Slow-feed bowls are the perfect solution to help hungry dogs eat at a slower, healthier pace, using a series of ridges and dividers to break up their food and make it more challenging to get to. Slow-feeders come in a variety of different patterns, so we compared 14 popular designs to figure out which is the most effective. We chose the Outward Hound Fun Feeder as the best slow-feed dog bowl, not because it happens to be the #1 highest-rated by customers, but because it uses pet-safe plastics and a fun maze of dividers that is by far the best design for promoting slow, healthy eating habits. Article Summary
Dogs are funny when it comes to eating. Some can have a bowl full of food sitting in the kitchen all day and they’ll just pick at it whenever they’re hungry, but others wolf down their meals so fast it’s like you’ve been starving them for a week. These are the ones that need a little extra care when it comes to meal time, as eating too quickly can bring on a number of health complications for your pup. But how do you get them to slow down?
In the old days, you’d have to give your dog one small serving at a time if you wanted them to eat slower. But this is the 21st century, and we now have clever solutions called slow-feed dog bowls. Slow-feed bowls have a series of ridges and curved surfaces protruding from the bottom of the bowl in a pattern, sort of like a maze. This essentially makes your dog have to navigate a bit through the bowl in order to get all the food, thus effectively helping him or her eat at a slower, healthier pace.
Slow-feed dog bowls come in a number of different patterns, so we teamed up with a local vet and did some research to find out which ones offer the most ideal design to promote healthy eating habits. We compared 14 slow-feed bowls currently available and judged them based on their materials, sizes, and of course, their patterns. We were ideally looking for products made with pet-safe plastics (aka no harmful chemicals) that allowed a decent amount of food and an effective “maze” pattern. We also looked through customer reviews to see how customers’ dogs were reacting to each bowl. If you’re looking for the best slow-feed dog bowl, the following three have earned our recommendation.
Large (32 oz)
Small (10.1 oz)
Medium (20.2 oz)
Large (40.5 oz)
Large (24 oz)
Jumbo (48 oz)
The best slow-feed dog bowl overall
Topping our list of recommendations is the Outward Hound Fun Feeder – a phenomenal product, and what we’d consider the best slow-feed dog food bowl overall. The Outward bowl is a pretty revolutionary product in not only keeping our pups fit and healthy, but keeping them engaged and intellectually challenged. Dog owners across the world rave about the effectiveness of this bowl, and many industry professionals have given it their highest recommendations.
Many slow-feed dog food bowls follow a very set, simple pattern, which is easy to figure out even for mildly clever pups. The Fun Feeder branches out from this common groove and offers three unique, complex patterns which have proven more efficient in slowing down eating, as your dog will have to chase each bit of food around the pattern for a bite of it. And, as the meal goes on, getting those last little pieces of kibble can be quite a challenge, giving them a great sense of accomplishment when they finally finish up.
Another design feature that we love about this bowl are the rubber feet on bottom. If you’ve got a dog that eats quickly, you know how much the bowl slides across the floor, throwing kibble and food around in the process. These rubber feet have been reported by many owners to be incredibly effective at keeping the bowl from skidding around.
The Fun Feeder comes in three colors (orange, purple, and teal) and is made of a pet-safe plastic that is free of BPA, PVC and Phthalate. This was a big deal to us, as pet safety is always at the top of our priority list when revealing pet products. There are also two sizes (small and large) to accommodate your pup’s size, making it a great product for any breed. The small size holds two cups of dry dog food, while the large holds four cups.
The Outward Hound Fun Feeder is, ultimately, the perfect slow-feed dog bowl. Its more-complex-than-average design is proven to help your dog better manage their meals, and it’s got a price tag that even your dog could probably afford!
A less complex design to try
As a second choice, we’d go with the Dogit Go Slow Bowl. Aptly named, this bowl really does make your dog “go slow” at meal times. Its design isn’t quite as complex as the Fun Feeder but it still does its job efficiently nonetheless, and with a non-skid base and five sizes to choose from, this is a great alternative if you weren’t a fan of our previous pick for any reason.
The biggest difference between the Dogit bowl and the Fun Feeder lies in the internal design of each bowl. As we mentioned in our last review, the Fun Feeder provides three different maze-like patterns that make eating an interesting challenge for dogs. The design of the Dogit Go Slow bowl isn’t quite as intricate. While it does provide a significant improvement on reducing the speed at which your dog eats, it isn’t at the level of our previous pick. That’s not a deal breaker, though, just a minor critique when comparing the two bowls. Many owners have actually praised this less-intricate design for larger dogs because it’s a little easier for big dogs to fit their nose into.
