You have just got a new dog and you head to the pet store to buy a few essentials. You head to the aisle with the dog bowls. Who would think that something as seemingly simple as a dog bowl could turn up so many questions? There are hundreds of different dog bowl options. Which dog bowl to choose?
Whilst there are lots of different dog bowl designs, there are actually only a handful of different types of dog bowls and we have broken these down below to give you a better understanding of their advantages and disadvantages. We also suggest the best dog bowls for each category.
1. Plastic Dog Bowl
The plastic dog bowl is one of the most common, least expensive and simple styles of dog bowls. If you are on a budget this is the style to go for. These dog bowls are pretty robust, are usually dishwasher safe and they often also come with a non-slip rubber around the base to stop them from shifting around the floor.
Simple, no fuss and plenty of designs to choose from. Go for the BPA free, dishwasher safe, high quality versions if possible.
If your dog is a chewer, this may not be the right choice. They can be easily damaged and it could also present a choking hazard if your dog managed to break a piece off. If the bowl is still usable but covered in scratches and chewed areas these can be havens for bacteria to build up in too.
Watch out for dropping them from a height, or if you have a dog that likes to pick their dog bowl up. These dog bowls can crack on a hard surface.
2. Ceramic Dog Bowls
A traditional favourite. If you want a dog bowl that looks classy and is not likely to be able to be pushed around the room by your dog then this could be the one to opt for. Be aware though that they need to be handled with care as they can easily shatter if dropped.
Again, these are an easy one to clean and are usually able to be popped in the dishwasher. If it has been a hand designed dog bowl and it has not got an appropriate glaze on it then it will not be dishwasher safe and will not likely last so long, and not so easy to keep clean.
Ceramic dog bowls are not a good option for using as an outside bowl. Cold weather conditions can cause cracks and crazing.
If you often take your dog on holiday and their bowl comes with them, this can be a cumbersome option.
They don’t just come in boring designs either. These dog bowls from Bone Dry have lots of great designs, are very robust and they also have a handy non-slip base.
3. Stainless Steel Dog Bowl
Extremely robust, easy to clean and dishwasher safe, easy to stack if you have multiple dogs and inexpensive the stainless steel dog bowl is another very popular choice. Probably the biggest disadvantage of stainless steel bowls is that the stainless steel bowls can be noisy if the stainless steel bowls scrape along the floor if your dog’s collar or ID tag hits against them. If you have a nervous dog this can sometimes make them wary of stainless steel bowls. Some dogs can also be unsure of the reflective surface if it is not a matt finish. Fair enough, who wants to see their own face whilst they are trying to eat!
Buying a non-slip mat or a stainless steel bowl with a rubber base can help solve the issue of the dog bowl moving around too much.
If your dog likes to chew on their dog bowl, whilst stainless steel bowls are pretty chew proof, it could cause damage to your dog’s teeth if they are persistent enough to keep trying so supervision around the bowl would be required or perhaps considering another option.
Also, make sure to go for high quality, rust resistant pet bowls.
4. Elevated Dog Bowls
An elevated dog bowl, or raised feeder as it is often known, can be a good choice for large breed dogs or those with back or neck problems. Not only does it mean that a larger breed dog, like a Great Dane, can be in a more comfortable position when eating or drinking, but it may also help reduce the risk of bloat (a twisted stomach) which large, deep-chested breeds can be more prone to.
These dog bowls are more expensive than a standard bowl and it is important to ensure that you get one that is well balanced, will not topple easily and is able to be adjusted to the right height for your dog.
If you want to save your pennies but want to help your large breed dog eat in a more comfortable position you could always use a stool or sturdy book or the likes that are already around the home. Just make sure that it sits at a comfortable height for your dog.
Great Danes and other large breeds with deep chests can benefit from using a raised feeder. It can be more comfortable and it will also possibly help reduce any gastrointestinal issues
5. Slow Feed Dog Bowls
Do you have a dog that is a guzzler and their entire bowl of food is gone in thirty seconds flat? Perhaps it may be worth considering a slow feeding bowl. These come in a variety of shapes and designs but the concept behind them is to make it more difficult for your dog to get the food out of the bowl. It means they have to work harder and it slows their feeding times down considerably. This can help avoid indigestion and also possibly bloat (twisted stomach).
Even if your dog is not a fast eater it can be a useful item to have for doing some enrichment with your dog if they are easily bored or on restricted exercise. They are having to think more to get the food out and it is more tiring and stimulating for them.
If you have a nervous dog or one that is already fussy or particular with their feeding habits this may not be the right choice.
