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Congratulations! You've decided to bring home a second dog. The connection between your two pets is blooming, and your family is adjusting effortlessly to having another dog in the house. Unfortunately, you're finding it difficult to keep one of your dogs from eating out of both of the bowls. Is feeding multiple dogs really this hard?
Let's take a closer look at why it's important to keep feedings separate and how to feed two dogs at the same time so that they both get a healthy meal.
Why Separate Feeding Is Important
You've had many dogs in your life, so you're familiar with how often you should be feeding your pet — and how much to give them — but you never thought you'd need to learn how to keep one dog from eating the other dog's food. Yet, here you are with two pets ready for a meal, and you're not sure how to stop your one overeater from taking all the food.
As you may imagine, there are many risks to letting one dog eat out of both bowls, such as overfeeding or potentially choking on kibble that's too large. For example, if you have both small- and large-breed dogs, your larger dog will be consuming more food each day. If your smaller dog were to eat all of the bigger dog's food, not only would they overeat, but they may have trouble chewing and swallowing the larger kibble.
Some dogs may also have specific nutritional needs or may be eating a therapeutic food, and if another animal is eating their meal, one pet may not be getting the nutrient it needs whle the other may be getting an excessive amount.
The Basics on How to Feed Two Dogs
When you first begin training your dogs to eat separately, the process will mostly be trial and error. There are many options that may work, but ultimately, it's up to your dogs which works best.
First, make some changes to your routine: if you're currently allowing your dogs to share a bowl, it's time to give each dog their own bowl with pre-portioned meals. Another thing to consider is mealtime feeding only, even if you've previously left a bowl of food out each day. These two changes may seem small, but they can make a significant difference. A couple of other changes may include:
Separating and Supervising
When it's time to eat, start off by supervising your pets. Place their bowls in different locations in the same room, and keep a physical separator between the two. If your dog is overzealous but not aggressive, you can simply guide them away from the other dog's food. Bowl training may take some extra effort, but just as with any training, it's important for learning to take place.
If separating them in the same room doesn't work, or if your overeater does display signs of food aggression, you'll want to physically separate both dogs in different spaces altogether. This may mean feeding the dogs in separate rooms behind closed doors, and if you don't have fully closed-off spaces, try feeding the overeater in a crate or invest in a "baby" gate to keep them away. The food-aggressive dog will also need independent training to address this "aggresssive" behavior.
Preparing for Challenges
While separation and supervision are two of the key approaches to learning how to feed two dogs so that they can both eat, you may experience some challenges. For example, one of your pets may be a slow eater who misses out on meals when the other dog swoops in and steals their food. In this case, you have two options: you can feed the slow eater small portions more frequently in a separate space, or you can remove the fast eater to give your slow eater more time to concentrate on their meal. Some pet parents might consider taking their fast eaters out for a walk when their slow eaters are munching, or a special bowl can be used to slow down the fast eaters.
If you have a dog that is more of a grazer than one that eats all of their food quickly, you may have to reconsider leaving their food out, especially if the other dog has access to that food bowl unsupervised. Start by picking up their bowl for a half hour or hour and then put it back down to see if they're willing to eat then. You never want to leave food out and not know which dog ate it; this will quickly put pounds on a dog that eats two meals, and take away from the one that is not getting their sufficient calories.
Invest in tools that can help you when feeding multiple dogs, such as a food dispenser that controls how quickly kibble is released or a puzzle bowl. A dog who scarfs down food without pausing — and then moves onto your other pet's bowl — could benefit from the dispenser slowly giving out small portions over a longer period of time.
Learning how to feed two dogs at the same time may take some adjustment, but when you do, you'll feel confident that both pets are getting their nutritional needs taken care of. If you still have trouble, consider hiring a trainer or asking your veterinarian for some additional advice.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Instagram @ErinOllila or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.