In this article we are going to look at the issue of greedy Labradors, and offer some advice on how to slow down your dog’s eating.
The Labradors we know and love are often very greedy dogs. Not only do they sit and gaze lovingly at any potential food source. Once they get within reach of a good meal, it is devoured in a heartbeat. There are reasons why this might not be such a great idea
The pleasure of eating
Eating is one of life’s great pleasures. Most Labradors I am sure would agree with this.
It seems a shame therefore that this daily or twice daily pleasure should be confined to the ten seconds it takes for your dog to suck up his dinner and swallow it Wouldn’t it be nice if you could spread out the pleasure of eating so that it occupied a larger part of your dog’s day?
Many Labradors manage to convince their owners that their love of fast food is in fact a sign that they are in the last throes of starvation. This results in extra rations that simply make the dog fat. Slowing down the rate at which overweight dogs eat is often an important factor in a successful weight loss program. But even more importantly eating speed is also a factor in whether or not your dog will succumb to bloat.
Bloat is a serious illness that involves the dilation and sometimes rotation of the stomach. This rotation cuts off the circulation and can be fatal. It has been linked, in some studies, with rapid eating. So although bloat is not particularly common, it is well worth persuading your dog to eat a little more slowly.
You can find out more about bloat in this article: Bloat in Labradors, what are the risks?
The best way to slow down the speed with which your dog consumes his dinner, is with a simple mechanical solution. You can put his food in a container that makes it difficult for him to eat more than one or two small pieces of food at a time. This may seem mean, but it actually prolongs the enjoyment of the dog’s meal. There are a number of ‘devices’ designed to slow down the rate at which your dog consumes his dinner.
One way is with so called ‘treat dispensers’. Despite the name, there is no reason why you should not use a treat dispenser as a ‘dinner dispenser! One of the best we have found is the kong wobbler*.
Don’t’ forget, that unlike kongs and other chew toys, treat dispensers are not designed to withstand a concerted attack from your dog. They are not suitable to be used as chew toys and your dog should not be left unsupervised with one.
Slow feed bowls
You can also buy purpose built slow feed bowls or feeding plates including our favourite, the interactive feeder from company of animals. They slow down your dog’s eating by making the food impossible to wolf down in big mouthfuls. Check out the video
You can buy the interactive feeder here: Buy Interactive Feeder*.
Slow down your dog’s eating – summary
If your dog is a rapid eater, or overweight, it is well worth trying to slow down the speed at which he eats. Slow feed devices do work, so it is a good idea to have a look at them and decide which one would best suit your dog.
Do you have a favourite slow feeder? If so, do share in the comments box below, and let us know why you think yours is the best.
More information on Labradors
You can find out more about how to keep your Labrador as fit and healthy as possible in the Health section of our website. If you’d like all of our best Labrador information together in one place, then get your copy of The Labrador Handbook today. The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects owning a Labrador, through daily care, to health and training at each stage of their life. The Labrador Handbook is available* worldwide.
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
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We have a large outdoor decking area and scatter our dogs kibble across the length of it which slows him down as he has to sniff around to find it all. We sometimes also mix his kibble with a bit of yoghurt or peanut butter and stuff it in a kong or spread over one of the slow feeding bowls and freeze for a few hours, this slows him down a lot (up to half an hour on a good day!) – great for hot summer days.
My four month old lab bolts his food unless we take measures to stop him. Initially we used a slow feed bowl, which was reasonably good, but on Pippa’s recommendation (in this article: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/the-kong-wobbler-is-it-a-good-labrador-toy/) I bought a Kong Wobbler. What a brilliant thing it is! Not only does it slow down the rate at which he eats his food, it also provides a fun challenge for our little pup. Seriously one of the best puppy-related purchases so far.
I put a small glass dish in the center of her bowl and this works
I bought the green slow feeder from the Company of Animals, for fern, my 19 month old. For the first few weeks it worked superbly, until she discovered if she grabbed hold of it and let it drop, all the kibble would spill onto the floor. I am now looking for something she cannot tip up.
I have two labs and one of them has been eating extremely fast. Sometimes she would even throw up afterwards. My quick solution was to put a nice sized heavy rock in her bowl with her food. This made her slow down enough so she didn’t throw up after.
My lab, acquired when he was 7 weeks old would devour his food in seconds. I think this was because all dogs in the litter ate out of a single bowl. Anyway, to slow down his eating, I spread his kibble on the patio, making him eat one piece at a time. After several weeks, when in a hurry, I poured his food in his bowl and he just sat there. He wouldn’t eat until I said OK. Two years later, he still waits until I say OK, then he eats slowly from the bowl. I have no idea if this works for other dogs but would love to have someone else try it and give feedback.
