As technology advances and popularity of pet ownership continues to grow, it is no wonder that the two fields are combining to provide dog owners with some incredible dog technology, pet gadgets and innovative dog products. Dog automatic feeders are certainly one of the most useful pieces of dog tech that we've seen so far. They are specifically designed to make our lives a little bit easier and less hectic, but do automatic dog feeders actually work?

Similarly to most other dog supplies, there are different varieties of automatic dog food feeders. Some of them dispense pet food using gravity and others are electronic. They have a larger capacity for dog food than a single bowl, and are ideal for people whose schedules require them to be away from their pets at feeding time, or for those who simply want to spend less time filling Fido's food bowls. In addition to automatic feeders for dogs, owners can also purchase automatic waterers or water fountains for dogs.

“Gravity-style” dog automatic feeders and waterers are normally suitable for pets that do well with unrestricted access to their food. If your dogs are able to free feed without gorging themselves, a gravity-style automatic dog feeder would work well for them. The capacity of these feeders easily allow for several days worth of dog food to be stored, and they are typically less expensive than electronic feeders.

Do Automatic Dog Feeders Actually Work
Photo: MOTA

Many electronic automatic feeders allow you to serve single meals with portion control. They are served at times that you will set on a programmable timer.

This allows your pet to eat at scheduled intervals and helps to prevent overeating.

Automatic dog waterers or water fountains actually circulate the water continuously through a carbon filter to remove impurities. They store more water than traditional dog bowls, and help keep your dog's water cooler and fresher while minimizing bacterial growth.

RELATED: Regular dog food bowl or an elevated bowl?

An automatic dog feeder is usually structured somewhat like a gumball machine—there is one large compartment that stores your dog's food and another smaller, dish-like compartment where the food goes into and is available to the dog. Automatic dog feeders primarily work with dry dog food, but there are units that can accommodate wet dog food diets as well.

Do automatic dog feeders actually work?

The simple answer to this question is yes; indeed, dog automatic feeders work very well with pets, both dogs and cats.

There are so many different styles of automatic dog feeders to choose from that you are sure to find an item that will meet your individual dog's needs. Though occasionally somewhat expensive, automatic dog feeders have extremely important advantages and benefits over regular dog bowls.

The most beneficial aspect of automatic pet feeders is simply that you control the timing and amount of food that is dispensed into the bowl. If your dog has a weight problem or is on a specific diet for health reasons, automatic dog feeder will help to ensure that the scheduling and portions of feedings remain steady in both timing and the amount of food provided.

Let's talk about pet obesity and how automatic dog feeders can help with fighting this rapidly growing problem in the US.

Although less-expensive feeders tend to operate without using a timer (they function by refilling the bowl once it is empty) this could easily lead to overeating by your dog. There are many different breeds that have a potential for weight issues, and by having a constant stream of pet food available to them, it could lead to weight gain and serious health problems.

RELATED: Dog Nutrition 101: How to Feed a Dog

According to many dog experts and dog breed information websites, breeds that are most prone to weight gain issues include:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Pugs
  • Dachsunds
  • English Bulldogs
  • Beagles
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Rottweilers
  • Golden Retrievers

A 2012 study done by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that…

93 million dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight.

Do Automatic Dog Feeders Actually Work
Photo: Aspen Pet Products

Pet obesity is as big of a health hazard to pets as it is to people. Overweight canines are more prone to many scary health conditions including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
  • Kidney Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Many Different Forms of Cancer
  • Up to 2.5 years shorter lifespan

Since automated feeders for dogs regulate the amount of food your pooch is served while also transferring the duty of feeding to a machine (cutting down on begging), these devices can aid in maintaining your dog's healthy weight.

If you think about it, this automated portion control mirrors what trainers and nutritionists recommend for people who are seeking healthier dietary habits; eat more often, but in smaller portions, and eat throughout the day on a set schedule.

RELATED: Ten Best Grain Free Dog Food Brands

Consistency is an important factor when it comes to preserving your canine’s health and maintaining adequate proportions. A dog must always be on a level feeding schedule—same time daily, same amount at each feeding time.

That way the food intake is structured and any changes that need to be made to the dog's diet will generally be easy to program in with a few clicks of a button on the automatic dog feeder.

If your dog does have good self-control, it is possible that he could make do with a gravity-style feeder that continuously refills the bowl throughout the day. However, not many dogs are able to ignore food when it is laid willingly out in front of them.

Top 5 best selling automatic dog feeders on Amazon:

Black pet food dispenser with dog food inside

  1. PetSafe 5 Meal Automatic Pet Feeder
  2. PetSafe Automatic 2 Meal Pet Feeder
  3. Qpets Automatic Pet Feeder
  4. Aspen Pet Lebistro Programmable Food Dispenser
  5. PETLIBRO Automatic Feeder

* The above top 5 picks for best-selling automatic dog feeders are based on Amazon’s current Best Seller ranks [June 2015].

