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4 Ways to Save Money — and Keep the Peace — at Doggie Mealtime

Dog sitter Wendy Newell shares her secrets to mealtime success, from embracing mixing bowls to slowing down fast eaters.

Wendy Newell  |  Sep 18th 2015


Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our August/September issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

I am a dog sitter, which means I’m surrounded by happy pups 24/7. Things get wild at mealtime — something my dog, Riggins, will not allow to be missed. In fact, Riggins takes his mealtimes so seriously, he will start warning me that I need to get everyone’s food ready long before it is time.

It’s rare that a morning passes when I’m not facedown in my pillow screaming, “TOO EARLY!” to Riggins and whichever dogs he has convinced to protest with him. If I were to give in and look in their direction, I’d see a line of pitiful pups with their heads resting on my mattress in full pout, acting as if they have never eaten before in their lives.

I'm sooooo hungry.

I’m sooooo hungry. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

The question for me: How do I safely feed a pack of pups without going broke on dishware? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up:

1. Embrace mixing bowls

I had a friend drop off a bunch of her dog supplies that she was no longer using. When I screamed with glee at the number of dog bowls she had, she told me she used to purchase bowl after bowl looking for the best one until a friend suggested mixing bowls. Ceramic bowls are fun, but stainless steel is considered very safe and is often less expensive. Although a mixing bowl is a little different shape than a typical dog bowl, it works just as well and can save you money. Check out your local dollar store for some great options.

Stainless steel bowl by Shutterstock.

Stainless steel bowl by Shutterstock.

2. Say yes to seconds

There’s nothing wrong with purchasing gently used items. Just do it wisely. Pass on anything that looks damaged or scratched. Steer clear of any lead-based glaze or paint, and skip anything plastic. Clean the bowls carefully and thoroughly before using. Rule of thumb: If you feel confident feeding humans from the dish, then it’s in good shape for your pup.

3. Separate food and combine water

In a perfect world, every pup in my care would have his own food and water bowl. But my world is not perfect, so that doesn’t happen.

If you, like me, live on the outskirts of perfection and have multiple dogs, do what I do and combine the water bowls. I have one huge bowl inside and one huge bowl outside for the gang to guzzle from. Food, on the other hand, remains separate for each dog. Even the sweetest dog can be food aggressive, which can be triggered quickly, even if never seen before. Keeping everyone separate is safest for all.

Dogs eating from bowls by Shutterstock.

Dogs eating from bowls by Shutterstock.

4. Get creative about gobblers

Riggins is the fastest eater in the West. I put his food in a bowl, and it is gobbled up in seconds. Years ago, I invested in a slow-feeding bowl, but if you have a gobbler you can improvise one with the same results. Add a tennis ball, large rock, or even a smaller bowl upside down in the center of your dog’s bowl, and put the food around it. Or separate the meal into multiple bowls or a muffin tin. These options act in the same way a slow feeder does and force your dog to take some well-needed breaths while he figures out how to get his next mouthful.

Bottom line: You don’t have to spend a bundle on your pup’s dishware to have a happy dog!

Read more by Wendy Newell:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.