My six month old Lab Ernie ate so fast that he’d throw up. One site online recommended using a cupcake/muffin pan for his food. It’s worked perfectly, it’s really heavy duty and durable, and cheaper than the slow feeder bowls online. And his nickname is Sharknado! Plastic would not be practical at my house.
Is there a solution for fast eating when a lab is fed fresh meat? Do the slow bowls work with fresh meat? Or are they only for dry food?
Hi Norman, You can chop up fresh meat and feed it in a slow feeding bowl, but you might find it easier simply to divide your Lab’s dinner into more frequent, smaller sized meals.
I have two large breed dogs. One is a 10 year old Black Lab and the other is a rambunctious 2 year old Labraweimar (1/2 Labrador and 1/2 Weimaraner). My older dog used to eat fast and sometimes cough or choke and even throw up a few pieces after she inhaled 2 cups of chow in less than 25 seconds. We were told to do two things to help her digestion:
1. Raise her food bowl. Food is meant to go down the esophagus.
It makes perfect sense… A Labrador”s shoulder height ranges from around 10-18″ off the ground and their mouth is another 3-6″ above that.
Quick exercise as visual example:
Hold your arm in front of you with it and your hand straight up and down. Now tip just your wrist and hand toward the ground while leaving your arm upright. Pretty awkward, right?
Keeping the arm/hand exercise above in mind, replace that image with that of your pup’s esophagus. When their food is on the ground, their mouth tips completely down toward the floor. This can mean moving the level of their mouth, which is typically 3-6″ above their shoulder height, downward an average of 13″-24″ just to eat. When this happens, the dog’s esophagus is being given the shape of an upside down “U” and forcing the food to be pushed up and to,round the bend of the “U” shape before it can take its intended pathway of DOWN the esophagus. I won’t go into how an esophagus works, etc. But just keep this picture in mind and think about trying to swallow while lying with your head handing upside down. Its a bit more difficult. The dogs also swallow more air with bending over too far for their food, etc…
So Number One Feeding Recommendation for Large Breed Dog: RAISE THEIR FOOD (& WATER) BOWL. A food bowl that is 18″ off the ground isn’t necessary. But a good 4-8″ will ease digestion which begins in the mouth when food mixes with saliva.
SLOW DOWN EATING TIME
The article is correct. What it doesn’t mention is that you don’t have to spend money to do this. You can simply place some objects in their food bowl that your dog will have to work around to get their food.
A few good ideas:
Soup Can – try a small couple of short / skinny cans or one large one or a any combination of sizes (depending on what whether or not what you have on hand works to slow down eating, you may consider trying a few variations of this to get your dog where he or she is eating and tasting their meal).
Throw one, two of even several tennis balls on top of their food. This an wasn’t an option when Regan, my 10 year old lab, was a puppy and to this day still wouldn’t work for her. A “ball” of any kind is her most favorite thing ever. I’m afraid her brain would short out if she had to choose between one of several tennis balls and food, as those are her two most favorite things in life! It’s best for puppies that can make a game out of pushing the balls around to uncover more food, this getting double enjoyment from feeding time!
What other ideas/items have you tried? Do you have a better idea of what else one could add as a no cost, in home item?
Good luck and keep those precious pups happy and healthy!
my 2.5 labrador , golden, has a lovely nature
He behaves , when he wants to
BUT, he is unpredictable and cause much worry
ie, on new years day am he decided to get out of enclosed garden , I was in the garden area with him, – he ran across the road, ended up going into a local little shop and pinched a kinder egg
he ate, I managed to catch him , on lead
later he was sick ( including the toy)
He has a big run off the lead daily
I am really concerned as his unpredictable behaviour leaves me drained and I don2t know what to do
Hi Mry, you need to Labrador proof your garden https://www.thelabradorsite.com/labrador-proofing-your-garden/
Kari~ thank you for sharing your knowledge!! It was very helpful! We have a 5 almost 6 month old lab who eats fast! She has gotten better. We will be definitely raising her food and water bowl.
Our lab puppy is 6 months old. She eats fast. We’ve had trouble over the past 6 weeks with diarrehaa. Comes and goes. She is finishing up her third round of antibiotics, but now her stool is very soft again. We fed her rice or potatoes with boiled chicken each time the diarreha came and we started meds and then slowly transitioned to dog food. We switched from large breed Puppy Chow to Hills Science Diet ideal balance. Can’t figure this out. Could rapid eating contribute?
Hi Kaia, it’s unlikely to be the fast eating, most labs do that, but you can use a slow food bowl if you are worried about it. Ask the vet what the stool sample was positive for – if he is treating for giardia for example, it can take several courses of antibiotics to knock it on the head. If your dog is no longer infected and the upset tummies continue, it might be a good idea to talk to your vet about the possibility of a food allergy. If he thinks it is a good idea, you could try a grain free food to see if that helps. Pro-biotics are a good idea after antibiotics. You can get them from your vet or online. It is a good idea to keep updating your vet, with any kind of long drawn out problem, otherwise he may assume all is now well.