Electronic dog automatic feeders are more expensive, but they come with a wide variety of useful features

Generally, electronic feeders for dogs are battery-powered. The amount of pet food dispensed and the timing varies depending on what setting you place it on. For example, you could have an automatic feeder that dispenses ½ a cup of dog food three times per day or one that dispenses two cups of food twice a day. It all depends on the size and breed of your pet.

Some automatic dog feeders offer really unique and fascinating additions. While these new additions might cost you a few more bucks, they’ll also make your life a little simpler and in some cases make your dog's life a little bit happier.

For example, you can, in some feeders, record a several-second message for your dog that plays for them when they go to eat their food. If you’re an owner who is away from home frequently, this might help your dog feel a little less lonely throughout the day when it’s mealtime.

Other less common additions to automatic feeders are things like an LCD screen and displays that show you the time and help you program a feeding schedule for days (and in some cases, weeks) in advance. There are certain versions of dog automatic feeders that offer a built-in water bottle for the dog so that they can access water when they need to as well.

RELATED: How to Read Dog Food Labels

Other important features to consider when purchasing an automatic dog feeder are convenience and cleanliness. The dog feeder is a storage container and thus it probably doesn’t need to be washed very often, but it shouldn’t be left alone for months either.

Purchasing an automatic dog feeder that can be easily disassembled and put in the dishwasher or quickly hand-washed will save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Automatic dog feeders should also be convenient in that they need to fit the space that you have available. Since your feeder will likely be going in your kitchen or dining space, choose the size of a feeder that is appropriate to your spatial needs. You can find feeders in many different shapes and sizes, so just shop around for one that meets your needs.

Also, make sure to choose a feeder that is acceptable for the size of your dog. Large pet feeders that have the capability to store up to fifty cups of pet food are better for houses that have multiple dogs, whereas a smaller version would suffice for tinier breeds.

Top 5 best selling dog water fountains on Amazon:

Little dog drinking from white water fountain

  1. PetSafe Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain
  2. Pioneer Pet Stainless Steel Fountain Drinking Fountain
  3. ZEUS Fresh & Clear Drinking Fountain
  4. PetSafe Drinkwell Multi-Tier Pet Fountain
  5. Drinkwell 360 Multi-Pet Drinking Fountain

* The above top 5 picks for best-selling dog water fountains are based on Amazon’s current Best Seller ranks [June 2015].

Even the best dog automatic feeders are not a perfect solution

Although automatic dog feeders work well and are convenient and great for a lot of reasons, it’s important to note one particular warning: these feeders are not foolproof.

As with any piece of equipment, there is a possibility that there may be a malfunction or breakdown in the system. Because the concept is still relatively new, these dog technologies are prone to errors that will only be fixed with time and experience thank to trial and error.

RELATED: Cheap and healthy dog food brands

You don’t want to rely solely on these dog automatic feeders to care for your pet—make sure you are home and are occasionally checking in to ensure that the feeder is operating well. The last thing anyone would want is a hungry dog or an overflowed food bowl and a dog that eats until he's sick.

Here's what you should know before you buy an automatic pet feeder for your dog

Do Automatic Dog Feeders Actually Work
Photo: Animal Planet

If you believe that an automatic feeder will be appropriate for your pets, there are a few things you should consider before making the purchase.

As you can see above, you have a lot of options for automatic feeders to choose from, but whether you select a gravity-style or an electronic feeder you need to be sure it will meet the needs of the animals in your home.

1Think about your pets and how they behave at feeding time.

How many dogs do you have? Are they competitive at feeding time? You may need to purchase more than one feeder and separate them. For example, if you have a dog and a cat that fight over food, you may need to buy two pet feeders and put your cat feeder in a location that your dog cannot get to.

2Think about the size, strength, and determination of your dog. 

Some less expensive automatic feeders for pets have simple plastic hoppers that just sit on top of the dish or screw in very lightly. If your dog is determined to get that extra bit of food he may try to tip the hopper over and dump out the rest of dog food. You'll probably have to select an all metal feeder that is built specifically to keep piggish dogs out.

3Check to see what size of an animal is the feeder is built for.

Some pet automatic feeders are only built for cats, or cats and very small toy dog breeds. If you'd like to feed your medium-sized or large breed dog with an automatic feeder you will need to buy one that is built for their size or it may not hold or dispense enough food for them.

RELATED: How Future Dog Technology Will Affect Pet Parents

Do automatic dog feeders actually work? Yes they do! You understand that what your dog eats is often the center of attention when it comes to keeping him healthy, but did you know that it is also important to monitor how he eats?

Healthy food and nourishment is always more beneficial when paired with a structured and regimented feeding plan that takes into account both the dog’s needs and the owner’s schedule. Electronic automatic pet feeders are a great tool to help you set up and stick to a feeding schedule for your dog.

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