Almost all healthy dogs love to eat, and most would have few problems eating right off the floor. But of course, to a dog owner, using a dog bowl is pretty important not just for keeping the floor clean but also for portion control, hydration, and positive reinforcement training—all things that contribute to the well-being of a canine.
Bowls are, in a very real sense, a focal point of your relationship with your dog, so it’s important to choose the right one—or two. Let’s talk about the different types of dog bowls available in the market today and why certain types might be better for your dog than others:
1) Classic Bowls
These bowls are the go-to option for feeding dogs and other pets. They’re made from a variety of materials, but classic examples such as these stainless steel dog bowls from PrideBites are, by far, the most recommended ones for general home use.
Classic dog bowls are readily available in various sizes and shapes, and you should be able to pick one up from most pet stores. However, as you go through this list, you may find that in some specific situations, these bowls may not always be the best for your dog.
2) Elevated Bowls
Elevated bowls are designed to raise your dog's food and water to a comfortable height, reducing strain on their neck and joints during mealtime. These bowls are sometimes recommended to help reduce pain in dogs with arthritis or joint issues. At the same time, they can also make feeding time more comfortable for taller dogs as well as breeds with long, floppy ears.
Just be sure to ask your vet about these bowls, as they’ve been linked to bloat and gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) in some dogs.
3) Puzzle Bowls / Slow Feeders
If your dog has a habit of gorging themselves and vomiting right after mealtime, these bowls may provide a practical solution to that problem. Puzzle bowls (sometimes called slow feeders) are designed to put the brakes on your pup’s mealtimes by making the food less accessible than it would be in a regular bowl.
In these scenarios, puzzle bowls or slow feeders can help prevent issues such as the aforementioned bloating and GDV and, in general, make sure that fast eaters keep their food down. These bowls come with a variety of mechanisms to achieve the same objective, and you may want to purchase different puzzle bowls to keep your dog mentally engaged while they’re eating.
One huge drawback of these bowls is that the nooks and crannies can make them more challenging to clean properly. If you’d like to explore bowls like these for your dog, try to get ones made from non-porous materials like stainless steel or lead-free ceramic.
4) Spill-Resistant Bowls
Spill-resistant bowls feature a non-slip base or unique designs to minimize spills and mess during feeding. This type is suitable for both messy eaters and dogs with a playful feeding style. They’re generally great for puppies or older dogs that enjoy playful eating.
5) Free-Feeding Bowls
These contraptions typically come with a reservoir that automatically fills up the feeding bowl as your dog eats. Free feeding bowls do come in handy for a variety of situations, but they aren’t suited for dogs that are highly food-driven, such as Golden Retrievers, Pugs, and American Pitbull Terriers, to name just a few.
Free-feeding bowls can be great for dogs that can self-regulate, but remember that they’re still not a direct replacement for hand-feeding controlled portions.
6) Automatic Feeders
These aren’t your grandparents’ dog bowls. Automatic feeders use a variety of technologies to provide your dog with controlled portions of food at given times. Simpler ones are similar to free-feeding bowls, with the addition of a built-in timer that controls a feed gate. More sophisticated models can be controlled over a mobile app and may even feature cameras, LCD screens, and microphones so that you and your dog can keep in touch when you’re away.
While these devices are highly convenient, relying on them for all of your dog’s feeding times can cause you to miss out on some crucial bonding time with your pup. Try to hand-feed your dog at least once a day and restrict automated feeding to inconvenient occasions, such as early mornings.
7) Collapsible Bowls
These bowls are usually made from food-grade silicone, allowing them to be collapsed into a flat shape. While they’re ideal for dogs on the go, energetic dogs have been known to tear these bowls apart and consume pieces of them in the process. These bowls are probably not ideal as a main feeding solution, but you should probably consider having one on hand if you travel with your dog often.
Materials Used in Dog Bowls
Dog bowls are also often classed according to the materials they use. This is something you need to pay attention to since some dogs can be sensitive to certain materials. Material choice also plays a role in a dog bowl’s durability and ease of maintenance. Here are the materials your dog bowls will usually come in:
- Stainless steel.When we picture a dog bowl, chances are, we’re imagining one that’s made from this material. Classic stainless steel dog bowls are durable, easy to clean, and resistant to bacteria—all while being affordable to the average pet owner. Not all stainless steel is equal, however, and you’ll want to check the grade used if you’re purchasing one for a dog with metal allergies.
Ceramic is a great option for dog bowls for all the same reasons that it’s become the default for human tableware. Dog bowls made of this material look elegant, are a breeze to clean, and don’t hang on to odors. While ceramic isn’t the right material for larger and more boisterous dogs, it may be the perfect at-home solution for everyone else. As with human tableware, choose ceramic bowls with a tough, lead-free glaze.
- Lightweight plastic bowls are extremely affordable and handy for traveling, but they should be avoided as a long-term feeding solution. Regardless of the plastic type, these bowls are prone to micro-abrasions that can harbor bacteria, even if they appear superficially clean. If you do need a plastic bowl, be sure to clean it thoroughly after each feeding session.
- These bowls offer most of the benefits of stainless steel bowls while also being lightweight. However, aluminum is more reactive than stainless steel, which is probably why you don’t see aluminum dog bowls very often.
- Collapsible travel bowls are usually made from food-grade, dishwasher-safe silicone, making them safe for most pets. But, as mentioned above, bowls made with this material should probably not be your dog’s main feeding bowl at home.
- Copper has proven antimicrobial properties, and bowls made from the material are often purported to be “self-sanitizing.” These bowls generally don’t come cheap, and their real benefits over classic stainless steel are tenuous, given copper’s high reactivity to different types of food. In addition, some bowls may cause sensitivity issues in some dogs. They can be a great pick in some specific situations, so don’t count them out just yet.
- Toughened glass bowls are also a viable option for your dog, as they’re easy to clean and don’t retain odors. If your dog is a dainty eater, these bowls can be great for home use. Note, however, that you can’t just use any glass bowl you have lying around. Make sure that your dog’s bowl is lead-free and is specifically made to resist breaking.
Today’s pet market is extremely diverse, and you may also see bowls made with materials and material combinations that we haven’t covered. It’s also possible to find more exotic feeders meant for specific situations, like raw feeding or heated bowls for cold climates.
If you’re in doubt about your choice, be sure to discuss things with your vet. Only buy dog bowls from trusted pet merchandise distributors—one of them, of course, being PrideBites!