Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.
Q: Professor Boo, our puppy’s been with us for two weeks now and the speed at which she eats is starting to get out of control. She’s a breed that’s prone to bloat so we purchased a stand for her bowl, but is there any way we can slow her eating? We tried putting half of her food in her bowl at first and then the second half later but she just wolfs it down just as fast no matter how much we give her. Help!
A: For as much as the super-speed eating your puppy is doing seems like a problem, it’s actually something of a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, it is a problem because swallowed air can lead to bloat and gastric torsion which can be huge medical emergencies. On the other hand, though, your puppy is telling us that she’s extremely food-motivated – which will make training her as she grows up just that much easier.
There’s a two-word answer to this problem: Puzzle Toys.
By putting some or all of your puppy’s kibble into the puzzle toy and giving it to her you’ll not only slow down her rate of eating but you’ll also be providing her significant amounts of cognitive stimulation as she’ll have to figure out (and work at) getting her food out of the toy.
We’ve been using the Twist ‘n Treat, Atomic Treat Ball, and Tricky Treat Ball at home for our goofy black Lab, Porthos, since just about since we brought him home as a pup. Along with being diabetic he’s also a compulsive speed eater and the Atomic Treat Ball and Tricky Treat Ball have worked like charms to keep him busy for long enough to allow his brothers to finish eating so he doesn’t try to surf their bowls as well.
In addition to puzzle toys, a good way to slow down the speed of your puppy’s eating is to set aside a portion of her kibble and use it as training treats. She’ll not only eat as slowly as you’d like by your setting the pace of the training session, but you’ll also get a head start on using solid positive reinforcement training techniques to help her become a great dog.