The Green Feeder by the Company of Animals is a very popular choice. It is available in two sizes. It is important to pick the right size to ensure that the level of challenge is appropriate.
The slow feeding bowls from Outward Hound are also popular, and a little less expensive than the Green Feeder. They come in a range of colours and designs and are also available in two sizes.
If you don’t want to invest in a slow feeder but would like to try to slow your dog down when eating, you could try popping a ball in the centre of their bowl and it will take your dog longer to try to eat around it. Be aware that a clever dog will quickly work out that they just have to lift the ball out and they can get back to chowing down quickly in no time!
6. Travel Dog Bowls
These are a great choice for when you are travelling or out on a day trip or hike with your dog. These bowls flatten down into a really small space, ideal for fitting into a bag or even a pocket. There are two most common types, a fabric style with a waterproof inner or a silicone style. My preference is the silicone one. It is a more solid structure when opened out which is often better for the dog and it is also more hygienic and easier to clean. If you forget to bring the bowl out to dry it at the end of the day, the fabric style can become quickly mouldy left in a bag for a few days.
If you get caught short whilst out on a hot day and you have forgotten your dogs travel bowl, if you have a poo bag with you this will hold some water to allow you to make a little trough for your dog to drink out of, under supervision of course
There are even travel bowls that are biodegradable if you are wanting to be eco-conscious.
7. Spaniel Dog Bowl
Does your dog have long, droopy ears? Are they always dangling in their dog bowl and getting wet or covered in food? Perhaps you should consider a Spaniel bowl. These bowls have higher sides than a standard bowl and a relatively narrow width. This means that for dogs with the long ears, like Spaniels, they are less likely to get their ears hanging into the bowl. It is not a full proof solution but it can help.
8. Automatic Feeder
Does your dog have a medical condition or dietary requirement when they need to be fed small and often? An automatic feeder could be a useful item to have. This can be set on a timer to automatically release a certain amount of food at certain intervals. So if you have to be out for a few hours but no your dog needs a food ration it can be handy.
It is not a full proof design though so if it is an urgent medical requirement then it is best to ensure the food is administered in person.
Some greedy dogs can also become unhealthily fixated on the bowl and have even been known to break them trying to access the extra food.
For a good quality one, they are also an expensive investment.
It is not a solution for if you are going to be leaving your dog for long durations at a time and want to make sure they are fed. If this is happening, make sure you have a dog walker or a friend that can come in to feed and exercise your dog or have them go to doggy daycare or boarding.
9. Puppy Weaning Bowl
Puppy weaning bowls are only really required if you are dealing with a litter of puppies that are being weaned from their mother’s milk. By feeding them from this type of bowl they are all usually able to find a space to access the food and are less able to step into it and it can be less hassle than trying to use different bowls.
It is very important though to ensure that all pups are getting the required amounts of food daily. Some will eat less quickly, some will be more confident and could squeeze the less confident ones out the way.
10. Eco-Friendly Dog Bowls
If you are wanting to be a responsible buyer and pick a bowl that is friendly to the environment there are a few options out there.
There are a few brands that offer bowls made out of bamboo, like the ones from Petmate.
Pick the Right Size
Make sure you select a size appropriate to your dog. You don’t want so big that they struggle to get their head into the bowl and, too small and the food will spill over the sides or you will be constantly topping up the water with water bowls.
Clean the Dog Bowl Daily
It is REALLY important to regularly clean your dog’s bowl, at least daily and this is especially important if the dog bowl is outside. Having a dishwasher safe bowl will make it easier to clean. Bacteria and germs can grow in a bowl very quickly and is not always visible to the naked eye. Your dog can become very ill from drinking out of a dirty bowl and it can also spread germs to you and your family too.
Use a Non-Slip Surface
Make sure that the bowl does not slip around. Not only can this frighten a nervous dog but it can mean that food and water end up all over the floor and it can also cause damage to the flooring. Pick a bowl that has a non-slip rubber base or purchase a non-slip feeding mat. Using a mat also absorbs any stray water if you have a slobbery drinker!
What About Ditching the Dog Bowl?
Some dog trainers and behaviourists advocate ditching the dog bowl or water bowls and only feeding your dog their meals from treat dispensing toys like Kongs, through reward-based training sessions and through hiding and seek and scatter sessions. Whilst it can be good to do this for enrichment purposes, it can be nice to sometimes just let them enjoy their food without having to work so hard for it.
Also, if you raw feed it is not so practical or hygienic to always give out with a bowl
Hope this guide to the best dog bowls was helpful!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.