I have a year old labrador – we had the same problem for the first 6 months of his life… turns out he is allergic to chicken/turkey and rice, we found this out by eliminatating different things at a time. He is now on a strict fish, potato and vegetable diet (dog food) – we feed him on James Wellbeloved grain free. He loves it and all is good with his tummy!
Hi. We weaned our lab pup onto hills science plan and it was horrendous for his digestion so would never recommend it. It stank, runny poos and bleeding with his tummy trying to digest it. Weaned onto wainrights and he is great now. Just need to slow his eating down now 😊
I have two nine month old Labradors (sisters). Just lately it seem to have become a race of who can finish their food first. After seeing the green feeder on this blog I decided to purchase two green feeders.
Yes the feeders worked, feeding time went from about 2-3 minutes to 10-15 minutes. Unfortunately the second time of feeding the both managed to crunch the tall blades in the middle of the bowl. Although the suggestion from the manufacturer was that I should train them not to bit the blades, I feel the plastic or material should be more substantial.
Just be aware if purchasing they are not dog teeth proof!!!
Hi. I have 3 Labs. 2 Fox Red and 1 White with a honey mohican stripe down her back. Nancy the white one, eats her food in a reasonably normal time she is 19 mths old. Lexi the eldest is 2yrs this month and I have to stand with her while she takes about 15 to 20 mins to eat her breakfast. Stopping in between to wag her tail and have a look around the room and smile at me. The youngest Autumn is 9 mths. However she is 2 inches taller than the other two. I put her food down and it is in an anti gulp bowel. But by the time i have turned around and turned back approx 10 secs, she has finished. She doesnt eat, she inhales. I have been looking at all the suggestions on here, and have taken a few tips. I think I may slowley change her over to Raw. So that she has to eat and chew rather than just suck it down. There is absolutely no problem with Nancy, as she loves every bit, and eats to a good timescale. And although Lexi takes up to 30 mins sometimes, she is enjoying every mouthful. I must also stress that Autumn the loony is also as mad as a march hare in everything else she does as well. Everything is done at a thousand miles per hour. Although I train my dogs to a good competent level of obedience, I draw the line at being too strict, as it is my opinion that as my dogs are my family, and my children. They still need leeway to develope their own characters and ways of dealing with everyday life. Gently / Firm is my motto. As I was with my children when they were young. I know that there are some people who will say that my methods are wrong. And I am treating my girls the wrong way. But they are, as we are. Gods creatures, and deserve to be treated with respect, love and patience. Although my three girls can be hard work at times. They are no harder than I was as a child and teenager. I am proud to have them, and feel humbled by the unconditional love and loyalty they show to me. Now I bet you are all glad that I am finished. ha ha . Take care of your babies. Because they will lay down their lives to take care of you.
Gently / Firm is my motto….Alan I wholeheartedly agree with you. Loved your rave. I have a lab crossed with golden retriever. First dog I have ever had in my life and I am north of 55 but still south of 60 mind you…he is the most lovely gentle animal who has never had a bad day since we have had him as a pup..Keep on raving …:)
I have a 5 year old Lab who never had an issue with eating fast until this year. He would leave his food in his bowl for hours at times. I grew concerned this year when he was starting to visibly choke or have to “take a break” to move the food down his throat. We did not get another dog nor are there any other changes in the house. He has been healthy as well. I purchased a slow feeder bowl which he enjoys. We timed his feeding time when we first got it and it took him no less than 7-8 minutes…he has gotten his time down to 3 mins or so now. I think I may have to get another bowl with a different pattern to swap out. I also wonder if it should be raised off of the floor at a higher feeding level. I wonder if this is still too quick.
I give my lab dog food that he HAS to chew. I give him a good feed in the morning with a small treat at the latter part of the day. A raw meat diet is best in my view to help your dog slow down. I feed him brisket bones, meat shank bones, chicken frames, lamb offcuts with some bones along with really good quality kibble(no grains)..and some offal..not much..about 10% of his feed. He is a big dog naturally. He is happy with one meal a day and his weight is good for his size. He is 2 + years of age. I started his raw meat diet 12 months ago…and it has helped regulate his weight.
