I was losing the war of dog food nutrition vs. the dog who won’t chew food. So I asked you, members of the Posse, to share what has worked for you. As promised, here are the suggestions and our (very surprising) results.
Put something in the bowl
Many people recommended this. Objects in the bowl require the dog to eat around them, taking more maneuvering and thus forcing them to eat more slowly. Posse-ites have put many different kinds of objects in bowls:
• Rocks (too large to be eaten)
• Tennis and racquet balls
• Heavy steel chains
• Soup cans
You folks are creative!
I tried a large river rock. Unfortunately, two things happened that made me abandon the attempt. First, Nala ate around the rock as quickly as she ate without the rock, so it didn’t solve the problem. (It might have worked better if I’d used a few rocks instead of just one, but what happened next made it pointless to try.) Then, I came home on Day 3 of the experiment to find her food bowl empty. No rock!
Instead, this is what I found:
Yes, that’s her water bowl. I think she was telling me not to mess with her food. Feisty mutt.
When you hand-feed a dog, they eat according to the pace you set and chew their food better. Once they’ve gotten in the habit of eating more slowly, they can be weaned back to eating on their own. This works for dogs that are not food aggressive.
I’m going to be really honest here. As a vegetarian, the idea of hand-feeding my dog food that includes chunks of meat really grosses me out. So I left this as a last resort. Luckily, we accidentally found a solution that worked before I had to go this route.
Posse members also reported having success with these tips:
• Wetting the food: I didn’t try this one because the homemade food is pretty moist as it is. I’ve also heard that dry store-bought food with citric acid can cause bloat when mixed with water. I’m going to run that one past our vet next time Nala has an appointment – there’s a lot of conflicting information on bloat out there and it’s hard to know what’s true.
• Dog bowls for fast eaters: There are special dog bowls designed to slow down fast eaters. Some have compartments and others have posts built into the bowl. Puppy bowls for feeding litters and bundt pans are said to work too.
• More meals, smaller portions: Nala recently went on a diet to lose 10 pounds. If I hadn’t cut back her food so recently, I would have tried this after the rock failed.
What finally worked was…
… moving her food bowl.
In rearranging some furniture, Nala’s feeding area moved to a new room. In its new spot, the stand her bowls rest on is a few inches away from the wall. The first time Nala ate in the new spot, she ate so vigorously that she knocked her bowl backwards off its stand and it got caught between the stand and the wall. Brows furrowed, she looked confused about why her bowl would run away from her and turned to me, waiting for me to pick it up.
Luckily, Nala’s a quick learner. She started eating her food more slowly so that she didn’t push her bowl backwards off the stand and out of reach again. Bingo! She started eating more slowly and chewing more carefully - just because we moved her bowl away from the wall. I never would have thought of that as a solution but it’s working well.
Another tip for maximizing dog food nutrition
One of my concerns with Nala not chewing her food was that she wasn’t digesting the vegetables in her homemade food. Jana Rade, aka @DawgBlogger on Twitter, always has great dog information. She suggested pureeing the veggies to break down cellulose in the plant cells before adding it to the food. I did that on the most recent batch and the veggies seem to be getting digested now.
So, as is common with dog problems, the solution seems to depend on the dog. What worked for many of your dogs did not work for Nala; what worked for Nala may not work for other dogs. And of course, there are times that consulting your vet is the best solution.
THANK YOU to everyone who offered suggestions and advice. It’s wonderful to have such a helpful community of big dog lovers to talk to!
If you have a question about your big dog that you’d like help on, please contact us and we’ll work on it!
If you liked this, you may also like:
Choosing the best dry dog food
How to: get the most out of a vet visit