by Lindsay Millican
Does your dog use a slow feeder bowl for mental enrichment? Slow feeder bowls are designed to help your dog eat more slowly and deliberately. This can help them to digest their food better and prevent them from overeating. It also serves as an easy way to add some mental enrichment into your dog’s day. And, as an added bonus, it can also help to slow down the pace of mealtime so that you can enjoy some quality time with your furry friend.
So, if you’re looking for a way to help your dog eat better and slow down mealtime, then a slow feeder bowl is a great option. But with so many different options on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. That’s why we’ve done the research for you and tested out six different types of slow feeder bowls for mental enrichment.
Why we like slow feeder bowls for mental enrichment:
Thought it’s often overlooked, dogs need mental enrichment just as much as they need physical exercise. Before they were domesticated, dogs had to work for their meals. Mental enrichment helps to meet a dog’s instinctual need to keep their minds active and engaged, preventing boredom and reducing stress levels. Slow feeder bowls are a great way to provide mental enrichment for dogs, as they have to use their problem-solving skills to figure out how to access the food.
The tests were conducted with my dog Radish, who normally eats two meals a day. To make sure the comparison was fair, I only tested the bowls at breakfast, to ensure that Radish was hungry. Radish sometimes also gets fresh food at mealtime, but not every day, so for this test we stuck with dry kibble. On a typical morning she might eat up to 1.5 cups of dry food. However, for testing purposes I fed her 1 cup – I wanted to ensure she wouldn’t get too full before finishing and potentially sway the test results. I also placed each of the bowls on to a serving tray with a raised edge. This way even if the bowl slid around somewhat, it couldn’t move around too much.
I filled the bowl with the food, set the tray down, and started the timer. As you can see, we take both dog food and product reviews very seriously around here!
We started our test with 1 cup of food in a plain bowl, as a control. Radish scarfed down her breakfast in 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
The Muffin Tin:
We wanted to start our test with an option that most of our readers would already have at home – enter the humble but mighty muffin tin. This was a half size tin with 6 wells – purchased some time ago at Dollar Tree.
2:29 – yes, faster than the control!
You probably already have a muffin tin.
If you don’t, they are cheap to acquire.
If you pop some tennis balls into the wells, you could also use the tin as a game. Hide a couple of treats under the balls and have your dog find the treats.
In addition to their intended purpose (muffins!) these tins also work well for feeding human toddlers, and can keep picky eaters from having meltdowns because they don’t want their foods touching. (Ask me how I know.)
Only 6 wells to divide the food between.
Not effective. The time says it all.
The Outward Hound Flower:
Lots of crevices for the food, so there is some work involved to get it out.
The bowl is cute and doesn’t take up too much space.
If you’re paying full price, it’s on the pricey side.
This was one product that we did not order specifically for this test. Radish already owns this bowl and uses it frequently. It’s possible that frequent use could have swayed the results somewhat, since she’d already gotten familiar with it.
The OurPets Spiral Slow Feeder Insert:
Minimal effectiveness. 7 seconds is not worth spending money on.
Even though the product arrived wrapped in a plastic sleeve, the insert felt dirty and was visibly dusty as soon as we opened it. Even after washing, the product started collecting dust again immediately.
It was smaller than expected. Granted, I could have read the dimensions, but from looking at the photos online, I expected something larger.
I looked for a product like this that had rotating ‘wings’, separate from the suction cup, but couldn’t find one. I think a rotating action would have made the product much more effective and more mentally stimulating for dogs.
The ALLYGOODS Honeycomb:
Freezer Safe – you could potentially use this dish to feed your pup peanut butter or yogurt, and then pop it into the freezer to make it a longer lasting treat.
Microwave safe – some dogs are picky and don’t like cold food. A bowl like this gives you the option to prepare the meal in advance, keep the food fresh in the refrigerator or freezer, and then microwave to bring it back to room temperature.
One of the most expensive slow feeders we tested.
Not as effective as most of the others
The Zippy Paws Happy Bowl Pineapple
So cute! The name is correct, this did make me happy.
Affordable. I expected the price point to be higher.
This was much larger than anticipated. It still fit inside the serving tray I used for the test, but this may take up more space in your kitchen than you want.
This dish also skidded around more than the others. The product description mentions a non-skid bottom, but for me it didn’t perform on that front. If we use it without our serving tray, the pineapple slowly scoots to the other side of the kitchen.
For the last 60 seconds of the test, Radish was working on one piece of kibble that had gotten stuck in the small triangle shaped well at the bottom. After a minute, I could tell this exercise was no longer fun for her, and had started to be frustrating. Since Radish has never shown any food aggression or food guarding behaviors, I felt safe picking up the dish and I was able to dig out the last remaining piece of kibble for her. However, it might agitate some dogs to be thisclose to food they can’t get. If your pup is prone to food guarding, you aren’t going to want to get in between them and their dinner, so beware and avoid the small triangles when you’re filling the dish.
The American Flag:
15:57. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! About this time, Radish heard a noise coming from outside and got distracted, so I went ahead and stopped the stopwatch with three pieces of kibble still in the dish.
The most effective
The product description doesn’t specifically state that the product is dishwasher safe. However, I have washed in the top rack several times without issue.
If you’re not from the US, it may feel silly to have a dish in the shape of an American flag. However, I don’t think a maple leaf would be nearly as effective as the stars and stripes.
The best slow feeder for mental enrichment:
While the muffin tin didn’t prove to slow Radish down in her race to finish breakfast, any of the products from Amazon would get the job done, with the exception of the silicone insert. The American Flag feeder was the hands down winner, with the Pineapple coming as a runner up.
The options we tested are just the tip of the iceberg – there are a lot of different options available when it comes to slow feeder bowls for dogs. Some are more effective than others, and some are more affordable. Consider your dog’s personality and feeding habits when choosing the right bowl for your pup, as well as how much mental enrichment and stimulation they get throughout their day.
As for me and Radish, we’ll be rotating between a few of these slow feeder dishes to keep things fresh, and ensure she gets the maximum amount of enrichment she can while she’s eating.