It’s not uncommon for Boxer owners to observe their dogs eating too fast.
Rapid eating is something you shouldn’t allow your Boxer to do, because it comes with the risk of a deadly condition called bloat or gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), which deep-chested breeds are already predisposed to.
Luckily, there are lots of ways to slow down a hungry Boxer and make mealtimes last longer, including slow feeder bowls and providing a fresh canine diet based on raw meaty bones, which naturally take a lot longer to consume.
We’ll give you eight ideas below, but first it’s worth understanding a bit about bloat and what can cause a Boxer to inhale their food.
I am not a vet. This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer here. Boxer Dog Diaries is reader supported. I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you buy via links I share.
Why It’s Important To Make Sure Your Boxer Eats Slowly
Sometimes Boxers that eat too fast will throw up immediately afterwards.
But the consequences of gutsing down food can be much more serious than vomiting.
Eating too fast is one of the main risk factors for the deadly condition known as bloat or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).
This condition is a genuine emergency in which the stomach fills with gas and sometimes twists, cutting off blood supply to vital organs.
This kind of bloat (which is different to simple “food bloat” resulting from having a lot of undigested food sitting in the stomach) will not sort itself out without urgent veterinary intervention, and can kill within a few hours.
Reasons A Boxer May Eat Too Fast
It’s helpful to consider why your Boxer is eating too fast.
- Your Boxer may eat fast out of pure enthusiasm. Boxers go about most things in life with gusto and eating is no different.
- In a multi-dog household a Boxer may be inclined to eat fast out of instinct, to make sure the food isn’t taken. If you think this could be at play, feed your dogs further apart, or in separate rooms if necessary, so they can relax and take their time. If your Boxer has food aggression or is a resource guarder, this may be even more of a factor.
- The average put Boxer is also eating too fast — much faster than a dog in a natural setting — simply because of WHAT he’s eating.
This last point is key.
Kibble or canned dog food requires zero work to consume.
Contrast this with the effort a wolf must put into devouring a fawn carcass, chewing ripping and crunching through bone, ligament and sinew.
A natural canine diet supports a much more natural eating process, including speed.
Even if you don’t have access to whole prey and are not feeding “prey model” raw, the edible bone portion of your dog’s standard raw meal (say, a chicken carcass/frame) will take time and effort to eat.
The effort involved in eating a raw meaty bone, effort kibble-fed dogs never get to engage in, is why dogs fed processed dog food routinely have underdeveloped neck musculature, according to vet Dr Ian Billinghurst.
You can put the muscle meat and organ portion of the raw meal in a slow feeder.
A “recreational” raw meaty bone like a lamb neck (fat removed, always) will take your dog as long as an hour to work through.
A beef neck bone may last two to three hours.
During all this time your Boxer is also getting the deep psychological satisfaction that comes to a carnivore through crunching on bone, and a thorough teeth cleaning, using “Nature’s toothbrush”.
How To Slow Down Your Boxer’s Eating
There are plenty of strategies that, combined, can considerably slow your Boxer’s rate of eating.
- Use a slow feeder unless feeding meat on the bone that requires work to consume
- Keep excitement to a minimum around mealtimes (A calm Boxer is likely to eat more slowly than one that’s worked up, and excitement during eating is another possible risk factor for bloat)
- Feed your Boxer at a distance, and even in a separate room, to other dogs in the household so he knows there’s no chance of anyone swiping his food. This will help him relax and mitigate the natural instinct to “wolf down” food to make sure noone else gets it!
- Make sure kids don’t interfere with your Boxer while he’s eating and give him a quiet, calm space to eat, away from household chaos
- Wait for at least an hour, ideally two to three, after vigorous exercise before feeding (an hour after a quiet walk is long enough)
- Raw feed your Boxer (as above, raw feeding involves edible bone that will take your Boxer time to crunch through, naturally slowing his eating to a more natural pace.)
- Have your Boxer sit and wait quietly between “courses” to further slow down the meal (This can work where all else fails. It’s also an opportunity to practice impulse control)
- Hand feeding — you might choose to dispense your Boxer’s food as training treats, ensuring a drip feed. The only downside to this approach is that it can result in your Boxer having quite a high level of arousal during eating, which runs counter to the advice that it’s best to keep your Boxer calm around mealtimes in order to avoid bloat.
