Animals with a big appetites may be subject to behavioural disorders when it comes to eating.
This might be a result of competing with other animals they live with, the hurry to finish their food, maybe the expectation that more food might be on its way, or simply the primeval survival instinct; typical behaviour linked to latent pack “memories”.
Despite the passage of time and countless generations (dogs have high reproduction rates), such behaviour has remained deeply ingrained in some breeds.
What are the associated risks for a dog that eats too quickly?
A dog that swallows its food after having only chewed it quickly and not thoroughly, pushes a large amount of air into the stomach causing digestive disorders.
This might even be accompanied by occasional vomiting and gastric dilation, which in some breeds may lead to a twisted stomach and bloating.
Getting your dog used to not eating quickly
It is not easy to change the habits of a lifetime of an adult dog.
One of the first things to do is to calm the dog down before filling its bowl, by using a quiet soothing tone. Waiting for the dog to calm down before allowing it the sight of food avoids exciting it before eating.
The choice of food type can sometimes help, too. Choosing the right-sized kibble can help slow the dog down, for example.
There are also special so-called slow feeder bowls for ‘over-zealous’ dogs that help slow down food intake by encouraging the dog to chew. These bowls are equipped with grooves, ridges and obstructions at the bottom of the bowl that force the dog to eat more slowly and thoroughly.
If it turns out to be really difficult to get the dog to slow down, it is always worth trying to divide the daily ration into two or three meals. This is especially advisable in large dogs susceptible to stomach twisting.
Finally, two things not to do. Avoid removing the bowl while the dog is eating, or appearing rushed and impatient. It is also best to leave the dog alone during the meal. Also remember to take into account whether the dog belonged to a pack in the past (e.g. if it comes from kennels or breeding centre) as these animals tend to be fast feeders because of the competition over food. They are animals that have experienced the pressure of having other animals around them and may fall back on this kind of behaviour during their new life in the house.