Admittedly, it’s been quite a long time since I have had a dog to call my own, and with a new cat in my home, I’m probably not getting one anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the camaraderie of my friend’s dogs when I go for a visit or take walks with them down the street when I see them passing by.
One thing that I know has changed since the time Rufus was in my life, is that most dog owners seem to utilize an automatic feeder to help feed their pets. And from what people tell me, they have really improved in recent years.
Benefits Of Using Automatic Dog Feeders
Kate Connell, a dog behavior consultant and owner of Calmer Canines in Costa Mesa, California, says today’s automated feeders are quite an improvement over the free-flowing gravity feeders that saturated the market over the last decade.
“Gravity feeders allowed an animal to eat as much as they pleased — often leading to obesity — while also allowing the food to become stale and/or infested with insects,” Connell says.
She adds that these degraded nutrients can raise health concerns.
“The nicer automated feeders allow you to set an accurate measurement of food to be dispensed at a particular time,” she says, “while simpler versions just open a compartment which you have pre-measured.”
Automatic dog feeders can be very helpful for keeping your pets fed while you’re on vacation or if you work late. And automatic dog feeders are often touted as the solution for overweight pets because they ensure the pet is getting the right amount of food at each meal versus how much “looks right” to the owner.
If you have a dog, but aren’t around at mealtimes to feed him, it’s probably a better bet to use the timer type of feeder because you, and not your pet, can control the amount of food and frequency of the meals.
Dr. Jeff Werber, an Emmy Award-winning and nationally recognized veterinarian who is known as the “Celebrity Vet” in Hollywood, is a big believer for those with busy lifestyles to utilize automated feeders for their pets.
“An automated feeder for dogs allows you to put in place a regular feeding schedule, which can help with proper digestion,” he says. “For folks on the go a lot, this eliminates one task from your day as well. It’s also beneficial regarding portion control. Additionally, it can help avoid obesity. And if you have multiple dogs, it can control who gets fed and when.”
Is There Any Downside To Automatic Dog Feeders?
Seems ideal, right? Knowing the bond I shared with my dog at feeding time, I wondered if automatic dog feeders really are as good as advertised.
Connell agreed that, given the fact that it seems that the main source of interaction between pet and owner after the first year of ownership is feeding time, losing that interaction could be harmful to the relationship.
“No longer does a dog need to sit politely to get his food, thus reinforcing manners and reinforcing the status of the owner as being the source of all things good, but rather the dog can just run up to the feeder any time he or she hears food being dispensed,” she says. “For people who work long hours, I am glad that the owners can ensure that the pet is being fed, but I worry that having a feeder could become an excuse not to make time to care for the pet.”
Typically, automatic dog feeders are only useful for dispensing dry dog food, so dog owners who like to mix in wet food might have to pay a bit more. My best friend has gone through several feeders over the years for his dog and the most important lesson he learned was finding a unit with refrigeration capabilities so the food doesn’t spoil.
Other problems I have heard about anecdotally are that some made of plastic might break easily or cause an allergic reaction in a dog. Also, most are only designed for indoor use, so those with “outdoor” dogs might need to find a different solution.
Additionally, if you have a large dog, there might not be one available with a feeding bowl that’s commensurate in size.
Let’s face it, people seem much busier today than they ever have, and if there’s a chance to have one less worry in their life — in this case feeding the dog — an automatic dog feeder makes perfect sense.