Like our top pick, one of the most highly regarded aspects of this bowl is the all-around non-skid bottom. If your pup tends to scoot the bowl around the kitchen (which is a pretty common issue with fast eaters), this will help significantly with keeping it in place. It’s available in four colors, making it a fun decorative piece for the house, as well as four sizes, allowing you to find the perfect fit for your best friend.
Although the inside of the Dogit Go Slow Bowl might not be as creatively designed as the Fun Feeder, it’s still better than most other slow-feed dog bowls out there, offering a nice level of challenge to slow your pup down to a healthy pace at mealtime.
A good value for your dollar
The JW Pet SkidStop Slow-Feed Bowl came in as our third choice due to sheer value. Its design is more along the basic side, so it doesn’t quite measure up to the efficiency of the two bowls above, but at half the price, no one can deny that this is a great buy for those who only want a cheap, simple solution.
As you can see from the image above, the SkidStop bowl features the least complex interior pattern of the models we’ve chosen thus far, with four basic walls that split the bowl into quarters. This is the most common design you’ll see when shopping around for slow-feed bowls, allowing just enough of a food divide over a regular bowl to attempt to slow your pup’s pace.
However, due to the more basic partition, some owners have reported that their dogs have outsmarted the design of the bowl and aren’t phased by the dividers, continuing to eat at a rampant pace. Because of this, we’d recommend this bowl more for dogs that fit the description of “eating quicker than average, but not total savages.” If your dog eats like a wolf in the wild, you will undoubtedly want a more complex design to slow them down.
The good thing about the SkidStop, if it does fit your dog as clarified above, is that it makes a great starter bowl if you’re just trying out slow-feeders for the first time. Some pups can be a little too intimidated by more complex dividers, so they tend to shy away from the bowl altogether (although, truth be told, this is only a very small percentage of dogs). If you know your dog is naturally skeptical of new things, this could be a good way to introduce them to a slow-feed bowl and then, if needed, upgrade them to something more complex down the road.
Overall, at half the price of most other slow-feed bowls, the JW Pet SkidStop Slow-Feed is a fantastic value. It comes in multiple sizes and colors, offers a non-skid bottom, and is even dishwasher safe.
How we picked our top three
Although most people are tempted to choose the best slow-feed dog bowl by whichever ones offer the coolest pattern (there are actually some very cool ones), we opted to go the more logical route and research which ones are actually the most effective at slowing dogs to a healthy, manageable eating pace. To do this, we developed a set of standards by which to judge each bowl.
Materials and construction
You know how rough your pup can be on his or her toys, blankets, furniture and everything else. Mix that with the bowl flipping and scooting that often comes along with quick eating and you’ve get a recipe for breakage or cracking. For this reason, durability was one of our top considerations when choosing the best slow-feed dog bowls. Having a bowl with an awesome spiral design is all great fun until it cracks. We looked for bowls that were constructed of durable, built-to-last, pet-safe materials that can confidently stand up to a big, hungry dog for years without fear of cracking or breaking. We also ideally looked for some type of rubberized underside in order to stabilize the bowl and prevent flipping or scooting, and we’re happy to report that each bowl we chose carries this feature.
This is where we took the cool spiral patterns into consideration; however, judging bowl designs is much more than just deciding which ones are “cool.” We not only looked at the design of the dividers within the bowl, but we also looked at the curvature of the bottom, the circumference, the depth, and more to analyze just how much each bowl would actually disrupt your pup’s ability to scarf their food. After ranking these features ourselves, we also turned to reviews from owners of each bowl to see how well dogs of different breeds and sizes reacted to eating from different designs. This allowed us to get the most well-rounded understanding of the efficiency of each bowl’s design. The bowls that made our list had superior design that disrupted eating enough to slow it down, but not enough to make it a total hassle for your dog to get a meal in.
Dogs come in all different shapes and sizes, and different dogs eat VASTLY different amounts of food – this is certainly no surprise to you. Because of this, for a bowl to make our top three, it had to offer multiple sizes for different breeds. The last thing you want is to end up with a Chihuahua-sized bowl for your 80-pound German Shepherd.