Slow Feeders For Boxers And Other Useful Equipment
Although a raw meaty bone like a lamb or beef neck is the best slow feeder on earth, you may also like to use:
- Slow feeders
- Licki mats
- Puzzle feeders
- Stuffed kongs and treat dispensing toys
- Snuffle mats
Slow Feeders For Boxers
Slow feeders use a series of ridges to make food more difficult to reach, forcing the dog to work at extracting each morsel.
The Outward Hound Fun Feeder is our top pick.
Other brands offer stainless steel construction but unfortunately these models usually only have one obstacle in the center and don’t slow a Boxer down much at all.
I prefer the medium Outward Hound for Shiva, an adult male Boxer, as the large is huge.
You can DIY your own slow feeder by using an upside-down muffin tin.
At a pinch you can improvise and try standing an unopened soup can or similar in the center of your Boxer’s existing bowl and see if that slows him down at all.
It might work a few times but your Boxer will probably adapt and need a proper “maze-style” slow feeder in the long run.
LickiMats For Boxer Dogs
The LickiMat Slomo is perfect for short-nosed dogs and a good option for soft, mushy food.
You could puree the organ meat component of your Boxer’s raw diet in a blender and feed it on the LickiMat to draw out the meal.
Puzzle Feeders For Boxer Dogs
The Nina Ottosson puzzle feeders are some of the best canine enrichment toys on the market and come in a huge variety of styles to keep your Boxer on his toes.
They’re perfect for hiding pieces of diced lean beef, slowing down consumption of the muscle meat component of your Boxer’s diet.
Give your Boxer some mental stimulation with his meal.
Stuffed Kongs For Boxers
The most functional treat-dispensing toy for a raw-fed dog is a Kong, since it can be stuffed with small meat pieces and is washable, with a bit of effort.
You can dehydrate liver by baking it over several hours on very low heat (or using a dehydrator), which opens up a whole range of treat-dispensing toys that only really accommodate dry treats.
You can hide dehydrated liver in a snuffle mat like this fun design by AWOOF, letting your Boxer sniff them out from between the folds and ruffles of fabric.
Nose work is simultaneously engaging and relaxing for dogs and can make a great boredom-busting task to leave your Boxer with when you go out.
How To Make Sure A Boxer Doesn’t Guzzle Water
Drinking large quantities of water, and drinking too fast, creates a risk of bloat in the same way as fast eating and large meals.
You can moderate your Boxer’s water consumption by:
- Using a slow feeder for water
- Supervising — have your Boxer wait until he’s stopped panting after exercise before having access to the water bowl
- Raw feeding — raw fed dogs consume dramatically less water because there is so much hydration contained within their food (Here is a raw feeding starter guide for Boxers.)
- Using small water bowls so there’s a limit to how much your Boxer can hoover up in one go. You’ll need to be vigilant and make sure you refill and replace the water so he’s never left without
Using smaller water bowls also has the benefit that each batch of water sits out for shorter periods.
This means it has less time to absorb toxins and indoor pollution like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted by furniture and building materials.
Water is a magnet for airborne chemicals, which is why you leave a pail of water in a freshly painted room to absorb and remove the paint smell.
Your Boxer’s water bowl is a magnet for whatever chemicals are circulating in your home including household cleaners, scented plugins, perfume, fabric sprays, hair spray and other personal care products.
A quality air purifier is also recommended for the health of your Boxer (and your family).
Be sure to also provide pure water, not tap water.
More Ways To Improve A Boxer’s Eating Habits
While you’re dealing with your Boxer’s gobble guts tendencies, it’s worth checking everything else is in order.
Here is a checklist for optimizing how you feed your Boxer:
1. Floor Level Bowls Only
Despite the popularity of raised bowls as a decor item, they are bad news for your Boxer.
Raised platforms create an unnatural eating posture and have been associated with an increased incidence of bloat.
A Tufts University conference in 2003 heard from veterinarian Dr Jerold S Bell that raised platforms more than double a dog’s risk of suffering from gastric torsion.
Make sure your Boxer always eats and drinks from floor level bowls.
