Tips & Tricks

10 Tips to Stop Your Dog From Eating Too Fast

a dog eating on a bowl

Does your pup gobble down their food so fast that it makes your head spin? While it may seem amusing to watch your dog inhale a bowl of kibble in mere seconds, eating too quickly can actually be dangerous for their health.

In this post, we’ll explore why some dogs are prone to speed eating, the potential risks involved, and most importantly – 10 practical tips you can use to help slow down your furry friend at mealtime.

Let’s dive in!

Why Do Some Dogs Eat So Fast?

There are a few common reasons why your pup might be gulping down their food:

1. Behavioral History

Dogs that have had to compete for food, such as those from large litters or less-than-ideal previous homes, often learn to eat quickly out of necessity. If food has been scarce, they may have a lingering fear of not knowing where their next meal will come from.

young walking dog outside walk

2. Instinct

In the wild, dogs are hardwired to eat their food as fast as possible to avoid having it stolen by another animal. Many dogs retain this instinct, even when they are in the safety of a loving home.

3. Boredom or Anxiety

Just like some humans, certain dogs may use food as a way to soothe themselves when feeling stressed or under-stimulated. Gulping down food can become a comforting habit.

large dog depression

The Dangers of Speed Eating

Watching your dog race through their food bowl might seem harmless enough, but eating too quickly can actually pose some serious health risks:

– Choking or gagging on large, unchewed pieces of food

– Vomiting from eating too much too fast  

– Inhaling excessive air while eating, leading to bloating

– A potentially life-threatening condition called gastric dilation-volvulus (GVD)

high angle owner petting dog

GVD occurs when the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow to vital organs. If you notice symptoms like drooling, pacing, labored breathing, or a visibly distended stomach, it’s incredibly important to get your dog to a vet immediately, as emergency surgery may be required.

So, what can you do to help your speed eater slow down and stay safe?

Try out these 10 simple tips:

1. Invest in a Slow Feeder Bowl

These cleverly designed bowls feature built-in mazes and obstacles that make it impossible for your dog to take huge mouthfuls of food at once. They’re forced to use their tongue to navigate the nooks and crannies, significantly slowing down their eating pace. Be sure to choose the right size for your pup so the maze is appropriately challenging.


2. Make Mealtime a Puzzle

Interactive food puzzle toys are an excellent way to slow down your dog’s eating while providing mental stimulation. These toys come in various designs, each requiring your pup to paw, nudge, or nose the toy to release small portions of kibble.


To use, simply fill the toy with your dog’s dry food. As they play with the puzzle, they’ll be rewarded with tasty morsels, encouraging them to continue working for their meal. This slower, more engaging eating process reduces the risk of bloat and digestive issues.


Puzzle toys are particularly beneficial for dogs prone to anxiety or boredom, as the mental focus required helps redirect their energy and promote relaxation. In addition, these toys can assist in weight management by extending mealtime and providing satisfaction with smaller portion sizes.


3. Try a Lick Mat

Lick mats are an innovative tool designed to slow down your dog’s eating while providing a fun and engaging mealtime experience. These silicone mats generally feature a textured surface with various patterns of ridges, bumps, and grooves that encourage your pup to lap up their food rather than gulp it down in large mouthfuls.


To use a lick mat, simply spread a soft, spreadable food across the surface, pressing it into the crevices. Wet dog food, canned pumpkin puree, mashed sweet potato, yogurt, and xylitol-free peanut butter all work wonderfully. The key is to choose a food that’s soft enough to smear into the mat’s nooks and crannies, creating a more challenging and time-consuming eating experience.

As your dog licks and nibbles at the food, they’ll need to use their tongue to navigate the mat’s unique texture, which naturally slows down their eating pace. The repetitive licking action not only extends mealtime duration but also provides a soothing, stress-reducing activity for anxious or high-energy dogs.

When introducing a lick mat, start with a thin layer of food to help your dog get the hang of it. As they become more proficient, you can increase the amount of food and experiment with different textures and flavors to keep mealtime interesting. Always supervise your dog while they’re using the lick mat and wash it thoroughly between uses to prevent bacterial growth.

