Go Speed Eater, Go!

The dangers of speed eating in dogs and the best ways to get them to slow down their eating using positive reinforcement training methods.


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.

[dropcap]Q[/dropcap]:  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!

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]:  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.

Boo appetit!


A little D.A.P.’ll do ‘ya.

Using D.A.P. can really help in addressing common, low-level behavior issues in dogs – especially when used with positive reinforcement.

It comes up frequently during my behavioral consultations and I’ve mentioned it before here on the blog, but I can’t say enough good things about D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone).

I won’t say that it’s the Holy Grail of resolving commonplace behavior problems but it’s no sippy cup, either.

Natural appeasing pheromones are produced by lactating females shortly after birthing a litter and give the young puppies a feeling of well-being and security when they’re near mom.

D.A.P. works by mimicking those natural pheromones and helps to give adult dogs a similar sense of calm and relaxation to what they would have felt as nursing puppies.

Many clinical trials of D.A.P. both in home and shelter situations have shown that it can help as a relaxing treatment when used in conjunction with positive reinforcement desensitizing and counter-conditioning (DS/CC).  My own anecdotal experience in the field has shown the same.

It really can help and – best of all – doesn’t have any of the negative side effects seen in many anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals such as deinhibition and others.

Additionally, D.A.P. can be used in concert with many psycho-pharmaceuticals (but please double-check with your veterinary behaviorist first.)

Keep in mind that D.A.P.’s effects are not dramatic and most folks know it’s working when the collar expires and the anxious behaviors return or the diffuser runs out and they wonder why the dog is pacing again – then they check the diffuser and experience a “D’oh!” moment.  It is designed to simply take the edge off gently and inconspicuously.  This allows us to better do our DS/CC work with your dog.

We can simply stop without the step-downs necessary with many anti-anxiety medications.

If your dog is a re-homed dog new to your home this can help them settle in faster.  If your dog is not fully comfortable with everyone in their home this can help them be a bit more at ease.  And, if it doesn’t work for your dog we can simply stop without the step-downs necessary with many anti-anxiety medications.

For our part, at home we plug in the D.A.P. diffuser.  Porthos is a pretty anxious dog and when he’s stressed it affects his diabetes so it is just a precaution to keep him on an even keel.

D.A.P.’s not meant to address out-of-control anxiety issues and like psycho-pharmaceuticals it needs to be used in conjunction with behavior modification.  So, if you’ve got a dog that exhibits low-level, occasional fears and anxiety related issues you might want to give a D.A.P. diffuser or D.A.P. collar more than just a look while you are contacting a behavioral professional.