowl preference? And why? I’d love to know, so let me know in the comments below!