2. No Cold Or Frozen Food
Especially if your Boxer is experiencing any digestive issues like gas, acid reflux or “sensitive stomach”, make sure you’re feeding his raw food at room temp or ideally slightly warmed (be careful it doesn’t begin to cook) to “body temperature”.
One technique is to boil some water and fill a bowl, let it sit until the heat transfers to the bowl and then sit the meat in the bowl to warm it up.
Certainly never feed cold or frozen food to your Boxer if you’re trying to promote the most efficient digestion.
The stomach is designed to digest warm food — it’s why mothers heat babies’ bottles and why calves get “milk scours” if fed cold milk.
When a dog is having digestive issues, making conditions as optimal as possible helps.
3. Two Meals, Close Together
Again, because of bloat, there is a case to feed a Boxer’s food in two smaller meals rather than one large one.
Most owners feed breakfast and dinner.
However, it can be a good idea to give both meals at same end of the day, within a six hour window.
This allows you to mitigate the bloat risk associated with one large meal, while still maximizing the digestive rest your Boxer’s stomach gets between meals.
Dogs are not grazing animals and their stomachs function best with periods of total emptiness between meals.
Given how long meat takes to pass through the digestive tract, if you feed at either end of the day, the stomach is in a constant state of digestion.
Confining the eating to a shorter window is a much more natural eating pattern for dogs.
Digestive rest promotes healing, particularly of GI problems.
4. Raw Feeding
Feeding a natural canine diet has innumerable health benefits for your Boxer, compared to kibble and other commercially manufactured dog foods.
It is best to home prepare your dog’s raw meals from whole cuts, rather than give pre-made grinds which are fatty and often introduce biologically-inappropriate ingredients.
If you want to learn how to raw feed your Boxer, the right way, enroll in our 7 Day eCourse.
It’s free and includes the ability to ask questions and get support to troubleshoot your dog’s particular situation.
Fasting is part of how dogs eat in the wild, feasting and then going for long stretches without food.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of fasting.
- Triggers cellular repair and regeneration
- Supports the liver’s detoxification processes
- Provides digestive rest, allowing the body to redirect energy normally expended on the labor-intensive process of breaking down food
Regular fast days prevent disease and counter the degenerative processes associated with ageing.
Therapeutic fasting is a safe, side effect-free first-response to just about any illness, used to great effect by California-based vet Dr Donald Ogden to heal all manner of diseases in the fifties and sixties, success replicated and built upon by contemporary holistic vets like Dr Richard Pitcairn.
It comes as a surprise to some owners to learn that fruit is a dog’s natural secondary food.
This means it’s what dogs eat when their first choice is unavailable.
Dogs are “facultative” carnivores.
They need meat, but can sustain themselves on fruit when prey are scarce.
Fruit should be fed ripe to overripe, which is how dogs consume it in the wild, often once it’s fallen to the ground beneath the tree.
One of the benefits of fruit, aside from the hydration and the vitamins and minerals, is that it is extremely easy to digest, providing calories without your dog’s body having to expend much energy to access them.
In this way, it provides a break from constant meat digestion.
Be sure to always feed fruit separately to meat, ideally on separate days.
This recreates the way dogs consume fruit in the wild and is thought to result in more efficient digestion.
Feeding fruit with meat can hold up digestion of the fruit, causing it to ferment in the digestive tract, creating toxic by-products that don’t occur when it’s fed on its own.
7. No Processed Treats
Double check you are not undermining your Boxer’s fresh, natural diet by feeding store-bought treats.
Here are some ideas for healthy treats worthy of your Boxer.
8. Fresh, Pure Water
As explained in the earlier section, the water your Boxer drinks can be a hidden source of toxic exposures due to the contaminants in town water supplies.
To stop your Boxer eating too fast, which increases the risk of bloat, it’s a good idea to use a slow feeder.
Raw meaty bone-based meals will naturally pace your Boxer’s consumption as he works at crunching up his dinner.
Don’t forget to watch your Boxer’s water consumption and protect him from guzzling.
Jerold S Bell, DVM, Risk Factors for Canine Bloat, Tufts’ Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, 2003
Ogden, Donald, DVM, Natural Care of Pets, 1959
Pitcairn, Richard, DVM, PhD, Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Random House, 2017