Things to consider before buying
Buying a dog bowl certainly isn’t rocket science. Find a slow-feed pattern that fits your dog’s level of eating, find the right size, and call it a day – well, sort of. There are a couple of additional things you may want to consider before buying, which we’ve brought up below.
How big is your dog?
This is the most obvious consideration, and we’ve already mentioned it a few times above – but it’s always a good reminder. If you have a big dog, you need a big bowl; if you have a small dog, you need a small bowl. That’s it. Buying a bowl that is too small will leave your pup wanting more, while a bowl that’s too big may not be very efficient at slowing eating, as your dog may be able to simply move around the obstructions with their small snouts. Always make sure you have the right size before buying.
Do you use wet food or dry food?
The type of food you feed your dog is a huge distinction you’ll need to make before purchasing, for one simple reason: wet food in a slow-feed bowl can be a total nightmare. Since slow-feeders have raised ridges and bumps and patterns, that exponentially increases the surface area – surface area that wet food can stick to. If you think it’s hard cleaning wet food residue out of a regular bowl, just wait until you have to clean it out of a slow-feed bowl with a ton of twists and turns. With that said, if you do feed your dog wet food, it’s usually a good idea to choose a slow-feeder bowl with inside dividers that are less complex – like the Dogit bowl, or even more ideally, the SkidStop. This way, you give your dog a good amount of challenge while eating, while also not making it too difficult to manage and clean later on.
How often does your dog eat too quickly?
If you have a picky pup that vacuums up their food in the morning, but is a sluggish eater at night, it might be a good idea to identify this pattern before you try to introduce an obstruction to them filling their belly. If a dog is a sluggish eater at some points throughout the day, it might be better to use a regular bowl for these meals and use the slow-feed bowl for times when they generally inhale their food like the Tasmanian Devil.
Health risks associated with rapid eating
Slow-feed dog bowls weren’t simply invented to be mean to dogs by making eating more difficult for them. Slow-feeders were made to prevent health risks commonly associated with rapid eating. We want our pups to be the happiest and healthiest they can be, which is why we walk them and get regular checkups at the vet – mealtimes are just another area we monitor to ensure a healthy diet and healthy eating habits.
Below are a few of the health risks associated with rapid eating:
• Excess gas
• Digestive tract blockage
Quite the list of problems, no? And that’s not even all of them!
According to PetMD, rapid eating causes these complications because when your dog eats too quickly, they are taking in excessive amounts of food, fluid, and even air, which fill the stomach and cause the stomach cavity to swell. Vomiting and regurgitation are the quick reactions of your dog’s body tries to rid itself of the excess; however, if it is unable to, then the worse complications like indigestion and blockage of the digestive tract can occur. This can cause serious pain and discomfort for your best friend, but they obviously don’t realize this, which is why it’s so important for you to help them. A slow-feeder bowl is the best place to start, but Cesar Millan shares a few more tips here (one of them is actually to change bowls to a slow-feeder).
In more serious cases, the stomach swelling can cause the stomach to twist, preventing food from passing over to the intestines, which can ultimately be life-threatining. This isn’t meant to scare you, but we do want to make you aware of the more serious risks that can stem from simply eating too fast.
Another risk of overeating, indirectly, is canine obesity. If your dog is constantly suffering from digestive discomfort from rapid eating, they are likely to lay around more and have less energy. This can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which makes weight gain a very likely possibility. Canine obesity comes with a whole smattering of its own health issues that we’d rather our pups steer clear of, and slow-feed bowls can help slow down their eating pace so that they can digest more comfortably and remain active and fit. If your dog is already suffering from some form of obesity, we’d recommend checking out the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention for tips on getting him or her back to a fit state.
Wrapping it up
There are many responsibilities that come with having a pet, dogs especially. Many folks out there treat their dogs as children, which comes to no surprise given the amount of time, effort, money and emotional strain we can go through to keep them happy and healthy. Keeping our dogs healthy requires more than just vet visits, and we can contribute to their health day-to-day by monitoring their dietary behaviors. A slow-feed bowl is simply an extension of this care and consideration. We believe the Outward Hound Fun Feeder is the best slow-feed dog bowl all around, but consider your pup’s size, food type, and personal habits to help decide whether the Fun Feeder or another bowl is right for them.