4. Hide Kibble in a Snuffle Mat

Snuffle mats tap into your dog’s primal instincts, transforming mealtime into a stimulating treasure hunt. These mats feature a rubber base adorned with soft fabric strips or folds, creating a maze-like structure perfect for hiding kibble or treats. To slow down your dog’s eating, sprinkle their kibble throughout the fabric, some easily accessible and others cleverly concealed for a rewarding challenge.

dog snuffle mat

The enticing scent of hidden food triggers your dog’s natural foraging drive. Unlike a standard food bowl, the snuffle mat’s design requires effort. Your dog must use their nose and problem-solving skills to navigate the fabric maze and unearth each hidden kibble piece, significantly slowing down their eating pace.

This isn’t just about portion control; snuffle mats provide excellent mental stimulation. The act of searching, sniffing, and strategizing to find the food engages their mind and keeps them occupied, preventing boredom and potentially destructive behaviors in dogs who crave cognitive challenges.  

cute mixed breed dog playing with washable snuffle rug hiding dried treats nose work intelle

5. Add Water to Their Food Bowl

Looking for a quick fix? Pour a small amount of water (about 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch) into your dog’s bowl after adding their kibble. The water causes the food to float and slosh around, preventing your pup from taking large mouthfuls.

As a bonus, the water will soften the kibble, making it easier to chew – perfect for eager puppies or senior dogs with dental issues.

closeup shot white terrier eating from his plate

6. Hand Feed in Small Portions

While a bit messy and time consuming, hand feeding your dog is a foolproof way to control their eating pace. Offer tiny handfuls of kibble at a time, waiting for them to chew and swallow each morsel before giving more.

As an alternative, use their daily kibble as rewards during walks or training sessions, doling it out piece by piece.

girl feeding her dog treat

7. Spread Food on a Baking Sheet

Don’t have a slow feeder? No problem! Spread your dog’s kibble in a single layer on a baking sheet. This wide, flat surface forces them to search for individual kibble pieces, naturally slowing down their eating pace.

For extra engagement, create a scattered trail of kibble or use a yoga mat for an impromptu scavenger hunt.

dog licking mat in peace

8. Divide Meals into Smaller, Frequent Portions

If your schedule allows, consider splitting your dog’s daily food allowance into 3-4 smaller meals rather than 1-2 large ones. Smaller portions mean less food to gulp down, reducing the risk of bloat and GVD.

Stick to a consistent mealtime routine so your pup learns to trust that food will always be provided, easing any lingering resource-guarding fears.

close up adorable pet eating 1

9. Feed in a Separate Space

In multi-dog households, mealtime can feel like a competitive sport. If one of your pups feels threatened by the others, they may resort to eating as quickly as possible to avoid missing out.

To curb this behavior, feed each dog in a separate room (or at least in opposite corners) to remove the sense of rivalry. This allows them to relax and eat at a normal pace without fear of their food being stolen.

beautiful couple spend time bedroom

10. Prioritize Enrichment & Exercise

Dogs who eat too quickly may be bored or under-stimulated. Make sure your pup is getting plenty of physical exercise through daily walks, play sessions, and mentally engaging activities like puzzle toys, hide-and-seek, and obedience training. A tired, content dog is less likely to use food as a coping mechanism.

pretty woman training a dog

Final Words

Finding the right slow-feeding method for your dog may require some experimentation, but with patience and consistency, you’ll discover the perfect fit for your furry friend.

Don’t hesitate to try various techniques, such as puzzle toys, lick mats, or hand feeding, to see what resonates with your dog’s unique preferences.

close up happy woman patting her dog garden

Through trial and error and positive reinforcement, you’ll help them develop safer, more enjoyable eating habits that promote better digestion, mental stimulation, and overall well-being.


About Zelda D.Nelson

As a lifelong dog lover and proud mom to two energetic rescue pups, I know firsthand how important puzzle toys are for providing dogs with much-needed mental and physical stimulation. After over a decade of experience raising well-adjusted, happy dogs, I joined the Loobani Pet team to help other pet parents discover the joy and benefits of dog puzzles. Through my work at Loobani Pet, I've become an expert on the ins and outs of various interactive dog toys. My goal is to simplify the selection process so you can easily pinpoint the perfect puzzles to match your pup's needs and lifestyle. Whether you need a toy to challenge your brainy breed, keep your power chewer occupied, or simply provide some rainy day fun, I've got you covered.