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14 Feb 2022

Five things to know before buying a slow feeder dog bowl

Our tests proved finding a slow feeder bowl for your dog can be challenging. Some frustrate, skid across the floor and are a faff to fill and clean
Dog eating from Green Feeder dog bowl

Slow feeder dog bowls are supposed to slow down hungry dogs' eating. To do this, the slow feeder bowls are designed with intricate mouldings meant to make it harder for your dog to get to their food. Eating more slowly is supposed to help dogs digest their food more effectively.

Slow feeder dog bowls come in all shapes, sizes and levels of difficulty, so there's a real chance the one you buy might not be right for your dog.

We put 16 slow feeder dog bowls to the test, and with the help of five hungry tester dogs we picked out several dog bowls we'd recommend.

Our tests also uncovered these key watch outs to help you buy the best slow feeder dog bowl for you and your dog:

different slow feeder dog bowls

1. They work if you pick the correct one

Every slow feeder dog bowl we tested did slow down our hungry dogs at least a little. Some were able to slow them down by more than 10 times as long as they normally take to gobble down their dinner.

But they weren't always slowed down for good reasons.

Some puzzles were too fiddly, obstructive or complicated for our dogs to enjoy.

Ultimately there may be some trial and error involved in finding a bowl that's the right fit for your dog.

Make sure to keep the receipt and check the returns information before buying, as your dog might not agree that you bought the right bowl.

See which are the best slow feeder dog bowlswe recommend for small, medium, large and flat-nosed dogs.

2. Serving and cleaning take longer

We found in our tests that these bowls can often slow down dog owners just as much as their dogs.

Most slow feeder dog bowls have lots of little nooks and crannies, as these are the spots that prove most challenging for your dog to extract food from.

However, our dog owner testers often found it tricky to stuff their dog's food into these gaps, especially when using hard food stuffs such as large kibble.

The larger sizes of some bowls, especially wider, platform-style ones, also made it more complicated to weigh out specific portions when the bowls were much wider than the kitchen scales our testers owned.

Some dog owners found it took much longer than usual to get leftover food out of the bowls when washing them by hand, too.

All of the bowls we tested are dishwasher safe, but for many households it's impractical and wasteful to run a dishwasher several times a day so you'll have to handwash your slow feeder dog bowl at least sometimes - or buy a back up.

You're also likely to find a pool of water in the back of your bowl when you take it out of the dishwasher due to the hollowed-out mouldings that form the shape at the front.

Find out which food you should be giving your dog with our guide to the best and worst dog food brands.

Dog eating from Green Feeder dog bowl

3. Non-slip bases aren't effective

Some of the slow feeder dog bowls we tested have rubberised non-slip bases, the kind you often find on the bottom of small kitchen appliances such as coffee grinders or toastie makers to stop them sliding around the countertop.

They rarely proved effective, though. Although some did a good job of staying in place as we tested, most slid around the floor so much that some dogs took to holding them in place with their paws, even on carpet.

If you're keen to ensure your bowl stays in place, it may be worth investing in a dog bowl stand. They help to keep your bowl stationary and help reduce how far your dog needs to bend down to eat.

Dog bowl stands can usually be picked up for around £10, but make sure to check if your slow feeder dog bowl will fit into the stand you buy.

4. Don't make it too difficult

Finding a bowl that's the right level of difficulty for your dog is the most important thing when shopping for a slow feeder dog bowl.

You'll want one that's difficult enough that it's successful in slowing them down, but not so difficult that it spoils dinner time for them.

Think carefully about the personality of your dog and how challenging you want dinner time to be for them.

The more varied the puzzles on the bowl, and the tighter the gaps for food are, the more challenging it will be for your dog to eat.

Persistent, food-driven and intelligent dogs are more likely to benefit from bowls that are more difficult, as they won't be as easily intimidated or frustrated by the task.

Less patient dogs may end up under-eating, or might take to sneaky tactics such as flipping the bowl over or chewing it in an attempt to make the job easier.

Want to make sure your furry friend is getting all the nutrition they need? Read how to choose the best dog and cat food.

Neater brands slow feed dog bowl

5. Plastic bowls may not last

The vast majority of slow feeder dog bowls we tested are made of hard plastic, which are much easier to chew than bowls made of tougher materials.

We scoured the web looking at reviews of plastic dog bowls and found one of the most common complaints was that a bowl had been damaged by their dog chewing it.

This might be because the bowl being used was too difficult for the dog to enjoy, but some breeds are much more prone to chewing than others.

Unfortunately, there weren't many we could find that were made of any other materials, apart from a few stainless steel bowls, which are much more durable and are worth considering if your dog is a chewer.

It's important to note however that not all plastic bowls can be easily chewed up. In our tests one of our dogs attempted to chew several of the bowls but was unsuccessful thanks to the bowl's smooth edges.

Slow feeder dog bowls on test
Our dog testers: Rosie (Parson Russell Terrier, top-left), Mr Darcy & Lizzie (Boston Terriers, top-right), Rosie (Chocolate Labrador, bottom-left) and Cookie (Dobermann, bottom-right).

How we tested slow feeder dog bowls

  • Our five canine testers, pictured above, spent several days eating their dinners from a selection of slow-feeder dog bowls that were chosen to suit their sizes and breeds.
  • Each of these hungry dogs normally gobbles down their dinner in seconds, so their owners timed how long they took to eat from each bowl compared to normal to see how effective the bowls were.
  • The dog owners also noted how their dogs interacted with the bowls to see how they took to them and if there were any particular reasons they might like or dislike eating from them.
  • The owners also judged each bowl on how easy they were to prepare and clean.

Discover what we found when we tested out dog harnesses.