When you think about it a dogs diet before the onset of processed dog food and kibble was raw meat. A wild dog when making a kill will eat the offal first because of the high nutritional value, then muscle and then the frame of its kill…the bones. Domesticated dogs and cats had tinned processed food and kibble introduced into their diets fully commercially from the 1950’s onwards. Very recent in terms of the animals evolution. Of course there is no need to chew the food…One thing to remember..ANY processed food loses nutritional value…
Sounds like a lucky dog 🙂 Here is more info on raw feeding https://www.thelabradorsite.com/labrador-health-information-about-raw-feeding/
As a pup I started him on kibble as recommended by the vet. It was a matter of observing his eating habits. In time he simply walked away from kibble. I then started to introduce mince produced for dogs which he responded to however he started to turn his nose up at it and I noticed that he was becoming somewhat lethargic. He was really growing at that time from the age of 12 months. I did a fair amount research on raw meat and started him on it. From then on he improved considerably. The only mistake I made was that gave him a good feed him TWICE a day on raw meat and his weight increased more than his size. A wild dogs exercise was the act of hunting for it’s meal which domesticated dogs don’t have to do to survive. So I cut back to one good feed a day. He is a big lab retriever naturally – weighing in at 50kg. He stands quite tall, has a huge barrel of a chest which tapers back to his back legs , big paws and strong back haunches. The raw meat diet has really helped with his weight and general well being as a healthy contented dog. Of course he gets a good walk every day.
our rehomed expelled guide dog /sniffer dog is a gannet, and ive just bought a fabulous bowl that is like a maze. he has to employ all that intelligence to work out how to get the pieces of food to only of only two exits, so he can eat them. the channels are deep so he finds it harder to just flick them out. it now takes five minutes instead of ten seconds to down his rations.. – i bought it from guide dogs as it raises funds too. love it!
Heyy, nice article. Just one query I have that is: Even my Labrador eats really fast and never chews his food, so what I do is that I give him 3-4 pieces of pedigree at a time, on my palm. This slows down his speed but still he does not chew his food. What shall I do?
My 6 month old lab is still on 3 meals a day, I use half of each ration each mealtime as treats – ie he has to work for his food. This works as a great motivator to learn & reinforce his obedience (and learnt tricks) and also prolongs mealtimes. The other half is put in an anti gulp bowl, I’m sure he’d rather a normal bowl & eat within seconds but nothing in life is free, plus it is a great training & bonding session.
My lab is two this month but she eats and drinks really fast got anti gulp bowls and slow realise water bowl but some how still making her self sick please help
I have an 8yr old, incredibly greedy dustbin, I mean labrador! I invested in a slow feeding bowl last year.
She has gone from polishing off her dinner from about 12-15 seconds to between 3-4 minutes. It’s not massively long I know, but from what it was…….
My friend’s dog died from Bloat and that is what persuaded me to get one.
My yellow lab Chase I nicknamed him “Hoover”
For the vacuum. That’s what it’s like when he eats.
What I did to slow him down Long before the special dishes came out was I thought large rocks and put them in his dish. Works excellent & I just wash them when I wash his dish.
I use the interactive green feeder you’ve mentioned here and it works a treat in slowing her down. I was wondering, should I raise it off the floor as well (like with some high feeder bowls you can get, as I currently do this with her water dish) or would it not make a difference as she’s slowed down with her interactive feeder? Thanks very much
I bought a slow feeder bowl, but my 4 mo old puppy learned to grab the edge and dump the bowl over. still slows her down a bit, but she was quite smart enough to get around this nuisance 🙂
we put the dry food in a bowl of water, this not only slows him down but also ensures he drinks enough water
We do the same Leslie, we let it soak for a few minutes so that is even slower to gobble. Our vet recommended it as a puppy. We still do it now he’s 12months, but we also halve his food in a food dispensers (a soft yellow bone). He loves having second breakfast!!!
My vet suggested putting the food out on the grass – scatter it around a bit so they have to find it ! Bit tricky with 2 Labs but it works
We got an anti gulp bowl when our black lab was 6month old as he would eat his food within seconds, it now tales him several minutes. They are a bit more expensive but worth every penny.
My labrador Alfie does not have a weight problem but I use a Durapet Slow Feeder – a stainless steel bowl with a dome in the middle so he can only eat round the sides. It has certainly slowed him down a bit. I also occasionally give him half his food in the green interactive feeder which definitely works. When he first saw it he just sat and looked at it as though he did not know where to start!
We have two 21 month old chocolate labs, sisters from the same litter. One is a little heavier than the other but both gobble their food so we have purchased two of the dishes that slow down the time it takes for them to eat. At first they didn’t like them much but in two weeks they have got used to them and we can see an improvement in the heavier one, she has lost a bit of weight so i would recommend them to anybody thinking of buying one.
Thanks for sharing that Hazel, glad your dogs have got used to the dishes 🙂
I have tried so many tricks to make my dog eat slow so far nothing has worked so I am now going to try the slow feed bowls hope it works
Thanks you for the tip
Hope you find them helpful 🙂
My two labs are 5 & 6 respectively and I have had slow feed bowls for them for about 4 years. I don’t know if it makes much difference…it may not be gone in 10 seconds but it certainly doesn’t last more than 2-3 minutes. Is that slow enough?